Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ideas and other temptations

My desk. This was taken right before Hurricane Ike - the hurricane tracker is on the screen!

"Good ideas are only given to you for a limited amount of time. If you don't act on them, they belong to someone else."
Steven Spielberg

I have a confession to make: I cannot finish a thing. Shiny new ideas are my addiction. But when my son's teacher told us "he starts a lot of projects but doesn't finish any" I realized I have to search out some solutions. If I can learn how to finish more of my work perhaps I can help him.

My current perspective is that I don't finish stuff because I don't have enough time. I read countless productivity tips and try organizing, reorganizing, scheduling, planning, making lists... In other words, following the cookie crumb trail of New Ideas. In my mind, each new tip is The One, the one that will change my world from upstream struggle to success. I'm slowly realizing that this perspective is false. I do have enough time - I just have too many ideas. By trying to act on all of them I am failing to truly act on any of them. I have to let some go and keep the ideas that are a great fit for my personality, interests and abilities.

Part of the problem is finding that fit. There are lots of things I like to do, and even more things that I could do. But that range of abilities and interests is a poisoned chalice - I always have too many projects on the go: so much choice has paralyzed me mentally. I need to learn to select ideas and projects to drop (and eventually not start!) - to use the To Stop list more effectively.

Join me on my quest to figure out how an 'idea junkie' can learn to channel Completer-Finisher behaviour, at least occasionally. Wish me, and my son, luck!


  1. Caroline, I have been thinking about this post all day. To begin with, I'd say that you are showing maturity that you recognize this as a problem for you and for your son. Some people never notice these things.

    It's very true that everyone has 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - no more, no less. How we use them, how much rest we need, what responsibilites we have, etc all varies, but we all have the same amount of time.

    As my family life has gotten busier this last term, I have had to say no to many things. Things that would have been good for me and things that I won't have an opportunity for again. But, I think I am beginning to see wisdom in not taking up everything. It's a little scary...I'm putting my creative eggs in fewer baskets, but my family is more important and so I am just going to go with it and not think too much about what might have been.

  2. Oh, and good luck! Like the new banner as well!

  3. What an intriguing post! I suffer from the same dilemma, but I've found that by NOT finishing something I don't have to own its failure or success. There's safety in not finishing something and comfort, so I've had to identify my comfort zone. And bail! Scary stuff, no doubt, but the elixir of a finished project - success or failure - is far more intoxicating than staying safe!

    Hope you're successful in your quest for completion and for what it's worth, know that you're not alone.

  4. Oh yes, the shiny things.... I can so relate. There are so many other things to get involved in that I had to determine my true priorities (watercolor, drawing), let some go (rubber stamping, scrapbooking), and not pick up any new ones (like colored pencil, acrylics) until I master my current priorities. And its hard to balance family life in there too. This past school year, I wore myself out with scout activities. This year I'll have to plan much better for it.

    Another thought: I'm learning how to manage my time better so that I work on the important things and don't get sidetracked by the shiny things. Maybe that would be ideal for you too?

    Good luck!

    P.S. to Rose Welty: I loved your article about a free online education that Ann Nemcovsky pointed me to. It's very helpful.

  5. I seem to procrastinate on the mundane things in life like housework, in favor of doing more art. I do have a lot of ideas and have been filling my sketch books or writing my ideas down so I won't forget them till I have more time to do them. I find writing things down is the first step to my getting stuff accomplished. thanks and good luck.