I’m an avid reader of James Altucher’s work. In one of his articles, he makes a very interesting suggestion:
Every day, write down 10 ideas.
That’s it. Every day, take a pen and think of cool new ideas. Doesn’t matter what they are. Just write them down, and keep on writing until you have 10 ideas.
Couldn’t be simpler.
This is a creativity workout. The act of creating new ideas nourishes and enhances your creativity. A few months of this, and you reach a point where you’re brimming with creativity and ideas just flow like water.
An intriguing concept. But does it actually work?
Well, I ran with it for a month. Here’s what happened.
I have collected over 300 ideas
Having 10 ideas per day seems like a lot. And indeed, sometimes the creativity is simply not there and I struggle to write down even one. But on other days the ideas just flow like water, and I manage to do 20 in a single day. It all averages out.
So far, I’ve managed to collect 310 ideas.
This is massive. I’ve written everything down in Evernote, and the list just goes on and on. I never thought I could be capable of having this much creativity. I’ve reached a point where I will never be able to execute all of the ideas on the list myself.
And this leads me to an important benefit:
Having a large idea list gives me an abundance mindset
Imagine having a list of 300 good ideas, with 10 ideas added every day. There’s no way I will ever be able to execute everything on the list. I can maybe do two or three ideas per day, max, so that still leaves 7 ideas that remain unused.
I might as well give some ideas away. When friends ask for my help, I can freely tap into my idea list and see if there is anything on the list they could use. I don’t have to hoard my knowledge because I am figuratively drowning in good ideas.
A large idea list gives me an abundance mindset.
And here’s another benefit:
I’m ready for when the robots come
You’ve probably heard that automation is eating our jobs, and soon the robots will come to put us all out of work, right? But what is the key human capacity that is hardest to automate?
The machines are going to be smart, they are going to be precise and tireless, but it’s going to take a long time before they also become creative. So by training my creativity, I nurture the one important skill that I’m going to need to have a job in the future.
And let’s not forget the obvious benefit:
I always have something to work on
I recently completed a freelance project, and I’m currently at home between jobs. But instead of lounging in front of the TV like a couch potato, I’m going through my idea list trying stuff out.
In the last week, I ran a market research survey on my WordPress blog, I started a list-building campaign, I tried setting up a bitcoin miner, I reached out to 300 recruiters on Linkedin, I enrolled in an affiliate marketing course, I wrote two blog posts, I attended a robot expo in Madrid, I studied international banking,, and I bought a podcasting microphone.
Life is never boring with an idea list.
So what are the practicalities? What constitutes an idea?
Ideas are SMART
I’m a big fan of SMART goals, and I realized the SMART concept applies to ideas too. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. So what does that mean for an idea?
- Specific: the idea is clearly defined.
- Measurable: the successful or unsuccessful outcome of the idea can be measured.
- Attainable: a successful outcome is possible.
- Realistic: the resources are available to achieve a successful outcome.
- Time-bound: the idea can be executed in a manageable amount of time.
An example of a non-SMART idea is: the US needs to invest more in green energy
I personally don’t have the resources to influence American energy policy. For me, the idea is not Attainable, nor Realistic. I also didn’t define what “more” means, so the idea is also not Specific, Measurable, or Time-bound.
A better example is: I am going to try to mine bitcoin.
The idea is specific, has a clear outcome, it’s within my reach, and I can execute it in a manageable amount of time.
Ideas enhance my life
My idea list has merged with my todo list. I no longer keep a separate todo list, or use apps like Todoist or Remember The Milk to track my todo’s. Instead, I write down everything on the idea list.
But I don’t want my idea list to look like this:
- buy milk from the supermarket
- buy eggs
- take the dog for a walk
So here’s another rule: ideas should permanently enhance my life. What I mean by this is that an idea should have some kind of benefit to my life, that persists and carries forward. So buying milk doesn’t count, because after I drink the milk I’m back to square one. But visiting the robotics expo in Madrid does count because it will give me new insights into robotics that I can use for future ideas.
Ideas build on each other
I have some ambitious long-term goals. For example, I’d like to launch an online educational business selling IT courses. This is a complex idea that’s going to take me the better part of a year to set up. So on my list, this idea appears as a sequence of smaller ideas.
Let’s say I want to enter the market as a Fintech educator. So my first idea is to write a blog post on Bitcoin. If the post is successful, I can follow up by creating an online course. Then I could take the first 5 chapters of the course and bundle them as a free lead magnet for a list-building campaign. Finally, I’ll create a landing page funnel and set up a search engine marketing campaign to promote the course to my list.
These 5 ideas combine into an online education project. I execute the ideas in sequence, each one building off of the other, and at any point in time, I can bail out of the project if it turns out there is no further market for it.
And that brings me to my final point:
Ideas are testable
Ideas should be testable, meaning in a short amount of time, I am able to test if the world is actually interested in my idea. This rule prevents me from working for months on something that doesn’t generate any value.
My default test method is to write a blog post about the idea and see if I get any traction on it. If the statistics page on Medium reports a Read Ratio below 30%, I know the idea is probably no good.
Courses can be tested with a market research survey. I recently conducted a survey for my course students. I asked them what topic I should cover next. I had my heart set on creating a Bot course, but my students surprised me by picking a different topic.
Life is funny that way.
So to summarize, this is what the 10 ideas per day rule did for me:
- It gave me 310 ideas.
- It made me very creative.
- It gave me an abundance mindset.
- It prepared me for the robot revolution.
- It kept me very busy.
What do you think? Will you try this too?
Also published on Medium.