The Best Ideas Are The Ones You Finish
Don’t overthink your ideas. Do little and often.
‘The first rule of having good ideas: Don’t try to have good ideas. What’s important is just to have ideas.’
During idea generation, it’s possible to get stung by the belief that we need to focus on producing ‘good’ ideas. The truth is, we don’t. Good ideas are few and far between. In fact, most good ideas evolve from bad ones, and a lot of good ideas happen by accident. Sometimes they come to us when we’re not even consciously trying. But just because we might think our idea is great, doesn’t mean others will. Ultimately though, ideas mean nothing unless we can actually execute and finish them.
The enemy of productivity is over-thinking, and over-thinking is the result of idea perfectionism. We can’t guarantee that our ideas will eventually become what our own measure of success is, so it’s a bit futile to over-think the future. The more time we spend throwing away ideas in pursuit of ‘good’ ones, the less we can actually accomplish in the long run.
‘Start small, stay small and finish it. You’ll feel a lot more successful than if you never finish anything.’
Doing little and often is how you win at productivity. With small steps you can finish—and accomplish—more than you ever imagined. Start with the smallest possible problem you have to solve, and don’t think about anything else until it’s done. Move onto the next thing. Figure out what the minimum viable result is, and be confident you can finish it.
If you’re working on a project that’s large in scale with many moving parts, you need to break the project down into small, manageable tasks. This convinces your brain that there’s less actual effort to get started on something and make tangible progress. It’s the small things completed persistently over time that lead to the big results.
‘Spend 70% of your time doing what you know works, 20% on things that are a slightly higher risk and 10% stepping into the unknown.’
In most creative roles there’s a fair share of certainty and uncertainty. To be more productive, you have to know how to manage the balance between the knowns and unknowns. When you’re doing what you know works, you’re able to produce more at a much quicker rate—much of your workflow is on autopilot, and the more experience you have in your repertoire, the more often you can resort to the natural, quicker solutions.
On the other hand, risk-taking can often become a friction in the process due to further thought and iteration. It’s harder to anticipate the result and how long something can take to complete. However, creativity without risk is like peanut butter without jelly—you can get away without it, but it’s so much better with it. And this why it becomes essential to get comfortable with sprinkling in some uncertainty. When done right, you have just about enough risk for originality and excitement but the rest is enabling you to be confident to finish what you started.
‘When you are doing something you love, discipline comes naturally.’
Lastly, your productivity on any given project cannot be forced or sustained when you’re not enjoying it. Your emotional state towards something can ultimately dictate your discipline towards it. This is why you need to avoid burn out on demanding or long-term projects, as you become psychologically resistant to putting in the effort. Becoming subjected to projects with no end in sight and little to no reward can take its toll on your discipline.
If you want to experience unbelievable productivity and be able to finish your ideas, you need to love what you’re doing. You’ll never have the desire to be persistently productive at something if it doesn’t inspire you, or keep you up at night. When you truly have a passion for something, your discipline will become a natural part of your workflow, and other distractions will lose the power to pull you away from what you want to finish.