June 30, 2019

Jumping from idea to idea - how to stop

Pete Codes @petecodes

I find myself with tonnes of new ideas. How do you decide which to pursue?

  1. 7

    When I'm having a new idea, what I usually do is I try to forget it. If it's important, it will come back to haunt my brain frequently. This helps in filtering the bad "good ideas".

    Now, to avoid jumping from idea to idea, I recommend you to identify when that occurs. Often, it's when you reach a blocking situation on your current project (a difficult bug, a complex feature that you can't wrap your head around, a user that is having an issue you don't know how and is not so nice about it, etc).

    It's quite simple:

    When things go great, you don't question it. It's when things start to go bad that you want to return to Wonderland and start thinking about a new shiny thing.

    Identify these, and when you notice them, stay committed. It will be difficult, you will be slower in your work, dragging your feet. But once you went through this, you'll be glad you made it, and your business/project will be even better.

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      I'm gonna swoop by to agree here. Time is the best filter for ideas.

      Every idea seems great when you first come up with it... I can't count the number of times I wrote down some amazing idea, just to come back to my idea list three weeks later and say, "wow that wouldn't work at all."

      If months go by and it still looks great, then you might have something there.

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        yeah, good point!

  2. 4

    Hi Pete, I think what you can do to stop this really depends on "why" it is happening. If it is happening because you aren't ready to commit yet, I'd suggest playing with several ideas simultaneously. I do that. I have a 70/20/10 rule. This means I work on 2 projects at the same time. One with around 70% of my time and focus and one with around 20% of my focus/time. The remaining 10% I use for pure experimentation.
    This works well for me because I know, I am not ready yet to commit to one idea. And I feel that it helps me get to understand what I am after and makes me ready for committing to "the one idea". Anyway, I wrote about this personal strategy here: https://www.hustleup.io/too-many-business-ideas/

  3. 4

    Use your own criteria. For me it's must have these criteria:

    1. it has a good benefit/solve my own problem
    2. I can charge at least $29/month
    3. Serve one niche
    4. Easy to onboarding new user
    5. I can build the MVP in less than 3 months @1-2 hour/day

    If my idea meets these criteria, I will build it. This parameter comes from mistakes in the past. Hope that helps.

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      Why $29?

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        Hahaha that just my own number, My living expense is pretty low. If I get 10 ($290/month) paying user, it can cover my expense for a month. Of course, everybody is different, that just my own criteria.

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          Where do you live, Jesus...

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            Bali, a digital nomad island. I live here with my wife, for food I spend about $5/day, but it depends on your lifestyle.

            I don't pay rent, because I live in my own house. But if you are curious, you can easily find a comfortable house for under $100/month.

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              Really $100 a month. How are all other expenses in Bali? In general cost of living.

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                It was cheap enough comparing in Jakarta, If you have $1000 per month, you can have a comfortable lifestyle..


                For example, This house was rent for $150/month (pay annualy)

    2. 1

      Awesome criteria :)

  4. 4

    Execute on them as quickly as possible. This is why I loved the idea of a 24 hour startup.

    If you do this enough times then you probably won't be tempted to pursue ideas as much as your are now, and it will also help you find the 1 idea that you want to work on long term.

    It will also help you identify what is a good idea and a bad idea as well, because the only way to know is by trying.

    (this is kind of my experience)

    1. 1

      Cheers Pat - you're right!

  5. 3

    I have a Trello Board with all my ideas. And I have 4 Columns:

    The first one if "Braindump Ideas". These ones are just an idea, no further information on it. So if I think they are worth, they need more information;

    After I know (And put it in writing in the card) an estimative of effort and how much I think this idea is worth they can go to 2 columns: Weekend Projects and Evolved Ideas.

    The first one is very self-explanatory, they usually are low effort low return ideas, something that won't be 1B$ startups, but will generally give me some joy or knowledge at a low effort. What can I say, I like to build things haha.

    The "Evolved Ideas" column is a little more complicated, usually, at this point, I have a pretty simple business plan for it. How to monetize, how long it will take to build it, who needs to be involved, something close to the information on a business canvas model. So I know how much effort it will take to build and how to make it work.

    And last I have the "Currently Building" column. That one can only have two projects at a time, one from each of the previous columns and I need to finish them before I can get another one. I notice that from time to time I need to disconnect from the big project because it can take months to finish and I get fatigued from it, so I stop for a few days, build something else from the weekend column, easy and fast and get back to the big one.

    Some things I took from it.

    • Braindump is extremely important to me. Sometimes I get very excited and spend hours researching a project, but if I don't put them somewhere, it feels like a loss, putting them into the braindump column gives me a sense of closure. The idea is documented and if it is really worth I will come back to it later instead of "if I don't build it now, this will be lost" feeling.
    • The extra-bureaucracy I impose on myself is quite helpful too. Not all the ideas are created equally, so have them compared with all the others most of the time can put me on the ground pretty fast.
    • Once you know effort vs "what you take out of it" it's very easy to decide what to focus on.
    • Is important to breathe, nothing is easy and is important to take it easy sometimes, that's why I don't discard those weekend that won't give me anything in return ideas. They are great to release stress in my case

    Just so you have an idea. My Braindump has 47 cards (Most of them are garbage haha), my Weekend has 3 and my Evolved has 4 hahah

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      Awesome system @luanmuniz

      @petecodes Try not to jump on the ideas right away, but instead store them somewhere in your mind or physical (a jotter, a Trello Board, notes...). Sleep on it and come back later after having challenged the idea by sharing it publicly and collecting more data on whether it is worth putting efforts and time onto it.

      One way to think of it is imagining a pond. Every time you've got an idea put it in a pond. Worthless ideas are eaten by big fish ideas in the pond. Fish only for ideas big enough in this pond. Not so sure about my metaphor, hope you'll get the idea ;-)

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        Love the fish metaphor! Awesome.

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      Awesome! Yeah, I have a trello system as well - ideas, promising and making. I like the idea of having a weekend projects one as well for things I just wanna make. Cheers

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    Do you have an existing audience or user base around any of these ideas? Can you build and launch something very simple and free to see if you can first generate some interest around to later build and launch something more advance you can funnel users to and charge for?

    I have built small free tools and been surprised by the number of users and interest they generate, and I have built complex apps with the hopes of charging for them, but fail to gain traction. It has taken me too long to realize I need to double down on my luck and build something for and monetize the spaces I have an existing audience and user base for. Otherwise, much more work needs to go into marketing, which I simply don't want to do!

    So build lots of small things, and follow your successes!

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      Thanks - great audience. Yeah, I've got a good audience in tech/people learning to code so aiming for that audience. Really, I guess it's a lot easier to solve your own problems.

  7. 2

    Maybe try your hand at @levelsio 12 startups in 12 months?
    Seems to be a good mental quarantine, give yourself a month to get a thing built. Blog about it, and hopefully one of them derails you with smashing success!

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      Thanks man. Just gotta launch em and see!

  8. 2

    This is probably the most common problems with our types - too many (terrible) ideas. I know I personally fall into this category.

    For me the 2nd biggest problem is keeping motivated with the idea I stick with.

    As for dealing with the actual ideas here is what I do: I'll write them all down (sometimes on notepad, sometimes in my phone, sometimes just a sticky note - whatever is nearby). Then I sleep on it, just let some days go buy before touching a thing. Then I look at the ideas again and compile them into one central list (google doc for example). Usually, most if not all of the ideas I wrote down turn out to be 1) too difficult to execute on - take too long and i cant afford to do it 2) stupid ideas 3) Good ideas but do not align with my ultimate goals.

    In the end, I discard 9/10 ideas and try to launch that 1 idea as quickly as possible. Usually even that last idea turns out to be a dead end or something I am not passionate about. Then I get a new idea and repeat the process, and jump onto that project. I hop from one to another until there is one with real potential and I have the capacity to make money with it - with whatever skills I bring to the table. This is how most of my side projects start. Most don't go very far, but some make money. I've started and sold several projects like this only to move on to the next great idea.. and start the process all over. It's a shitshow. It makes me tired as hell, but I keep at it.

  9. 2

    I've found that a spark file works quite well (https://medium.com/the-writers-room/the-spark-file-8d6e7df7ae58). The idea is that you write ideas down in a file. Just a short description. Write them down chronologically, don't re-order them. Then, about once per month, you are going to read through all of them, and you will probably see connections, or some ideas representing different facets of a larger concept. This may help to bring the ideas more together, so to say.

  10. 2

    Test your ideas, pick the ones that actually pay your bills...

  11. 1

    Hey @PeteCodes, have you heard about Project Plateau? I'm not sure who is the author of this thesis, but I believe I saw it first time in Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky, it looks like following https://www.dropbox.com/s/qvf2kvwrpejblmr/the-project-plateau.jpg?dl=0

    I can advice to stick to your main idea and do not make a switch to other project until the previous isn't finished yet.

  12. 1

    You have to first determine what's most important to you. Is it profitability? Ease of operation? A business you can quickly sell? Using it to quit your day job the quickest? Essentially, what are your goals for a side business? Some ideas will be easier to get traction, easier to advertise, easier to sell, get you to 100k profits the fastest, etc.

    Once you determine what your goals are, your choices and decision making becomes much more clear. But without clearly defined goals (with dates) and priorities, you'll be spinning your wheels forever or until your out of money.