I recorded a podcast episode on this topic last fall but some variation of "I have so many ideas, but don't know where to start" continues to be one of the phrases that pops up in my email inbox most often. So I figured I would write it out in blog post form. Sometimes hearing the same thing twice sparks something new, right?
I hear this said a lot. And it's never shared in an excited manner. Usually the person is very stressed out and unsure of the best place to start. They know they have to start somewhere... but with so many thoughts, where should that be?
Here's the good news: having many ideas is a strength not a weakness. But I get it, not knowing how to process those ideas can be very frustrating and limiting.
If you suffer from "too many ideas" I have an exercise for you that might help.
Gather a pile of scratch paper (with one blank side). Something big - like computer paper sized - you'll need room to write.
At the top of each piece of paper write down one of your ideas. Just one idea per sheet. Don't think about them. Don't worry if they're bad or good. Just get every single thought down that makes you think "I have too many ideas."
Keep in mind: this is NOT a brainstorming exercise. Think of it more like "rain collecting." You're not trying to come up with every possible idea, you're just trying to make note of all the current ones rattling around in your brain.
After you've written everything down, two things will happen. First, you'll realize you don't really have as many ideas as you thought. Maybe you have 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 but it's nowhere near the hundreds or thousands that you felt like you had before you organized them on paper. This is a good thing because right off the bat everything will feel more manageable.
Second, you now have every single one of your ideas written down. Hooray!! You no longer have to worry about forgetting them. You no longer have to reserve space in your brain for keeping track of them. This alone is worth a sigh of relief.
Now that you got all of your ideas down we move to the second part of this exercise (and this is going to take more time) - deciding which idea to start with first.
Grab a timer and your pile of ideas. Set the timer for 5 minutes. Then go through your pile of ideas, one page at a time. Use your allotted minutes to fill up each page with all the details and offshoots that you can flush out from each idea. This could be anything - product sketches, logo designs, to-do lists, color schemes, character names, people to interview, whatever. You're just trying to build out on each idea. Don't let yourself go past your 5 minutes on each page. When time is up, move on to the next idea and do it again.
The point of this is to figure out which idea it was that you didn't want to stop writing about. What was the one where you could have gone on forever? THAT'S your idea.
That's your Big Idea to begin focusing on today.
I realize that you may have another 30 ideas with some decent thoughts connected to them. That's awesome. You also get to hang on to all of those. They can't all be attempted today but that doesn't mean they're not going to work out six months, a year or even a decade from now. Save them. You've got them on paper now, so they don't need to be caught in your brain.
Now instead of telling people "Ahhhh! I have so many ideas!" you can tell people "Oh man, I have a killer idea."