Access the gold in your head

by Michele on September 13, 2012

An entrepreneur's ideas are goldIf you are like most entrepreneurs, you probably have a gold mine inside your brain right now.  One of the things that makes entrepreneurs different from people not drawn to that path is IDEAS!  We live ideas.  We work ideas.  We’re addicted to or at least strongly drawn to new ideas.  We can come up with more ideas in a day than we could implement in a year.

Unless you have a process for capturing and processing these ideas, chances are they are pinging around in your head going to waste.  Nobody benefits from them and they don’t make you any money unless the ideas are out of your head and implemented.

I recommend having ways to capture all your ideas on a regular basis, but sometimes it might still help to do a big clearing out.  Even in a well-kept home, clutter can still accumulate, and your brain is no different.  Lots of ideas and thoughts are coming in on a regular basis, and if you don’t take some time to clear out your brain will become overly full and you may begin to feel like you can’t think.

I know when I’ve got too much in my head.  It feels like one of the machines that mixes the lottery balls before they are picked – there’s just hundreds of things clamoring, bouncing and demanding my attention.  I know when that happens I have to clear some space.

So how do you clear your head and get your golden ideas out?

I call it a brain download.  Some people call this process a brain dump, but I don’t like the implication of the word “dump.”  It’s where we take trash and hazardous waste, not valuable things like great ideas.  A download on the other hand implies value.  We download songs we like, books we want to read and information to improve our lives and businesses.

The only rule is that you can do this process however it works for you, but here are some tips to get you started.

  • I like to use old-fashion paper and pen.  Yes, you lose the advantage of having on a computer document, but there’s something about connecting pen to hand to brain that really fuels my thinking.
  • Start with a full, blank sheet of paper.  A big easel pad (2 feet by 3 feet or so) is especially inviting, but anything letter sized or bigger works.
  • Use colored pens, markers, crayons, or just a plain pen – whatever works for you.  One warning – don’t get caught up in color coding or making a design with your writing.
  • This is about quantity and completeness, not quality or accuracy.
  • Gather your paper and pen and start writing!  Anything that’s in your head, whether it’s recorded elsewhere or not is fair game.  Include ideas, to-do items, things to research, things that bug you right now, anything else you think of.
  • This is just for you, so spelling, grammar, neatness, etc. don’t count.
  • You’ll know you’re done when several minutes pass and you can’t think of anything else to add.  Your brain might feel light, empty or like something’s missing.

When you’re done, you’ll have a big, sloppy page and a neat, empty brain ready to tackle the next big thing.

I recommend that you put away your paper for a day and see if any stragglers pop up that you can add.

The last step is the one most often overlooked.  Most entrepreneurs will be on to the next thing and their massive to-do list right away and this paper will be forgotten and that’s a huge waste!  The last step is to process everything on your paper and put it in the correct place where it can be acted on at the right time and the threat of forgetting is gone.  Some examples: ideas can go onto an idea list, to-do items in your task manager, an upcoming birthday added to your calendar, additional thoughts on a current project added to that project material.

Do you see how it works?  Get your valuable ideas out of your head to where they can be acted on and in the process clear your magnificent mind for bigger and better things.

Tell me how you clear your head in the comments.  What positive results do you get from your process?


  1. Paul Chaney says:

    Great advice. I’m an “idea monkey,” but don’t often organize my ideas well or bother to write them down.

    Another thought…I recall something Seth Godin once said: “A good idea can kill you.” (That may be a paraphrase.) Just because it’s a good idea doesn’t mean it should necessarily be acted upon. I’m convinced, however, that a great idea will continue to surface like cream rising to the top. More intuitive than business logic I suppose, but that’s how the entrepreneurial brain works isn’t it?

    1. Michele says:

      Paul, I love the phrase “idea monkey!” I’ve never heard it before but it describes the mental happenings in an entrepreneur’s brain perfectly. I do agree that not all ideas should be acted on, but I feel a sense of peace and a cleared mind knowing those ideas are captured for any use I might have for them. When I do this with clients, they love having everything that’s been pinging around in their head out on paper ready to be decided on and prioritized. I think the biggest, #1 rule about whether to use a process is whether it works for you. I know other entrepreneurs that think as you describe, i.e. if it’s important or great I won’t forget it. I believe for myself that not storing ideas or thoughts somewhere else leads to mental clutter and a ongoing background chatter in my head while I try to make sure nothing gets forgotten. I’m a believer in GTD (Getting Things Done, the productivity system by David Allen), and one of the core principles of that system is to capture all the inputs that come your way (including thoughts) in your system so you don’t waste valuable mental power trying to remember them, they won’t be forgotten or overlooked unintentionally and so you can make decisions based on a complete picture. This one idea had really helped keep my head clear and led to so many valuable ideas not being lost.

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