What is an Incubated Ideas List? You have ideas all the time! When you sleep, when you walk, when you exercise, when you work on a certain topic! What do you do with them? How do you capture your brilliant ideas and how do you evaluate them later?

Incubated Ideas List

The “Mechanics” Of The Ideas

There are two great categories of ideas (of course there are more than two, but since I’m referring to the mechanics of this process, allow me the excessiveness!) There are the:

  • ad-hoc ideas (ideas that came up to you randomly and might or might not be of any value for you and your personal or professional goals) and the
  • scheduled “brainstorming” ideas (ideas you consciously set aside proper time to focus on, reflect and contemplate on, using proper or formal idea generation techniques (as mind-mapping, SCAMPER), etc.!)

The problem with the management of ideas, comes from the ideas of the first category, because, usually, are sporadic, unstructured and random.

The Story Of An Idea

You work for a financial report to deliver to one of your clients and a wonderful idea (or a batch of ideas!) on a new product, service, approach, etc. pops up in your mind, apparently, out of nothing! What you do on such an occasion.

Generally speaking, you should:

  1. Capture the idea(s). You are in the middle of something, right! You should have developed a habit of making quick notes for future reference, without breaking your workflow! After all, interruptions are part of your working environment. You should have a way of managing them! If you don’t, you should train yourself on the how to manage interruption more effectively for yourself. You should also develop a habit of having a recording device (blank paper and pen, notebook, post-it notes, voice recorder, a cellular note application, web or desktop application, other tools, etc.) to capture the random ideas might you have during the day. But, a word of caution. Do not analyze the ideas you capture. Just capture them in your recording medium and proceed with the work you have just interrupted!
  2. Record it in a proper place. When you should have the time, you should collect all these “loose” notes (of your previous ideas) and should record them in a medium you check frequently! The purpose of this task is to have a central repository for your ideas, a repository you review often in order to test and evaluate the validity of your ideas. Such mediums can be applications such as the Evernote, Google Keep, etc. or a notepad, folder, etc. if you prefer the analog type of organization. The main issue here is for you to have only ONE point of ideas need to “be evaluated”.
  3. Act On It. An idea is a raw impression of various everyday stimuli and is not always actionable. This is the reason you need time and able “mental space” to evaluate it in a proper and concise manner. There are 4 types of actions you can do with an idea.
    • Use it NOW. If your idea is pertinent to a current situation or project you handle at the time, you spend some time to elaborate the idea further and see where it can drive you in relation to your present predicament. If this evaluation, does not prove to correct the idea either archive it for future usage (perhaps in a different situation, if applicable!), or delete it, or keep it on a future list.
    • Delete it. If the idea you had at a point is just daydreaming and have nothing to do with “real-life” situation, delete it.
    • Archive it. If the idea seems promising, but not applicable to present situation, but you think that it may have some value (either for yourself or for a third party), then archive it in a proper place (a specific folder, a computer directory, etc)
    • Incubated it. Sometimes you have excellent and pertinent ideas, directly related to you personal or/and professional life, but not applicable to the near future. In order to preserve these ideas and give them time to “getting more mature”, you need to record them in a special place, you visit often, and check them against the reality. These ideas might include a plethora of by-ideas, solutions and approaches and merit and further examination on their own “space and time”.

A Quick Method For Managing Ideas

If you follow a more “formal” organization approach for “doing things” in your life and work (as the Stephen R. Covey‘s approach, the David Allen‘s Getting Things Done, or other!) you should know that you should always have a list if incubated tasks.

These tasks are usually tasks and activities cannot be processed at the time and should be recorded for later usage. It is the same thing and with the ideas.

I handle ideas in a way similar to tasks. Therefore, either I have “due process” ideas or a reserved time for a brainstorming session.

  • The due process ideas. I usually record these ideas with quick (shorthanded) notes (for not interrupting my workflow) in a piece of paper or in my notebook, or at the digital device at hand. Later on, I review my notes and write the ideas I believe in value in a text file labeled “Incubated Ideas” stored permanently in a folder in my Dropbox (easy for accessing from everywhere). I return frequently to this list once a while (at least once in a month, maybe more times) to review the ideas, to further organize them, to delete the not anymore applicable, etc. The final list, usually, is re-written in my Evernote or/and in Google Keep.
  • Brainstorming. For specific tasks, activities, and projects (such as business development, design, new approaches, new personal or professional ideas, new courses, services, products, etc) I use a more structured way of managing the ideas.
    • I schedule able time in my calendar for the activity at hand
    • I use a timer to track the time and for alarming me the end of my set period (this help me to focus on the task at hand!)
    • I block out the distractions in that time period.
    • I use either a blank piece of paper or my notebook, for collecting and drafting my raw ideas in relation to the subject at hand (I just note them down, I do not evaluate them!). I brainstorming and note freely any idea, association, connection etc. related to my subject.
    • I use mind maps to organize and evaluate the notes I have written at step 4. I try to elaborate a little further the ideas, making more notes as I describe further the ideas and their connection to “real-life” situations and problems (BTW, I use the same approach and for projects or ideas need further development for or by my clients).

The final output is a collection of evaluated ideas (either in my list form or in a more processed mind map form) I can effectively use in many personal or business situations.

Question: What you do with your ideas? How you manage ideas in an efficient way? Please write on how you develop and use your Incubated Ideas List?