I think a lot of creatives struggle with the concept of having too many ideas. When you go into business for yourself, all the opportunities and possible paths ahead of you can be so very exciting (and maybe a bit overwhelming!). It can be hard to focus. It can be easy to fall into the trap of wanting to do ALL the things. You want to explore all those amazing ideas you have.
I’ve been a creative biz owner since 2011 and I have done and tried a lot of things in those short 5 years – made jewelry, sold yarn wreaths, sold spreadsheets, created porcelain platters, sold at craft shows, sold on Etsy, sold on my own site, sold on group deal sites, helped open a brick & mortar storefront, blogged, not blogged, written ebooks… Especially as a maker, it can sometimes feel like you want to monetize every crafty avenue you begin to explore.
Even now I’m selling both physical goods like mugs & notebooks alongside digital products like spreadsheets. Even now I debate whether my next move should be writing, or maybe offering accounting services, or maybe I should start creating planner stickers? The blessing and the curse of being an entrepreneur is that you can bring your off-the-wall ideas to fruition with a little elbow grease and gumption if you really want to. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
As I’m sure you’ve heard before, you can do anything, but you can’t do everything. If you truly want to treat your business like a business (a for real, legit, money-making business), and not just as your creative outlet or an on-a-whim hobby, then take a step back and reflect before moving forward on your next idea (or before trying to move forward with ALL those ideas). Try the process of brain dumping – get all those ideas out onto paper (set them free!) and then see what makes sense for you and what doesn’t. Prepare to hear a bunch about “dumping”; please try not to giggle.
Why Does Brain Dumping Help?
Brain dumping can accomplish two important things – first, getting your ideas onto paper simply helps calm your brain. Get your ideas out of your head and they will stop keeping you up all night. Second, putting your ideas down in words will help you evaluate them and determine whether they’re good enough to continue to explore, or if they should be filed away for later consideration.
A Step-by-step Brain Dumping Exercise
Get out your notebook or check out our free worksheet and get ready to brain dump!
Step 1: Write your idea down on a piece of paper. Just a one-sentence summary of your big idea will suffice.
Step 2: Ask yourself what’s the goal or purpose of this idea – why do you want to do it? What are you hoping it will achieve for your life, business, etc.?
Step 3: Take your big idea and break it down into small, actionable steps. What will it take to bring your idea from concept to real life done-ness? What are the specific actions you will need to take to get from point A to B?
Step 4: What’s the theoretical time line for this idea? Now that you know some of the steps you’d need to take to achieve it, is this something that can be accomplished in days, weeks, or months?
Step 5: What amount of effort will be required of you to bring this idea to life? Is it something you can do on the side, or will it take all your attention and energy to see it through?
Step 6: What’s the desired end result of your big idea? This might be something like to make money (you can get specific – to make $XX) or to target a new audience for your biz, or it might be something more general, like to bring joy to your life or organization to your day, etc.
Step 7: Now that you’ve thought a bit more deeply about your big idea, ask yourself if pursuing this idea truly serves your business goals and fits in with your brand. Does this new idea align with your existing business? Does it make sense to your mission and vision? Is it going to be a natural fit, or a bit of a stretch?
When you’re fleshing out your new idea during this process, try to be specific, but don’t spend hours mulling over the fine print. We are just trying to expound on your big idea with a bit more detail, not build an entire business plan around it just yet. Think through some of the logistics of each idea, but don’t get stuck too long on any one thing.
The point is to analyze how doable your idea is and how much energy and effort it would take. How you feel about the idea while you’re writing about it – are you excited? Is this idea really drawing you in? Are you getting overwhelmed just thinking about the finer points? Do you feel uncomfortable in a good way (I’m being stretched out of my comfort zone!) or in a bad way (this doesn’t totally align with my purpose or mission).
If you find this post helpful, make sure you also check out my decision-making framework here.
Brain Dump Exercise Worksheet
Since I believe that physically writing down your ideas and fleshing them out a bit is an essential part of the brain dumping process, I’ve designed a printable worksheet for you to use during your own brain dumping sessions.
I hope you can incorporate some form of brain dumping into your creative routine. Anytime it feels like you have too many ideas swirling around in that creative head o’ yours, just try to get them down on paper. It will make you feel better, and then you can take a step back and reflect on which ideas to pursue and which to scrap. And it’s great to save your pile of papers when you’re at a lull in your biz to get re-inspired.
I’m trying to put my email address and name in the form to get the braindump worksheet, but it keeps rejecting my info…
Hi Dana! Thanks so much for letting me know. I believe I fixed the problem. Let me know if you’re still having trouble!
It is not allowing me to download the braindump worksheet.
Hey Connie! I’m so sorry you’re having trouble. Which button, graphic, or link are you clicking that’s giving you trouble? Do you see the pink box pop up?
It is on the first page and the download button is with a group of tulips (love tulips:) on the top right hand side of that particular part. I hope that makes sense. Thanks for your help!
When I click that image I get a pink pop-up box asking for my email and name, it lets me enter without any errors. Is the pink pop up box showing up for you but you are not able to enter your email/name without generating an error? What does the error say? I’m so sorry about this rigamarole – if you want to shoot me an email at email@example.com I can email you the file directly 😉
Same thing. It won’t let me download the brain dumping worksheet. Thanks.
This worksheet is not downloading. Thank you for your assistance.
Look forward to using it.