Trust your ideas (but still kill them)

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Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.

David Allen

This quote is the core of the “Getting Things Done” (GTD) work-life management system. And the suggestion is to put the ideas you have on lists. Such lists give you a clear mind, and you can follow up on your thoughts whenever you are ready.

However, there is a caveat to putting everything in lists and leaving it there. Such lists are often giving you the hope that your idea was good. Since you captured it, it exists, and because it exists, it probably is good. If these ideas were so extremely significant, you would be working on them right now. You might say: “But I cannot work on everything right now”. No, therefore, you choose to work on better ideas.

Kill your darlings

Maybe when you are not working on your better ideas, you are making not the right decisions. To know whether you are working on the right ideas, the Review in GTD plays such an important role. Making lists is one thing. To get the list clean, clear, and current is of equal importance.

Having those items in the list produces shame that you are not working on them. And of course, you will promise that you will work on those ideas next time.

Conviction in our ideas is dangerous not only because it leaves us vulnerable to false positives, but also because it stops us from generating the requisite variety to reach our creative potential.

Adam Grant

If you cling to ideas and keep them on your list forever, you are not helping yourself. Be ruthless when reviewing your lists.

The Canary in Coal Mine

Your recurring ideas are a canary in the coal mine. Either you are prioritizing the wrong ideas to work on, or you are too invested in ideas that are not important. Either way, you need to revisit this, determine the root cause, and see what this canary tells you (sometimes, you need to say to the canary, “shut up” because it is not the idea to work on at all).

Good ideas resurface. Important ideas do not resurface. They are always there. Ideas are cheap. Throwing one away does not cost you anything.

The ones that survive and bring value are either the good ones or the ones that are too important to ignore. Trust your review process to find the ones you should be working on and make it happen.

Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.

Jerzy Gregorek