What to do when you have too many ideas and no focus

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

Beth said:

I need some tips and advice on how to deal with an overflow of ideas and thoughts. I overthink everything and my brain literally never stops. I have a creative side (writing anything and everything) but I can’t seem to manifest anything because I have no focus and soooooo many ideas! I’ve started keeping an ideas bank because I am also just a crazy list-maker, but the list-making does get out of control and I only really have the inspiration for the idea at the time that I originally think of it.

  • Should I just let all those thoughts go to the wayside?
  • Are they worth keeping?
  • How do I use them in a productive way or let them go and not feel stressed about it?
  • If I’m not finishing projects, is it because they’re not the right/good idea or is it because I am poorly managing things?

I feel so much pressure to get all this stuff done even though I am still young. Like how will I possibly fit everything into my life?!

Ok! Let’s tackle these questions one-at-a-time shall we?

Should I just let all those thoughts go to the wayside?

Thoughts are always better out of your head than in. When you write them down, you’re freeing your brain of the obligation to hold on to them. Which is a nice thing to do for your brain.

But, recording all these thoughts and ideas in a ‘list’ means you now feel obliged to action all of them. Which is making you feel overwhelmed. Don’t record your ideas in ‘lists’, record them in ‘idea-repositories’. These idea-repositories might look an awful lot like lists, but calling them anything but a ‘list’ frees you from the idea that you need to ‘do something’ with all those ideas.

Are they worth keeping? How do I use them in a productive way or let them go and not feel stressed about it?

All ideas are worth keeping; not all are worth actioning. In fact, the vast majority of them aren’t worth actioning. You know how you said, ‘I only really have the inspiration for the idea at the time I think of it’? That’s a good sign the idea isn’t a good one. Or not for right now in your life. Most ideas seem amazing in the moment, but when you give them a day or two to marinate, their flaws become apparent. This is true for everyone.

If I’m not finishing projects, is it because they’re not the right/good idea or is it because I am poorly managing things?

It’s because you are almost certainly an ‘NP’ on the Myers-Briggs scale. (INFP, INTP, ENFP or ENTP. I would guess ENFP. Head to the bottom of this post for a link to the test.)

NPs are hugely creative, idea-generating machines (thanks to the N bit). The P bit means they find it difficult to focus and execute – Ps don’t like feeling ‘tied down’ or beholden to anything. Put N+P together and you get someone who is naturally inclined to chase the brightest, most shiny idea of the moment and finds it hard to execute any of those ideas fully.

I have many NP friends, (Brooke McAlary, Alexx Stuart, Darren Rowse to name a few), who do manage to execute, however. And the way they do that is by setting artificial boundaries for themselves. For example, telling themselves they must see Idea 1 through to the end before actioning Idea 2 – no matter how compelling Idea 2 is. NPs also respond well to deadline pressure – especially if they’re from an external source. (For instance, Alexx is currently knuckling down like never before because she has to deliver a first draft of her book to her publisher by the end of this month.)

While it’s tempting to tell yourself you’re not going to finish a project because the idea is a bad one … it’s important to get in the habit of finishing the things you start anyway. The only way to truly develop discernment around ideas is to spend (waste) a heap of time executing bad ones.

I feel so much pressure to get all this stuff done even though I am still young. Like how will I possibly fit everything into my life?!

Read this article by Jenna Price. You have so much more time than you think.

Also, I can see your inner idealist is telling you it’s super-important to do everything, and do it now. Everyone who wants to change the world tends to feel this urgency. They’re consistently frustrated by their (perceived) inability to make an impact at the level they aspire to.

If you can switch your focus to making ripples, that frustration will lessen. When you put your energy into positively impacting the lives of the people immediately around you, (instead of ‘changing the world’), those people develop the ability to positively impact the lives of the people immediately around them. Before you know it, those little ripples you created will turn into a huge, and very impactful wave. (And, if you follow the work of Brooke, Alexx and Darren, you’ll see this is exactly what they’ve all done.)

* Do the Myers-Briggs personality test here BUT FIRST NOTE … when doing this personality test, it’s important to answer the questions according to how you’d prefer to behave, not how you actually behave. For example, if the question asks ‘What’s your idea of a fun night out’, and currently you’re heading out to nightclubs every weekend because that’s what your friends are doing, but really, you’d prefer to stay at home and watch a movie … answer with the latter. 

 

Kristopher Roller

Comments 8

  1. This post resonates with me, big time!
    I love the simple idea of changing the language. It instantly re-frames it to lessen internal pressure your mind conjures up with the original word “list”. I also like “repository” it’s a more honourable sounding place than a brain-dump 😉
    Turns out I am an Entertainer. I hadn’t heard of this type before but it pretty much has me covered.

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  2. I love love love this! I feel like I was a part of it too because you used my questions! I definitely am an inner idealist at heart 🙂
    Interestingly though, I have taken the myer briggs test twice now and both times have gotten ENTJ. So not sure how that relates.
    Thanks so much for the advice! I definitely strive to have blog posts as beautifully written as yours 🙂

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      That is fascinating that you come out as a J on the Myers-Briggs. When you do the test – are you answering the questions according to how you’d prefer to act as opposed to how you actually behave? Ps can give a J result if the person has a job that forces them to be very organised and get things done. (and they answer the questions according to how they behave at work, as opposed to how they’d prefer to behave 🙂

    2. I really connected with this article and I am similar to you Beth, am a INTJ. (done through a Myers Briggs consultant) My brain works in a very organised way – but its when I get that overwhelmed feeling it kind of just shuts down. I judge myself very harshly.

      What I found is that I have to harness that organising power and break things down into smaller chunks. Instead of being hard on myself, I can see the manageable smaller tasks and that helps with moving forward. I keep myself accountable in a very simple bullet journal.

      Also perhaps another way to deal with all the ideas is to create mind maps for each idea – that way it doesn’t look too much like a list, but if you do decide to go with it – the smaller steps are already there. I find Mind Maps are a great way to really work through an idea to see if its workable. If I am excited by the end, I got for it, if not I let it be.

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  3. Thank you for this, and the links. This resonated so much with me, that I did the Myers-Briggs test. I am an INFP-T, and that seems accurate. Oftentimes I feel like a freak or somehow flawed, when the people around me are so different, but the test result was comforting, as it listed plenty of my good qualities as well.

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      Absolutely – every single type has its strengths and weaknesses. The trick is to leverage our strengths better and manage the weaknesses x

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