So you have great ideas. You write them down. But…then what? What’s the point of generating ideas if you aren’t going to do something with them? The last step in the process of note-taking is the follow-through. Before you jump into action mode, a good first step is getting organized. Here are some quick tips on setting yourself up for success with follow-through:
Sort it out. So, you have ideas and you’ve recorded them in a place that works best for you. If you aren’t organizing as you go, the first step in following through is reviewing things you’ve written down. For me, there’s usually 3 categories I can place things under: Things I have to do, Things I want to do, and Things that sound cool but realistically I’m not going to do. Everyone has their own way of sorting, and it can be done as frequently or infrequently as you’d like (I like to make a point of it once a week/month). I also don’t throw away the ideas that fall in the third category, but file them away. After all, you never know what might change and those ideas could shift into a different category.
Prioritize. In a perfect world, we would have all the time in the world to pursue every idea that popped into our minds. Time and other obligations are unfortunate restraints that must be worked around, and that’s where step 2 comes in. Prioritizing takes two things into account: time constraints and personal interest. The things on our list that have a time limit/some sort of expiration get moved up on the list (otherwise, you risk losing out on the idea altogether). The second is more subjective- if we’re excited about an idea in particular, it’s likely we’ll place it higher up on our priority list.
Break it Down. As a big-picture thinker, I often fail to consider the in-between steps of where I am now to where I hope to be in terms of goal setting. Breaking down the idea into small, actionable steps sets you up for success and gives a sense of progress along the way. When making this list, it’s also important to keep it within the bounds of what’s reasonable. I tend to get over-excited about new projects and lose sight of other commitments/things that need to get done. In other words, I set myself up for failure. Although it’s great to be excited about a new project, try to stay grounded during the planning part of the process to avoid this level of over-committing. Be Accountable. Some people are propelled by self motivation and have no problem getting things done. In my experience, my personal goals that fall under the “Things I want to do” category tend to take the backburner. Unfortunately, these things take a long time to get done (if they get done at all) as a result. One way to push these ideas up to the front burner is adding accountability, namely, to another person/thing. For example, if I have a specific running-related goal in mind, there are a couple ways to make myself accountable. To make sure I hit my action steps of training, throwing in a couple group or partner runs usually gets me out the door on tough days. I’ll also sign up for a particular race in advance, which gives me a bit more skin in the game (i.e. registration fee). I’m much less likely to flake out if I’ve already made the monetary investment (and have been known to flake out on races I didn’t pre-register for). A third idea that I haven’t utilized is a coach (because I’m not that serious of a runner). The coach idea is similar to having an accountability partner, who checks in with you about ongoing goals and projects at regular intervals. For more on accountability partners, check out this blog post from a couple years ago.
Incentivize. Adding an incentive, either once you’ve reached your goal or for reaching certain milestones along the way, helps a lot of people stay motivated. This article shares a story about a guy who got to the gym everyday (well, pretty close) by leaving his only deodorant there. If he didn’t want b.o. for the day, he’d have to head to the gym to get it. This probably seems a bit extreme, it did to me, anyway- but it got the job done. Think about some ways you can bait yourself into following through with your plans, even if they don’t make sense to anyone else.
Following through on the ideas you’ve collected is ultimately a personal journey. Some of these tips might be helpful, and you might not be the type of person who needs any help with it at all! You might also have some methods that we haven’t mentioned here.
What helps you with following through?
For more posts about note-taking, don’t miss these posts:
For more about reaching goals and goal setting, check out these posts: