Taming the Flow of Ideas

Last Updated Nov 3, 2008 1:18 AM EST

Mind mapping is wonderful, but I find that ideas often flow well before they're ready to be meaningfully dissected.

Unless they are managed properly, ideas can be disruptive to productivity and focus.

I've talked before about the danger of pursuing too many ideas at once, and plenty of business owners, myself included, are guilty of this.

I believe that ideas need to be tamed.

Here's are five tools I use:

1. A manila folder
Exciting stuff, eh? A dedicated location for capturing my stream of ideas means they can move out of my head and into the folder. The relief is immediate.

2. A pen or pencil
Post-its, A4 sheets, serviettes, the back of business cards or envelopes -- it matters not.

When an idea comes I transcribe it and toss it into the folder. Neatness and order is not an issue at this stage, that comes later.

3. A dictaphone
I carry a nifty little digital recorder with me most of the time and blather in it whenever an idea pops up.

Alternatively, I'll use my mobile and leave a message on my voicemail. ("Hello Robert. It's Robert --")

Later I scribble the idea down on paper and yup, into the folder it goes.

4. A whiteboard
Wouldn't be without one. Often something pops up that has no immediate meaning or relevance.

A couple of days on the whiteboard and it's either expanded into something tangible or it's wiped.

5. My fingers
Next time you pick up a paper or magazine in your favourite café and find a snippet torn out, chances are it was me.

I do this all the time and yes -- straight into the folder it goes.

As you may imagine it's not long before my folder is bursting with ideas at which point mind mapping comes in.

It's amazing how with a bit of effort, a hotch-potch of ideas will morph into an ordered plan.

For every folder that generates something valuable, many more get trashed. The overall benefit is that ideas no longer steal my focus, instead they hover pleasantly in the background like the smell of freshly brewed coffee.

Thoughts? Share your tips and ideas and post a comment.

  • Robert Gerrish

    Robert Gerrish is a coach, author and professional speaker and the founder of Flying Solo (www.flyingsolo.com.au), the Australian online community for solo business owners.