I like to think I’m an idea guy. I get eureka moments and I madly sketch out a vision or a plan. I sometimes get excited enough to start building out the idea, and share it with others. My trouble is, of course, that unless the idea is solving an immediate business problem or a critical life challenge, its chances of being realized are not much better than a snowball’s in you-know-where.
I recently listened to the audiobook version of Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality by Scott Belsky. The book is targeted at people who have a lot of ideas, but then face challenges in seeing them realized. You might say I had a bulls-eye on my forehead for this one.
Making Ideas Happen has some great general productivity tips, but the core advice comes down to sharing your ideas, killing off the dumb ones, focus on one good idea at a time and work like a machine to get it done.
I immediately recognized a lot of my own patterns as examples the book cited for what not to do.
I’ve been guilty of not spreading my ideas around enough, being afraid of feedback that would invalidate the idea. This is silly, of course, because I can’t put a bullet in the bad ideas if I believe all of them are good – hence the need for a lot of bouncing ideas off the right people. I’m getting better at this, though. I think being surrounded by smart people that I trust is hugely helpful in this regard.
My biggest challenge is just the focus element. I’m easily distracted by life’s other priorities, like the urgent matters at work, or the big laundry pile at home. When I feel inspired to work on developing my idea, I don’t have time. When I do have time, I somehow lose my inspiration or focus.
This situation is often aggravated by the next shiny object, the next idea that comes along. I lose interest in what I was working on before.
A few months ago, I had this fun idea to build a talking stuffed animal that would talk smack to the programmer from my development team who checked in code that broke the build. It would offer positive reinforcement and share useful information, too, of course.
I had my son pick out a stuffed animal for the project. He picked a lion. I bought a Raspberry Pi and an amplified speaker. I set up text-to-speech on Linux (not trivial). I spent hours and hours futzing with its buggy analog sound output, trying to make it not -POP- every time it spoke up (I gave up and bought a USB sound interface). I re-learned PHP, figured out REST, and built web service on it that would respond to http requests for speaking for different situations. I had it pretty much working, and could make it talk from my mobile phone.
But I got sidetracked. I found something else that was interesting to do (digital signage on Raspberry Pi) and never actually put the device into the lion.
The digital signage initiative is a side project at work, so any time I spend on it is guilt-ridden, despite the fact that a lot of people have been asking for it. I just have too much other stuff to do.
This project’s not dead yet, but it’s taken so long that there are now a few 3rd party digital signage solutions that now work on the RPi. Now I’m on the fence about scrapping what I’ve done in favor of one of these, or just forging ahead with a few extra features.
Did I mention I’m not a real programmer? Part of why these things take a while is that I really enjoy programming but I spend a lot of time on the learning curve, either learning the black art of command-line unix or figuring out object-oriented design patterns.
Anyway, I’m trying to find focus now, like the book says to do. At home, we’ve got a Kanban Board set up so I can easily see and limit the work in progress. It’s helping some, one week in.
One of the items on the board is going to be to a weekly blog entry so I can share ideas and progress on the one I’m focusing on at any given time.
I’m also going to try and reserve some times for advancing ideas in my week. Every evening that I can, I’ll be in front of computer doing something to move stickies across the board.
I’ve been successful in building and maintaining a fitness routine; now it’s time to build and maintain the idea realization routine.