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How Do You Keep, Develop and Execute Ideas?

I’m fond of keeping an idea notebook close at hand. It’s usually my mobile phone, since I’m unlikely to lose it (crossing my fingers here!), and I can sync notes to my computer. I often have fleeting ideas of some great design concept, web application, or article, and it’s usually gone the minute I get distracted. For that reason, I need to be able to grab the opportunity and note down my thoughts.

It’s not such an easy task incubating and execute ideas if all you have are bullet points on a piece of paper, or on a .TXT file, though. While it’s not an elegant solution, it helps me remember. But being loose files and lines of text, the difficulty is connecting these pieces of information with each other, which would probably result in even better ideas.

Mind mapping. I’ve recently tried exploring mindmapping software, which are basically electronic equivalents of writing down your ideas and plans in text bubbles on paper, interconnected with lines, and represented by different symbols. I haven’t gotten the hang of it, but I plan to plot all my ideas, business plans, and strategies on mindmaps. Hopefully, this will help me become more organized.

And because I usually work on different desktops, notebooks and netbooks, I save my mindmaps on a folder commonly accessble via Dropbox, so I can work on it regardless of the computer, platform or even location, as long as I have an Internet connection.

Execution and follow through. Oftentimes, I am able to start with great ideas for a blog or web application. I buy a domain, write copy, and partner with designer and developer colleagues. We start out hyped, excited and energized. But then somewhere along the way the energy fizzles out. Real world concerns like servicing clients, catching deadlines and even cooking dinner might be distracting for one’s focus on executing an idea.

One solution I saw to address this is by not closing any important application windows or browser tabs on my computer. I just close the lid and put it to sleep at the end of the workday. But then with the multitude of tasks I consider important and essential, my workspace becomes too cluttered, and I am left with half-baked plans, half-executed projects, and deadlines still ominously looming over, seemingly waiting to bite me without notice.

Start with a bang. Of the many ideas I’ve incubated in my head and seen the light of day, the ones that succeed, or at least are sustained, are the ones that I’ve sat upon and continuously worked on until launch. Whether it’s building a blog from scratch, finishing a proposal for a client, or writing marketing copy for a new web app or service, I find it best if I get to finish it in one sitting. In find that if it takes too many emails back and forth to confirm designs, edit the text, and other negotiations, energy that could’ve been put towards actually executing an idea might get wasted. Not only that–if you dilly dally too much, you might find yourself having doubts and second thoughts, and therefore the idea fizzles out.

There are so-called serial entrepreneurs who are fond of jumping from one great execution of an idea to another. And more often than not, they gain much experience–and money–in the process. They probably have a tried and tested formula for doing this. Or perhaps they have a lucky streak. Or maybe it just boils down to good habits, good contacts, and a great mindset for developing and executing a good business idea.

Different things might work for different people. What are your “magic formulas” for success?


  1. By Catherine Cantieri, Sorted posted on July 30, 2009 at 2:34 pm
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    Call me a Luddite, but for me it’s all about paper. I’ve tried mind mapping software and online task management, but I keep coming back to a piece of paper and a pencil for sketching out ideas, lists, etc. I know, I know. It’s very 16th-century of me. ;-)

    But the actual strategies of incubating and executing ideas that you lay out here are as solid as they come. I wouldn’t change a thing about those.

  2. By Victoria Blount posted on August 3, 2009 at 8:21 am
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    I would agree with Catherine, whenever i start a new project, the idea generating is done with pen & paper. This way i can sketch and scribble any ideas or inspiration, then develop the idea and evolve it as i go along.

  3. By Dhane Diesil posted on August 7, 2009 at 6:07 am
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    I guess you can add my vote to the tally to.

    There’s nothing like getting great ideas down on paper…

    But that’s not where they should end.

    J offered some great tips, and some great insight into executing ideas, and Mind Mapping definitely helps.

    I started using Mind 42 (http://www.mind42.com/) a while back and it helps add clarity to what I write on paper, and it also makes my ideas portable…

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