White Point Creative’s owner and lead designer, Lizzy, currently works out of Fredericksburg but grew up surfing in Charleston, SC. Married to the love of her life, Joe, they live for time outdoors and finding the best brunch spots with their pups Folly & Daisy.
One of my favorite thinkers and authors is James Clear. He sends out a weekly email with 3 ideas, 2 quotes, and 1 question. I literally can’t get enough of them!
A recent email from him started off with this quote:
“Failure is most useful when you give your best effort. If you fail with a lackluster effort, you haven’t learned much. Perhaps you could have succeeded with a proper focus. But if your best effort fails, you have learned something valuable: this way doesn’t work.”
And I thought, “Gold! Pure gold!” But then I got really honest with myself and realized that some of the failures I would have previously categorized as “best effort fails” might not have been. I thought about how many hours I had poured into this one idea. Only to realize that I was doubting myself from the get-go. There was more hesitance than confidence.
I then started to think about the process in which I decide if an idea is worth pursuing or not. Was my idea filtering system poorly constructed? After much thought, journal scribbles, and months of trial and error I have come up with a system I use when determining if an idea is worth pursuing.
When I started employing a system to filter ideas through, a few very positive patterns started to emerge.
What I realized is that by focusing my energy on the ideas that really had traction and substance, instead of chasing every half-thought. I was boosting my bottom line while creating more time in my schedule! I know this almost sounds too good to be true. And I am not going to sit here telling you this is a magical fix to your business slump or a one size fits all approach, it’s not. But I do wholeheartedly believe that what I am about to layout for you, should to adapted to fit your own approach and unique thinking style.
Like a good wine or whiskey, I now let my ideas sit and age for a minimum of three days. Though three days produces a pretty nasty whiskey, it does allow me a cooling-off period for my ideas. This has become a really important self-practice because I tend to get stoked about an idea and rush in.
I will admit that this step does look a little different idea to idea. Sometimes I have a lot of sub-ideas that support the initial idea. So instead of just throwing those away or trying to remember them. I write them down and get everything down before setting it aside for my mandatory three days. If more sub-ideas pop up in that time I will add them to the document holding this idea (usually a Notion page). Then I close my laptop and let the aging process continue.
After three days I find one of two results has happened. Either all of the stoke has worn off or I am still buzzing with excitement. Depending on which is true, I either archive the Notion page or move on to the next step.
Next, I run this idea through a little Google sheet that I have. The first column determines the longevity of the idea. Next is a short description. I then give the following columns a number between 1-10 and check out the “score”. When the end number is above a designated threshold I push the idea through to my next phase.
I love this little Google sheet because it really helps me look at the idea objectively. If the impact is low then it will greatly lower the score. If the effort is crazy high then that will also knock to the score down. It’s very cut and dry and there is little to no wiggle room for arguing the idea into the next phase if the score is just not high enough.
Let’s say I wanted to engage with my audience verbally, on a consistent basis, where I gave them really helpful advice. To help me decide on the best platform then I would input multiple ideas into my Google sheet. Start WPC Podcast, podcast guest speaker, IGTV lives, FB lives…etc. I would list them out and assign them numbers. Now I have a direct comparison and can unbiasedly view their scores. From the screenshot above, you can see that my top two remaining ideas are podcast-related. Between those two, becoming a guest speaker is much more advantageous.
I pride myself on having a really hard line between work hours and family hours. If the clock strikes 5:30 PM then I am logging off and headed downstairs to give Folly a walk. In an effort to maintain this balance and not overload my calendar, whenever an idea ranks well on my Google sheet. I immediately open up my content calendar in Notion and work calendar in Google. I am looking for gaps and extra time in my schedule.
This is where I have to hold myself accountable and be extremely honest. Sometimes I just don’t have the bandwidth to carry out a high-ranking idea due to my personal life, client load, or mental capacity.
To help determine if I do or don’t have the time, I list out what kind of commitment an idea would require of me. If we were moving forward with the podcast guest speaking idea then I would make a list that looks something like…
I have no doubt that if I was actually exploring this idea that the list would be even longer and have sub-tasks. The more detailed I can be, the better I can judge whether I have time to commit. Sometimes, I will even guesstimate how many hours each task will take me and total it up. Because I organize my work schedule with time blocks, I can better estimate my availability based on a number of hours, rather than a to-do list.
The final step is to make the decision whether I am going to commit to the idea or not! Circling back to James Clear’s quote, why would I commit to an idea if I am not going to put everything I have into it?
To me, the cost of doing a poor job is greater than the cost of doing an exceptional job. Because even if I fail and the idea falls flat (which totally happens) then at least I learned that it truly doesn’t work. I know this because I did an exceptional job of committing and executing.
I fully subscribe to the notion that there are very few one-size-fits-all methods in this world. This is why I encourage you to look at what I’ve laid out for you, as an outline. Not gospel. Adapt this outline by infusing your own unique way of thinking, into it. Take pen to paper and start stepping out your own version from scratch.
I also want to remind you of a few important things about this idea filtering process.
I would love to hear how you plan to filter future ideas now that you’ve read my experience and methodology! Slip into my DM’s and tell me!