Capture Your Idea Bubbles

If ideas are precious, why do so many people neglect them? It’s not because we have so few and don’t know what to do with them; it’s because we get too many and don’t know what to do with them. They’re like bubbles in a breeze. As kids, we chased after bubbles but couldn’t catch them all because the wind would sweep most of them away. Many floated to the ground with a splat, and those we did catch quickly burst into nothingness. It’s the same with ideas, and suddenly the term thought bubble seems less coincidental.

Remember how sometimes you delicately balanced a bubble on the tip of your finger, and it didn’t immediately pop. It was a good-sized one, and you marveled over it and called your friends over to see it right before it burst into a soapy puddle. You didn’t cry. You were bummed for a second, but then you tried to capture another one — and you did. When you minimize fear, uncertainty, and doubt, you create possibility.

“Ideas are great” is a common misnomer. Ideas are neither good nor bad. They’re nothing tangible until you begin to act on them. Why did we forget how to capture our ideas? I don’t know, but here’s how to remember your new ones.

1. Write them down — or capture them in a voice note or a message to yourself. I like a pen and paper, or an index card. It’s not high-tech, but it’s almost always faster. Ideas are plentiful but elusive, so you’ve got to grab them quickly.

After returning from the mall, my son used to dump his new Lego Bricks in the middle of the dining room table and survey what he called his haul. My daughter did the same thing with her bags from Old Navy. Commercial fishermen pull their catch on the deck before sorting. You need to do the same thing with your ideas.

2. Review your haul. Pull out all the scraps of paper, post its, etc., that you put your ideas on and look them over. Size them up, but don’t edit them out. Just like a pile of Legos, a bag of clothes, or a net full of fish, you will process and use them.

  • Grab a notebook, journal, blank sheet of paper, or your screen, jot down the date and transcribe an idea; if you can remember, make a note of what may have triggered the idea. Was it a person or a thing? Did one of your senses pick up on something? Pay attention to this because, over time, you may find a trend that will help you identify your best ideas.
  • Note how or where you think you could implement the idea.
  • Write down the first action you can take to move the idea forward.
  • Do this for every idea you’ve captured through the day, and do this processing each night; then, once a week, go back and check off what you’ve accomplished.

Many of your ideas will not be particularly good. That’s okay; they don’t have to be. You have to train yourself to begin recognizing and capturing them first. Soon you’ll realize that a few of your ideas will be quite good, and if you act on them, it could make all the difference.

Is It That Bad?

When things get overwhelming, it helps to get some perspective. Here are a few steps and checks that will aid you if you’re feeling less than stellar and things don’t seem to be going your way.

  • Do you have enough air to breathe?
  • Do you have food for today?

(If you’ve answered yes to both so far, you’re in pretty good shape. However, you’re probably still feeling bummed. Let’s keep things in perspective.)

  • What is the worst that could happen, and would you still be alive if it did?
  • Are you taking yourself too seriously?
  • What are you learning?

(You’ve probably got some blindspots; change your angle to see better. Find a teachable moment and figure out what you can take away from all this.)

  • If things are truly dire, will you be okay for the next five minutes?

(Chunk things down into smaller parts.)

  • Make someone else happy.

(Stop focusing on yourself long enough to consciously make someone else happy. Do it for the sheer joy of it.)

Now, go do the things you were meant to do.

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Karl Bimshas

Karl Bimshas

Boston-bred and California-chilled Leadership Adviser | Writer | Podcast Host who helps busy professionals who want to manage better and lead well.