How I Finally Tamed my Ideas List

Derry Birkett
Nov 2, 2015 · 3 min read

I used to suffer from Chronic Ideation. It affects one in an unknown number of people annually. I could be staring at the floor, and BAM! an idea pops into my head.

Sometimes I could disregard these ideas immediately, but many I did not disregard — considering them automatically to be brilliant: And it was precisely this fact, along with a methodology I found, that led me finally to be able to tame this chronic condition.

I consider it a chronic condition because having all these “brilliant” ideas fill up an ever-growing, out-of-control list of “things to do” used to give me great anxiety. But now I accept them gladly and do not suffer from anxiety about them at all.

What actually led me to the solution was a Trello methodology I found online. I’ve tried a variety of todo lists, but I finally settled on Trello. I mention this because I still haven’t transferred the ideas I put into those lists, onto Trello — and I never will.

Here is what happened.

I have many boards on Trello, for the different projects I have in mind. I found that these disparate boards became mentally unmanageable, so I created a “Focus” board, specifically to gather together only the project tasks I wanted to focus on and used a GTD methodology.

I also adopted an extension to the GTD methodology: In this method, instead of Now, Next and Someday you use Today, Tomorrow, This Week, This Month, This Year (for example). This puts tasks into a timeframe.

The Focus board “did what it said on the tin”: I found, using this Focus board, that I began moving items into a workable order. The extended GTD method helped me visualise specific dates when I would work on each item, making estimation more realistic.

And from here I made the discovery.

I started to watch my new, “brilliant” ideas enter the Focus board directly and immediately onto the Now list. (yes, I have a Now list). I was doing this because I clearly considered the idea so good that I needed to work on it immediately.

What I then discovered was that after “sleeping on it” these “brilliant” ideas became less brilliant and were consistently pushed further down the GTD timeline, and oftentimes totally off the Focus board and into its correct position, in my general ideas board or its own project board.

The illusion of brilliance was popped.

I still can’t seem to stop myself collecting these brilliant ideas directly on my Focus board, but I have started to put them into a list I call the Inbox. And this is ok because it allows me to cheat myself into thinking that I am acting immediately on these brilliant ideas, thereby calming my anxiety. But what actually happens is that I see them again after “sleeping” and, after reflecting again on the quality of their brilliance, I find them being removed, often directly out of the Focus board, to more suitable accommodation in other boards. To be forgotten about.

It could be suggested that simply disregarding immediately all the ideas I receive would also have the same effect as the above. But I still do need ideas: some ideas are more than valid, and moreover, I don’t want to stem the flow. I know that that one, extra-brilliant idea is just waiting to occur to me, as long as I am ready and willing to receive it.

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