What To Do With All Those Spare Creative Ideas

We all get tons of new ideas constantly as designers. Which is awesome – don’t get me wrong – but sometimes we get way more ideas than we can actually get to in one sitting. Or even in one lifetime.

Often, designers simply jot down those excess ideas in a notebook and file them away somewhere, but that’s boring and unhelpful. The truth is, there are far better ways to deal with your spare ideas. Here are some suggestions on what to do with them.

Kylie Timpani’s Notebook (Senior Designer at Humaan)

Give Yourself A Deadline

If you really want to finish something, force yourself to make time for it. We often have more time than we think we do, so if an idea is really burning a hole in your desk drawer or hard drive, it’s time to pull it out and make time to finish it. This may require reorganizing your to-do list, and letting go of other items that are less important.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether this project is really worth the sacrifices you’ll need to make in order to finish it. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t, but you’ll never know for sure unless you actually schedule time to analyze your priorities.

Sketch Icon Set Designed by Eddie Lobanovskiy

Combine Them With Other Ideas

If you’re anything like me, you come up with approximately a million and one ideas every single day. Over the course of several years this can add up to… well, a lot of ideas.

Often, these ideas might be compatible with one another, in ways that you might not expect. You can always combine ideas if you don’t have time to do each one. Sometimes this results in an even better idea.

Combining ideas is actually a well-known brainstorming technique, in fact, because the juxtapositions can open up new creative pathways in your brain and put you on the path to your best idea yet. Or at least something that you will actually want to finish.

Give Them To A Friend

Ideas are free; you can’t legally copyright an idea. But you can still give away some of your extra ideas that you know you’re not going to get to anytime soon to someone else who might use them in the near future. They might know exactly what to do with the idea, and will be grateful that you’ve helped them develop their creativity a bit more.

Zen Payroll Notebooks Designed by Natalie Schoch

By the way, if you’re worried about having your idea ripped off or stolen, don’t be. Your friend won’t implement the idea the exact same way you would, so there’s nothing to worry about. Also, consider this: if an idea isn’t good enough to be stolen, it’s probably not worth doing in the first place.

Drop Them

Sometimes it’s better to just admit that you’ll never use an idea and move on. Holding on to old ideas can actually hold you back creatively. You want to be fostering the development of new ideas, not hanging on to old junk that’s never going to be realized. You might be surprised to discover, after a few years have gone by and you’ve managed to drop an idea, that it wasn’t even that good of an idea in the first place.

This has happened to me many times, and I consider it a good sign. As your taste develops, you learn to detect bad ideas more easily, and you’ll no longer be stifled by those ideas you’re not completely sold on.

Whatever You Do, Take Action

Ideas are useless unless you act on them. Don’t forget to check your backlog of ideas often to make sure you’re not simply stockpiling them for a “rainy day.”

Whether you combine them, power through them, give them away, or drop them, always make sure you’re keeping things rotating in your creative process. Shaking things up, shuffling ideas around, arranging ideas like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle is a great way to get your creative juices flowing, even if you never end up doing anything with the idea.

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Addison Duvall is the author of Food Identities, a blog that explores the crossroads of food, design, art, and culture. She’s written some things, designed other things, and eaten a whole lot of food.