Archive an Idea

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Updated November 3, 2022

You’re reading an excerpt of Creative Doing, by Herbert Lui. 75 practical techniques to unlock creative potential in your work, hobby, or next career. Purchase now for instant, lifetime access to the book.

Choose an idea to put away. Don’t look at it again for at least six months. This prompt is particularly useful if you’re struggling with developing an idea; get out of your own way and let time do the work for you by archiving it.

The late Intel chief Andy Grove writes of a simple rule in High Output Management: “All production flows have a basic characteristic: the material becomes more valuable as it moves through the process.” That’s because more time and energy have been spent on the material to make it a final product.

One implication of this idea is the earlier you stop working on something, the fewer resources you waste. For example, if I’m coming up with a pitch, a quick Google search could tell me if someone else has written about the thing I want to write about. If someone has, in exactly the way I wanted to write about it, then I can easily shelve the idea in its current state, as it’s not acceptable to me. If I didn’t come across the prior coverage until later in my process, I’d have to give up the idea after hours spent researching and writing (which has happened before).

Sometimes, a challenging idea may be worth producing. But it takes clear discernment and deliberation to decide if that’s the case. A safer strategy could be to simply shelve the idea, and revisit it again in six months—perhaps time will be your ally and your subconscious mind will conceive of a new way to reframe your idea.

There is no right way to choose an idea to put away, or to pick back up. Just choose!

Or flip this prompt: Pick a Neglected Idea

Praise Your Own Work

What would you think about your work if you didn’t know your own intentions or disappointments?

Too often, our uncertainty of our work leads us to be critical of ourselves. We say things to or about ourselves that we never would accept other people saying to us, nor that we would say about others. “I believe that unless combated, self-hate is easy to develop and nearly impossible to shed,” writes Donda West in her book Raising Kanye.

However, we also have the ability to choose and take action. We can flip that tendency on its head. Be your own greatest supporter.

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