Battle Productivity Brain Drain
With an Idea Budget

Brain Drain

I recently gave you 10 quick tips for building a business online. One tip in particular resonated with readers:

#4 – Work on one idea at a time. Never splatter out with many ideas. It’s overwhelming.

Easier said than done. We have too many great ideas, too many things to do, and only two hands and one brain.

Which idea is best to follow? This one? That one? All of them? What about time? There’s not enough. It all needs to be done now! But where to start? Here? There?

You know the feeling… Indecision, an exhausted brain, and zero productivity.

Seven Ways to Battle Productivity Brain Drain

Too many ideas at once dig into your mental and physical energy resources just as credit cards dig into your money. Too much mental spending creates debt, leaving you with a mess and feeling overwhelmed trying to stay afloat.

Financial advisors have the perfect solution. These number-crunching pros have strategies that reduce conventional debt, and these can also help reduce and eliminate idea debt and brain drain. You’ll restore some balance in your life and actually get things done with these seven adapted strategies.

1. Cut up your mental credit cards. People who want to reduce debt cut up the tools that let them accumulate more debt. The same applies to entrepreneurs – cut off new, incoming ideas. Write those ideas on a list you can set aside (you don’t want to forget them, after all.) Come back to the list when life is back in order.

2. Uncover the real expense. You probably have a ton of great ideas. When you put those ideas into words on a list, it can be surprising to realize just how much work might be involved. Make a list of each project, all related tasks and subtasks, and get the big picture of just how much your ideas cost you.

3. Budget your mental spending. With the big picture and the (long) list of everything each project requires, it’s easier to see where you need to cut back the unnecessary expenses that cost you time. Cut the spending, and apply the savings to your mental debts.

4. Pay more than the minimum. If the bill comes in and you only pay what’s necessary to stay in good credit, it takes a long, long time to eliminate the debts – and you also rack up interest, making the debt harder to pay off. When you work a little on multiple projects, their progress is slow and you become more tired plugging away.

5. Reduce one debt at a time. Financial experts suggest tackling one debt fiercely (usually the one with the highest interest) to eliminate it before working on eliminating the next debt. Do the same with your focus and time – pick one project and work on eliminating all the tasks to reach the goal. Then move on.

6. Don’t spend what you don’t have. People wake up when families are a mess, partners are complaining and kids are neglected. These people suddenly realize they didn’t have the available time to commit to their ideas the first place. Know how much time you have, and don’t commit more than you can invest safely.

7. Pay yourself first. If all your time goes to your business, you never have a moment to just relax and do something else. Rest your brain and set aside a chunk of time for something besides business.

About the Author: Want more bookkeeping tips for your online business? Well, James can’t help you – he’s a writer, not an accountant. But if you like this post and want more great tips to have a better online business, visit James’ blog, Men with Pens. Better yet, be frugal. Save time and grab the Men with Pens RSS feed here.

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Comments

  1. When you have an online business, it’s easy to get distracted with the thousands of pages on the internet that have good things to offer. I think it is good to set aside a specified period amount of time for:

    1. Educational reading
    2. Web Development Improvement activities
    3. Looking for new product sources to enhance your offerings.

    So many people have the desire to make money on the internet, but few have thought about what they can offer others.

    Choosing one area of focus is really a good plan.

    I like the way you used common debt control advice and adjusted it to helping people stay focused.

    Thanks for the great article.

  2. Great write as usual. I think what gives you a nose over other writers is your willingness to go that extra style-inch with your readers. Case in point – your “About the Author” blurb. Classic! And a lesson for others to follow.

    Buck

  3. Good advice for sure. I like to think of it as a gardener. Pull the weeds, and water only what you are specifically trying to grow.

  4. Thanks for the great post.

    -Phil

  5. James,

    Of all the posts I’ve ever read by you, this is my favorite. I totally suffer from having too many “grand” ideas at once, and I have yet to figure out how to wrangle them all. I’m going to use your suggestions to try and do just that.

  6. You’ve been able to sustain a metaphor through the whole post, but I’d be interested in hearing how close this comes to your own working style. Have you personally found these to be necessary and effective? They’re presented here in a sort of Cosmo “Six Tips to Satisfy Your Man” style, with no relation to a particular person.

  7. Damn, James, that is a mighty fine analogy! Well done and carried through to perfection.

  8. @ Doug – Actually, yes, I do practice many of these tips myself.

    I kind of *need* to or I’d go mildly insane, so the fact that I’m writing here and not from Douglas Mental Institute does show that these methods do work ;)

    I will admit that my working style is definitely not a pattern or focused style and that no one should try my scattered approach, though.

    But this list puts them in ordered style, and I can pretty much guarantee that anyone who uses it will see change.

    @ Everyone – If I had known y’all like accounting so much, I’d write on it more often! ;)

  9. Financial advisors have the perfect solution.
    >>>
    You right James. More on this please! :-)
    >>>

  10. Good points, all. In the same vein as what Doug said, it would be great to hear some specific examples of these tips in practice. (For example) telling people to “budget your mental spending” can be helpful, but illustrating what this means with a real-world example of when you (or another subject) have had to make specific decisions about what to prioritize and what to put on the back burner – and why – would carry more weight. Bloggers are inundated with lists of tips – more substantive advice would be welcomed.

  11. James,

    I count a few financial advisors among my close friends and this metaphor was carried out so perfectly any one of them could have written it. It feels like you just walked out of an annual review when you wrote it. Well-done.

    On #5: some advisors do suggest starting with the debt with the highest interest, but an awful lot suggest starting with the one that’s smallest, so you’ll get the rush of accomplishment soonest. Might work well for the Idea Budget, too. Sometimes I chunk up big projects so I can see the progress as I finish subsections, but sometimes it’s nice to go into work and just get to the project I know I can tackle in an hour, so something is off the list.

    Pay yourself first: the most important rule of all. :)

    Regards,

    Kelly

  12. Not sure if this works with the metaphor, but a question that sometimes works for me is, “What do I actually want to work on?” If I find myself doing some avoidance activity (like reading this blog) instead of something I feel I should be doing, it may be the case that there is a piece of work that I actually want to do, but I’ve back burnered it because of my supposed priorities, and the part of me with energy and creativity has gone on strike. Sometimes you gotta go with what’s juicy and not what the accountant says.
    That’s why I asked how this approach actually works for you, James. The ideas are logical, but they sound like prescription more than description.

  13. @ Lucas/Doug – I understand where you’re coming from, but I am loathe in this case to give examples because of the framing potential.

    If I said, “I did this,” or “Try it for this,” then people wouldn’t apply it to what they really needed to. They would unconsciously narrow their vision and only apply it to the examples I gave.

    I would much rather, in this case, that people try to recognize which areas of their life have some overload and debt going on and apply it in the ways they see fit.

    Creative thinking. Don’t want to tamper with that ;)

    @ Kelly – I agree. Both methods work well. I personally do real finances the small-up way and do ideas the big-down way. Break the rules and all.

  14. Thanks for a great post – On the positive side, if you have plenty in your bank account, then look out for synchronicity – it can multiply your results for little effort!

    My InSight ezine readers received lots of ideas on overcoming overwhelm in their inbox this morning. Finding this little gem in my inbox has now given my readers an extra special bonus as I’ve added your link to my blog. Much appreciation!!

  15. Great way of looking at the struggle to stay focused.

    I recently decided I want productive enough, or making enough money for my efforts, and took a good hard look at how I was running my business.

    Results…

    – Unsubscribed from a lot of newsletters
    – Canceled a couple memberships
    – Identified the three biggest successful activities
    – Only work on the three

    If I have any energy left, I do some other stuff.

    It was amazing to see I had a lot of profit sitting in front of me… yet I wasn’t spending any time going after it.

  16. I struggle with this almost daily, more ideas than I’ll ever have time to test and implement, internet marketing ADD!

    Rather than have the ideas stew in my brain & slow me down, I decided to give them away and let other motivated people run with them – IdeaATM.com

  17. Brilliant yet simple post. I am plagued with the idea syndrome where whilst completing one idea I get inspiration for a new idea and never complete the first one. What am I left with? About 1000 half finished ideas and half the success. Oh well IT STOPS NOW…hopefully.

  18. Good advice. I found this quite interesting!

  19. Thank you. Everyday I berate myself for being the most disorganized thought/idea minder. I’d love to see some tips for concrete idea organization, too. Lists? Files? I have both–just as disorganized and illogically stored in spiral ring notebooks and in Word docs on my laptop. Any tricks, anyone?

  20. Hi Jen
    I use google notebooks – it is a great way to keep everything in topic order and is accessible anywhere with an internet connection!

    cheers
    Lisa

  21. I’ve struggled with this problem for as long as I can remember. It’s easy to get addicted to making lists of business ideas and never getting one of the ground because of being too obsessed with coming up with more ideas.

    I agree it’s best to work on one project at a time and give it a good, solid effort rather than spreading yourself too thin. Work on projects that excite you the most and have the potential to make a big difference.

    I think Robert Ringer once said something like “if you have too many projects, the easiest way to get them done is to eliminate them.”

  22. Lisa, Thanks for the Google Notebooks tip. Duh to me. I’ve tried gn before, but I’m going to give it more commitment this time per your recommendation.

    Jen

  23. Thanks for the great post.

  24. I enjoyed your post and how you linked building a business to dealing with debt. I think my biggest problem is that I get a lot of ideas but ideas need funding. That in itself can get you into debt. I also wonder which idea is going to produce the best ROI. I would spend a lot if i knew i could get it back and more.