A Method for Taking Action and Executing Ideas

Taking ActionHave you ever had an idea for a new product, business or book? I think most of us have at some point. The real question is; what did you do next?

 

Ideas are Easy, Executing is Hard

It’s possible that you transformed your idea into an outcome by completing the project you had initially envisioned. Unfortunately, there’s a better chance that you scribbled your idea down someplace and never revisited it, you never took action. Following through on an idea and actually producing something new is incredibly difficult.

Thinking up new ideas and starting new projects is exciting. That’s why there is no shortage of brainstorming sessions. But, what happens to all of the grand ideas that come up during a meeting? They escape. You lose focus and fall back into a reactionary workflow – tackling every little task that pops up – instead of advancing your idea.

If you don’t have a process for capturing and cultivating ideas they will continue to escape you. Your creativity and productivity will continue to suffer. Sure, you might be completing tasks before their deadline, but imagine how much more effective you would be if you could identify new ideas; then organize, prioritize, manage and execute them.

 

How to Make Ideas Happen

Fortunately for us, Scott Belsky – the founder of Behance.com – created a process for capitalizing on our ideas which he reveals in his book; Making Ideas Happen.

The premise of this book is that ideas do not happen by themselves, in a moment of inspiration or by accident. Instead, the most creative and productive individuals among us have a process for transforming ideas into action, then following through to the finished products.

It’s not that our ideas aren’t good enough; it’s just that we have no process for managing our workflow. We don’t know how to go from inspiration to execution. It’s as though we expect our ideas to bring themselves to life. When, in reality, it’s our responsibility to make our ideas happen.

 

The Action Method

The process Belsky lays out for making ideas happen is action-centered project management. Most people, entrepreneurs and artist alike, are weary of any process that might stifle their creativity. They feel as though they need to remain open to inspiration, in tune with their instincts and receptive to new ideas. As a result, most go through fits of activity and lulls of idleness.

The solution, as identified by Belsky, is to recognize that “every idea is associated with a project” and “every project revolves around ideas that you want to push into action.” Thus, the trick to being more creative, productive and ultimately more successful is enacting a process for managing all of our projects.

Belsky’s Action Method includes three main elements: Action Steps, Backburner Items and References.

Action Steps

These are the specific tasks that propel your project forward. They are also the most important component of getting things done.

After identifying an idea, create your Action Steps. The best Action Steps are clear and concise, never vague or complicated. They also start with a verb to encourage action – create a new slide for the presentation or follow-up with John about the project.

Backburner

What about all of the great ideas you come up with while working on a new project? All the ideas that are too vague or unpolished to convert into Action Stets? These will become Backburner items.

The Backburner is the list of all the ideas that might one day become projects and full-fledged Action Steps. Maintaining a backburner can be as simple as making room at the bottom of your notes or maintaining a journal of possible projects.

But, the Backburner doesn’t end there. It’s best to put all of these ideas into a central location like a folder or running file on your computer. This way you can return to them on a regular basis to decide which ideas stay, which get tossed out and which get promoted to Action Steps.

References

All of the supporting material, notes, emails and sketches associated with a project are your Reference materials.

The two most important aspects of References is our ability to organizing and maintain them. Most of the time, when we take notes or print and article, we place it on our desk and never revisit it. Don’t be a packrat. Keep your workplace free of clutter and prevent the chaos that is sure to ensure by creating a filing system for References. Belsky suggests filing References chronologically, or placing them in the folder for a current project along with the Action Steps.

 

Take Away

Don’t become consumed by the cycle of brainstorming and then bailing on new ideas. Instead, use the Action Method to develop a process for cultivating ideas you have already conceived. If you’re willing to organize your workflow you’ll be able to spot new opportunities, pursue them with action and execute more effectively.

What is your most successful method for spotting and managing new ideas? Share your tips so we can all make our ideas happen!

About Joe Vennare

Joe is the co-founder of Hybrid Athlete where he writes, instructs and speaks about all things fitness. But, there’s more to him than just exercise, so he moonlights as a writer, bookworm and self-professed knowledge addict. For more, follow his business and fitness escapades on Twitter, @JoeVennare

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