Idea Realification is about taking what’s in your head and making it happen. I am not claiming to be the world’s foremost expert on this topic, but I have managed to release quite a lot of projects over the last year or so. People have asked me how I get so much done. When I put up my Developing in the Open post, it was mentioned that I forgot the most important part, the idea.
I have ideas all the time. I think most people do. Having ideas is the easy part. All it takes is inspiration, and that has never been easier to come by than right now. Look around on the internet, listen to podcasts, watch TED, or do some traveling. Inspiration is everywhere. So if being inspired is your problem, then I don’t know what to tell you.
So, let’s assume you have ideas. That is the easy part. How do you turn an idea into something real? The answer seems simple. You get to work on it. Yet, taking an idea, turning it into a project and then finishing it is not as easy as it sounds.
I’ve found the best approach is to first organize my ideas. Rather than just jumping on an idea right away, aimlessly jumping from one inspiration to another, take some time to let it percolate. See what sticks.
I use Trello for this purpose. Every time an idea pops in my head, I create a Trello card for it and throw it on my ideas board. I am constantly adding and managing my list of ideas.
Deciding which idea to work on is the most important part. Picking the right idea will give you the greatest probability of crossing the finish line. The key I have found is to have a set of filters. Filters act as a set of criteria that you can use to evaluate which ideas are best for you.
Here are the filters that I currently apply to my ideas:
Fun. Whether it contains an element of humor or some playfulness in the design, I’ve found that for me to remain enthusiastic about an idea, there has to be a certain amount of fun involved.
Bite-Sized. I like smaller projects that I can finish quickly. If an idea is too big or too ambitious, I’ve found that it will fizzle out (at least for me). If I have a larger scale idea that I really like, I will try to break it down into smaller bites.
Recyclable. It gives me extra incentive when working on an idea if it is something that will continue to be of use to me.
Open. I don’t like to work for long stretches of time on things that I can’t share. I especially like to do open source because it motivates me to do better.
Passion-Inducing. Does the idea inflict me with the madness? You know that thing where you can’t stop thinking about an idea. This is essential!
So, those are my filters. They won’t work for everyone. I encourage you to find your own. Maybe you like projects that involve data. Maybe it important to you to work on projects you can pull off solo, or maybe being collaborative is what you’re all about. Maybe you are really into projects involving hardware like lasers and/or robots. Or are more artsy. Maybe making money is a big priority.
Whatever the case may be, I recommend managing an ever-evolving list of ideas, using your filters to help rank them and then just letting the madness consume you as you knock out one idea after another.