The Death Of An Idea

“What if…?”

The birth of an idea. Followed by the perpetuity of tortuous wonder about when to act on it. Fading in and out of consciousnesses every other day, or week if we’re lucky.

We’re constantly wallowing in a sea of ideas. We can’t possibly drop everything and act on every idea that comes to mind. And, if we hope to retain our sanity, we can’t let these ideas simply float around in our heads. To avoid the psychological pressure bearing down upon us, it makes sense to write ideas down and put them somewhere we trust. Somewhere we’ll review on a routine basis. Even if we never act upon the ideas, simply reminding ourselves we’ll come back to them relieves the burden.

When an idea first comes to mind, we tend to inflate the perceived value. New ideas are exciting. We can use a system of recording ideas to put some time between inspiration and action. I’ve settled on a method to partition ideas based on the perceived urgency. When an idea comes to mind, I ask what it’s worth and why I had the idea. If I can’t eliminate it, then I ask myself: what’s the longest time frame I could set this aside and not miss the opportunity to act?

Three time frames keeps this simple and forces me to not obsess about it. I’ve settled upon: one list that I review every week, one that I review every month and one that I review every year. The weekly and yearly lists are short. The monthly list holds the majority. I review these lists on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis. I trust that I’ll come back to these lists. Building that trust takes time, but once you have it, you truly can avoid tracking a myriad of reminders that you ignore on a daily basis.

As I review ideas, I can compare them to other ideas. Relative importance really helps clarify purpose and value. But something amazing happens as an idea ages. I find myself gradually promoting ideas from weekly, to monthly and yearly reviews. If an idea has been in my weekly reminder list for several weeks, it gets moved to the monthly list. Eventually, I find myself asking “What was I thinking” or “This isn’t that important anymore.” Whatever initial perceived value has faded. The idea has died, not only on paper, but in my mind.

A few clicks later and the idea vanishes off my lists and out of my mind, forever. I’m no longer pestered by ideas floating around in my mind. I’m not constantly re-discovering why I decided to defer action. I trust that the important ideas will see the light of day. I have a method to give my ideas respect and consideration. And when an idea doesn’t make it through, when it dies, it will no longer plague my conscience.

How do you let go of ideas?