Ideas and To Do Lists


“I’ve got an idea!” I said with excitement in my voice. “No kidding? Really?” she replies sarcastically.

Sound familiar? It’s a frequent occurrence in my house. Of all the things I’m not good at, coming up with ideas is not one of them. Mostly they come unbidden: in bed at night, while I’m washing dishes or doing other housework. It usually happens when I least expect it. I’ll be reading something or pick up a magazine and a headline or quote will generate a response like: “what if so and so did this?” I get ideas from things I see and hear. And the ideas are usually a synthesis of something I’ve read or seen and it is a new approach to something else I’m doing.

Don’t me wrong. I’m not talking about original ideas. My ideas are usually a synthesis of something someone else has written, said, or done. I just find a unique or creative way of applying the idea (or ideas) to something I’m working on or for.

More importantly, I seem to have a talent for taking an idea and turning it into something real. It’s really quite simple, and I do it almost without thinking. It’s like someone who’s really good at math; they can see the solution before they’ve gone through all the steps to solve it.

Ideas that I’ve turned into reality (usually with lots of help) include an event management company, the Kansas City Women’s Triathlon, this blog, several major fund raising campaigns, home renovation projects, a neighborhood development organization, and lots of other smaller things.

If I were forced to explain, I’d include the following steps.

  1. Write down the idea into a single sentence or thesis statement.
  2. Think about it without telling anyone.
  3. Look for a few people to bounce the idea off of.
  4. Get together with a few of them to discuss in person.
  5. Make a To Do List.
  6. Meet and discuss the list and the idea. Come to some consensus about feasibility and how to proceed to implementation.
  7. Don’t leave the meeting until you’ve decided on next steps and who’s responsible.
  8. Find the right people and resources you’ll need for implementation.
  9. Do what you say your going to do.

Of course, there can be many more steps and lots of complex planning, but the process should be the same: take an idea, spread it around, make a list, see what happens.

I’ve done this dozens of times and I’m proud to say that a few of my ideas have turned into something real. But, most ideas don’t make it beyond the first step; some that seemed like really, really good ideas.

But I’ve learned to trust that good ideas will usually find a way to become real. I’ve started keeping a list of ideas on my computer desktop. I look at it once in awhile, add more, delete some, and try to prioritize. Right now the top things on my list are several films, plays and documentaries I could produce, a potential podcast subject, a new nonprofit arts organization, several consulting projects, and a really cool non-fiction play project.

Realistically, I won’t get very many of these done by myself. All of them will require a great deal of resources.

Which brings me to my final point: The most important part for me is finding, connecting with, and enlisting the help of people who may have an affinity for the idea or an indispensible talent or resource that I’ll need to get things moving. Sometimes it’s money, other times it connections to other people. Sometimes it’s just someone to say “Hey, that’s a good idea.”