Brainstorming is my favorite part of creative work because I can come up with so many ideas. If you leave me in a room with a white board and a basic prompt, I can go for hours.
But I also love to set down what I’m currently working on to go chase a new idea, leaving a wake of half baked plans and abandoned goals. Whoops.
I cracked my own code and found a way to keep me focused on one idea at a time to completion without also losing the energetic whimsy of coming up with new ideas.
I made a shiny object list.
Making an idea bank
It’s just what it sounds like: a place for my to park my ideas as they come to me, so I don’t lose them — but I also don’t lose focus on my current main task.
I use Trello for my Shiny Object Idea Bank, with the following categories:
- Ideas: I just put a brief description of the idea here. Above examples include a podcast, facebook group, newsletter, improved website, business cards, and a guest post for a popular minimalism blog.
- In Progress: This is the current One Thing I am working on. Right now it’s a workshop about trauma recovery that uses Dungeons and Dragons references to explain how we can “level up” through trauma. I also have a Trello card with a list of books I’d like to order to help me with the workshop.
- Done: This is where I can put a task that’s finished! My only finished Shiny Object is putting in a volunteer application for a local organization that provides an inclusive and supportive summer camp for transgender youth. (How cool is that!?)
- Let Go: These are the ideas with a deadline that I can’t meet without dropping my current project or things that just aren’t that shiny after all. In my example above my Let Go Ideas are a short story submission, which would have been really cool but I didn’t have the time to get it done before the deadline, and submitting my book to the Bi Book Awards.
This idea bank isn’t a to-do list. It’s just a place for me to think “Oh, that’s a great idea!”
There are 34 ideas in my Shiny Object Idea Bank currently, including ideas I have for books to write, things I just want to try once to see if I like it (like slam poetry and stand-up comedy), or ideas about updating old blogs on my website.
I might not ever do some of these. But that’s okay — I just need a place to get the ideas out of my brain, where they bump into my current project and create a distraction. This idea bank isn’t a to-do list. It’s just a place for me to think “Oh, that’s a great idea!”
When can I pick up a shiny object?
I have been pretty focused on my One Thing (the workshop) and my daily Medium posts for a solid month, and I am really excited about the progress I am making. But I still want to dig into the shiny objects now and then, so I developed a modified Pomodoro Technique approach to my ideas.
This built in steam valve helps keep me even more focused.
I focus on the One Thing for three weeks, and then I can spend a week playing with my shiny ideas. I can choose to work on one shiny object for the week or play with a few. And it’s always okay to add more!
This built in steam valve helps keep me even more focused, because I know it won’t be months and months before I can play with a new idea. It will only ever be a few weeks away.
I stay on task, I make amazing things, and then I get to play with fun ideas as a reward. It’s a win all around.