Are you chasing too many ideas? 3 reasons why & 3 steps to action
I often see people struggling as they pursue too many ideas. Throwing mud at the wall to see what sticks is good in theory but in practise, it can result in un-focused chaos and feeling overwhelmed.
In his excellent book The One Thing author Gary Keller says, “I looked back at my successes and failures and discovered an interesting pattern. Where I’d had huge success, I had narrowed my concentration to one thing, and where my success varied, my focus had too.”
Trying to put your energy in several different places diverts your attention, spreads you too thin and will actually dilute your results. Not to mention leaving you feeling a little run ragged.
Why do you try to ride many horses at once and more importantly, how do you stop and start taking action?
1. Begin with the end in mind
If you feel like you are going round in circles, lost at sea or stuck and unsure which path to choose, I ask you: Have you actually decided what outcome you are trying to achieve?
In my experience when people have lots of ideas, they are tenuously related but usually, they are all quite different. Which means - they will achieve different outcomes.
In order to know which idea is worth your time and energy, you must have an idea of your desired outcome. What are you trying to achieve? What kind of life do you want?
When you answer this question, make sure you are brutally honest with yourself. Very often we have what I call “adopted drivers” – these are aspirational motivations that we have adopted from our environment, particularly social media, about what we “should” want. Lots of money, world peace, fame and awards etc. There is nothing wrong with any of these, but I just want you to be sure they are true to you. If you are chasing a dream that is unclear and not truly your own, it will be 10 times harder to achieve.
Make sure that your outcome is specific. Having a purposeful career is great, but what do you want that career to give you, pay you and by when? Specificity is the key to life.
2. Idea FOMO
What if one of your many ideas is the next unicorn company? What if your other idea could be huge? What if your further idea could change the world? If this sounds like a familiar conversation in your head, you are suffering from what I call “Idea FOMO.” You are trying to keep all your ideas and projects bubbling along because one of them might just be the next big thing. What if someone else thinks of it whilst you are chasing another one?
Ideas are 10 a penny; execution is everything. It takes unbelievable focus, energy and attention to make ambitious outcomes a reality. If you spend all your time thinking about your many ideas rather than giving all your energy to making one a success, you will be confused, overwhelmed and the realisation of any idea will be slow. If you are not short of ideas, the chances are you never will be. Consider all your ideas and ask yourself for each one:
“If someone else did this, how would I feel?”
“If I pursue this idea, will it support the life I want to live?”
You can score your answers on a scale of 1-10. For the first question: 1 being not bothered at all, 10 being totally frustrated and mad. For the second question: 1 being absolutely not supporting your life, 10, living your best life.
You will have a clear and uniform scale to determine which idea is the right one to focus on now.
3. Trying to get married before the first date
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the founder of Klarna. Klarna is a fin tech company that provides a buy now, pay by instalments service. Founded in 2005, at time of writing it is worth $46 billion dollars and is also Europe’s highest valued privately-held fin tech company. When he started Klarna, together with his co-founders, they decided to give it everything they had, for six months. Rather than get overwhelmed by the notion that this was going to be a lifelong commitment, they decided to channel all their energy into this one idea, for six months. At the end of the six months, they would then evaluate where they had got to and decide if it was worth continuing.
Personally, I think three months can really tell you a lot, if you have given it your full commitment. Just 90 days. That is the time frame I work on with my clients when testing an idea. Consider it like dating. You don’t need to marry your idea right away. You need to date it, wholeheartedly. For three to six months. If it doesn’t work out, you know you gave it your all and can confidently move on.
Objection: Yes, but what if….?
Maybe you are thinking, “Yes but what about pursuing a side hustle whilst still having a full-time job?” That isn’t chasing too many ideas. I would view the day job in the same way as all the other basics and commitments in your life, family, exercise and so on. I am not saying you must shut out everything else because that would be impossible. Managing that transition and their time management is something I help my clients with in coaching.
Time blocking is a useful tool to employ here. Time blocking divides your day into blocks of time. Each block you dedicate to accomplishing a specific task. In this case, your day job would be a block, as would family time, meals, exercise and so on. You then block out a specific time to dedicate to pursue your one idea. This is a simple but really effective tool for productivity.
Your solution action plan
When trying to decide which idea is worth pursuing remember these points:
- Decide on your ultimate outcome. What are you truly hoping to achieve
- “Idea FOMO” slows down progress. Ideas are ten a penny. Execution is everything. Test yourself against your ideas on a scale of 1-10.
- Don’t get overwhelmed by commitment. Give it everything you have for a three to six months and if it doesn’t work, you can move on knowing you gave it your all.