I have this running monologue in my head that one day I’m uber successful and being interviewed by someone like Pat Flynn or Oprah (okay, let’s not judge) and they ask the question, “when did you know you were going to be successful?” and I answer, “well I had enough ideas, I knew one of them would stick.”
So, yeah. I have a lot of ideas. I’m “an idea person” through and through. When I started working at a mega advertising company I became so incredibly discouraged because I was forced to be a Photoshop mule and all I wanted to do was talk about “THE BIG PICTURE” and how that should look.
In my own business this personal quality is both a blessing and a curse. On one end it’s nice to have a constant flow of inspiration, but on the other hand it’s incredibly distracting to constantly be thinking about what I could work on next.
If you’ve got a lot of ideas it can be overwhelming, I totally get that. Here’s how I handle the near-constant idea production going on in the back of my mind and use it to benefit and grow my business.
ALLOW TIME FOR BRAINSTORMS
To start off: don’t stop yourself from having ideas. Ideas are WONDERFUL and helpful and productive and awesome. When I first started TheCrownFox my thought process was “this is my business and this is exactly what I do, period.” These sorts of thoughts actually cause MORE stress to someone because you’re stopping a naturally occurring process. It’s like trying to stop your feelings – eventually it bubbles over and you freak out over the smallest thing and your significant other is like, “whoa, what? I thought you didn’t have to put open spaghetti sauce in the fridge” and you’re like “ARE YOU FOR REAL?!” … Anyway, don’t limit yourself.
Instead, devote time in your schedule for these brainstorms. Get a journal or Evernote or Trello and go crazy writing out your ideas. My Evernote has a notebook called “ideas” and there are literally 50+ notes with random ramblings. Some of them have one or two sentences and some of them are nearly complete course outlines. Get it out of your head! Free up some space in your noggin and get it onto paper…digital…note…thing.
This is actually a great way to eliminate some of your ideas. Chances are when you start to dig a little bit deeper into your ideas, a few will not pan out further than a one sentence description and you can probably go ahead and nix it (or at least store it away for a much later date).
I always schedule time for brainstorms because then when I’m knee deep in something that I actually have to do (like client work) I can tell myself, “Okay, cool idea. Let’s explore that tomorrow during our brainstorm.” And remove it from the forefront of my brain.
GO BACK TO YOUR BRAND VISION
When I am shuffling through ideas and considering taking one beyond the idea-phase I always, always, always go back to my brand vision. I’ve said this example before, but to me, a brand vision is quite literally “The Emerald City” and everything I do in my business is a potential brick in the yellow brick road and I have to make sure it fits in the path and doesn’t veer off course. Like I actually picture that. (I was Dorothy in my first dance recital as a child; this might be some weird psychological affect).
Anyway, do that. If you’re still lost on your brand vision then it might be time to talk with a coach or strategist, but I’ll give you a hint: your brand vision isn’t “to be a designer” or “to be a coach” – it should feel bigger than that.
This is also a way to start eliminating ideas (or passing them along to others or storing them away for later) that don’t quite fit in to your business. If you have ideas that are completely separate from your business and worth pursuing, then recognize that and move that idea into another “notebook” (or whatever you’re using). This definitely happens to me. I currently have TheCrownFox as my main business, but a separate more local-based idea that I thought could fit into TheCrownFox at first and has since pulled away into its own business that I devote some time to each week (not a ton at this point, but it’s definitely “on the schedule”) because it didn’t quite fit into the brand vision of TheCrownFox.
Some ideas might stick around and really stand out to you despite you fully being able to understand or recognize how it can serve your business at first. When this happens I start to look for connections between ideas that can ultimately impact my business (and fulfill my brand vision).
This happened to me recently actually. To be honest this is how MOST of my ideas pan out and my favorite part of the step. Maybe it’s the Sudoku-loving, Tetris-fan in me but finding patterns or lines of thought within things is soooo in my wheelhouse.
I’ll tell you this just so you see the process and can apply it to your own ideation time: When I planned out 2016 I had something I wanted to launch that would be basically a resource library of videos for different platforms, softwares, etc. It’s still going to happen eventually, but it’s since been broken down into smaller tasks because it was a hugely overwhelming project to manage while still focusing on growing my client-facing income.
So one of the sub-ideas under that was Squarespace tutorials, because I was recording individual tutorials for client’s to use to get comfortable with posting blogs and minor updates after we were done working together. This then developed into an idea for a mini-course about Squarespace so that anyone could feel comfortable using Squarespace.
I struggled with that idea because I was worried it fell outside of my brand vision. Was building a Squarespace site necessarily qualifying as being a ‘branding resource’ (part of my brand vision)? Would I lose clients if I taught them how to DIY? I couldn’t nail down how to approach this idea, but I also couldn’t shake it.
A few months later I was talking with a potential client who was desperate to work with me but couldn’t make the financial investment. It dawned on me that I wasn’t fulfilling my brand vision of being a ‘branding resource’ if I could only help people in a certain financial range. Thus the idea for TheShop was born – a way to provide templates and other visual elements more affordably.
If you’re lost in this story, here we are: an idea for Squarespace tutorials and an idea for affordable template design pieces and elements. Do you see where this is going? Suddenly these two ideas formed into one idea – create the mini course for people to get comfortable with Squarespace and pair it template designs (though it's also available separately). Let someone purchase a significantly less expensive template website and use the affordable course so they can make customizations and tweaks on their own. Even better? This is a HUGE resource for business owners of every income and experience level. I swear my brain literally exploded when I put this together.
Okay, a very long story – but the point is this: if you have an idea you can’t shake, try fitting it together with other ideas that you might be having. If you’re stuck on a course idea or an eBook idea or a new service, see how it can work in conjunction with something you already do or want to do.
How does this help with idea overwhelm? Well instead of having five little random ideas you might now have one awesome idea that is robust and expansive and super beneficial to your audience.
VISUALIZE AN END RESULT + CREATE A SCHEDULE
At this point everything is still totally liquid and in the idea phase. But at some point you’ve got to bite the bullet and start progressing on an idea. Here is something that I’ve learned the hard way (and still mess up from time to time): ONE AT A TIME.
I know you’re totally excited and want to do all the things, but like… you’re going to overwhelm yourself and burn out if you try to do it all at once.
Here’s what I did: I had three or four ideas I was really excited about and knew I wanted to implement into my business over time. I visualized the end result of all of those ideas. I thought about what that would look like for an audience member (or new subscriber or client, etc.). This visualization actually took me back a step and I formed more connections between my ideas (which was awesome validation). I realized, conveniently enough, all my ideas were connected in that they would help someone launch their business.
Then I paired down the order in which someone in my audience would benefit from these ideas and spread out fulfilling them accordingly. I created my schedule based on that.
So for example, first someone in my audience would need a stronger understanding of branding and to develop a foundation for their business. Once that was done I figured the logical next step for an audience member would be moving into using some template designs and creating their Squarespace website. This made my next steps developing TheShop and a Squarespace course (eventually).
Down the road? Next people would want to grow their email list (coming soon), create systems for productivity (coming later), etc. My schedule is based on the order that my audience will need my ideas.
If you feel that your ideas don’t work in succession like this, that’s fine. You can decide on your schedule however you please. Maybe it’s what you’re most excited about first, or maybe you take time to survey your audience and see what they’re most excited about. Whatever you choose – I strongly urge you to limit yourself to one idea at a time.
Okay – I fear that the title of this post might be inaccurate. You might’ve assumed that by “managing idea overwhelm” I meant I was going to tell you to throw away all your ideas and stay hyper-focused. I don’t want you to turn your brain off! It’s a powerful tool and being an “idea person” is wonderful – just ask someone who isn’t an “idea person”. So instead of ‘managing’ it by avoiding it, I want you to embrace it, make time for it, and discover how you can grow your business.
I’m Kaitlyn, your design assistant! I work with successful creative entrepreneurs to create cohesive, clean, and compelling visuals for their businesses. You can keep being the #girlboss you are (but with more time to focus on growing your empire)! Let's set up a time to chat!