People with an entrepreneurial mindset seasonally go through periods of massive inspiration, massive motivation, and often subsequently massive amounts of work. In these periods the ideas are flowing, the ways and means seem to be obvious and available.

Personally I find the fun really starts when I identify needs in the market for the services and products I need to fulfil my original idea… Kinda like this…

“I have come up with idea X, which will need someone to do service Y to make it happen… oh hang on, the market doesn’t seem to have very much of service Y… I wonder if service Y is an opportunity I could pursue?”

These needs tend to turn into opportunities quite quickly.

It’s all very stimulating and lots of fun. That is, until you are on your 10th night in a row where you’ve been up till 3am thinking, planning, setting things up, more planning, emails, research, phone calls, et al… Between this and a 40 hour a week job, relationships and friendships, and life in general you’ve found yourself spinning too many plates, trying to keep as many things going as your mind will allow before it packs up and either makes you insanely grumpy, absent minded, or headache-y, or simply sends you off to bed.

This sort of approach, while understandable, is basically unsustainable, and in the long term unproductive… Plus there is no point to any of it in my mind if it stops you from being able to just enjoy life as it passes by.

And in case you need a business argument… Doing three things well will ALWAYS reap a far greater return that doing ten things poorly.

Here’s some thoughts about how I pared it down to the three I am currently working on, from the current forty that are on the board.

  • Make a list with ALL of your ideas. Include everything, even the ridiculous one. Make three columns; Desire to Do, Ease of Setup, and Potential Return. No more than that. Rate them all 1 to 5 (or 1 to 10 if you have a LOT of ideas), tally up the totals for each idea, highlight the top three in green for go, and get started.
  • Do not do more than three at a time. Keep the list in a safe place, because you will be revisiting the other ideas later WHEN YOU HAVE TIME, or WHEN YOU HAVE FINISHED ONE OF THE TOP THREE.
  • If one of the ideas is taking to much time, or more importantly, causing too much stress (negative stress is THE number one creativity killer, and it’s your creativity you need to protect), drop it. ESPECIALLY if the return is small. I had to do this recently, and it felt SO DARN GOOD…! You don’t have to do everything, part of the process is learning what to pick up and what to put down.
  • If you’ve dropped an idea, it’s probably because one of the other ideas is taking more of your attention then you thought. If this is the case, don’t pick anything else up for a while.
  • Remember, you are not canning your other ideas, you are just delaying them for a while.

One of the ideas I have on the shelf at the moment reads “Harness Lightning”. It scores a 5 for desire to do (I’ve been thinking about it since I was about 5 years old), and a 5 for Potential Return (if only for the cool factor…), but a perfect 1 on the Ease of Setup. So it’s on the shelf for now, because I had 5, 5, 5 ideas to attend to first.

I will get to it though, and the beautiful thing is that my 5, 5, 5 ideas will be funding me while I figure out how to it. Get how it works?

I am feeling about a billion times lighter since I’ve put this into practice… And I feel like the projects I am working on now have the right amount of my attention, AND I feel like I can still give my 9 to 5, my wife and child, and my life outside of business the attention an enjoyment it deserves.