How I Stopped Getting Distracted by New Ideas

Caitlin Fisher
Dec 6, 2019 · 3 min read
Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash

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

Screenshot by author

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.

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.

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.

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Caitlin Fisher

Written by

Prone to sudden bursts of encouragement. They/them. Queer, autistic author of bit.ly/GaslightingMillennials

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +581K people. Follow to join our community.

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