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The Daybook: Get those ideas out of your head and into the world

I’m trying to take my own medicine.

Last month, I wrote about Curious Explorers, those fine folks who have a ton of interests and a ton of ideas, often at the same time. I went on and on about how this was not only normal and acceptable but advantageous too. I mean, people with multiple interests are great at combining things to create awesomeness, right?

Well, sort of. Sometimes it can be a big pain and a great excuse at doing nothing.

Things get weird when we have several ideas in our head at the same time. Like I want to write a book and start a podcast and create an online course and organize a tour of Tuscany, all right now. Plus I’m really good at helping solo businesses. And creative types. And bakers. Mmmm…creative solo bakers…that’s the ticket!

See what happened there? When you get too many ideas hanging out in your brain at the same time, there’s this tendency to combine them all into some sort of idea Singularity. One Solution to Serve Them All.

More like A Hot Mess That Serves No One.

Each idea, on its own, could be a winner. But all mooshed up together? Not likely.

But you can’t work on any one thing if you won’t let go of the other things. At least for a little while.

Introducing The Daybook #

In Barbara Sher’s Refuse to Choose she talks about this thing called the “Scanner Daybook.” (I say Nay to ‘Scanner’ but Yea to ‘Daybook’) It’s a big, safe, somewhat fancy home for all your ideas until you take the time to ship them.

A daybook is much more than a bucket list. It’s way, way more than a book of lists. It’s more like a book of detailed blueprints. Every detail you can think of about those winning ideas, so you’ll be able to pick it up and continue at a later date.

The ‘How To’ Part #

Try this: Get the biggest notebook you can find. Plain paper is awesome but use whatever you like as long as there is lots of space. (I love sketchbooks.)

Grab your favourite pen or pencil. Bring your coloured pencils too if you like. Then take an entire hour and write as much as you can about a single idea.

  • What is it?

  • How does it work?

  • What does it cost?

  • What does it remind you of?

  • What is it like to use?

  • How does it make you feel to make it?

  • How will your customer feel to use it?

But wait, there’s more you can add:

  • How will you sell this thing?

  • How will the word spread?

  • What will your best customers tell their friends about it?

And still more!

  • What do you need to do to create this?

  • What's the very next step?

Get as specific as you can. Avoid bullet points, buzzwords and abbreviations you won't be able to identify later.

Make sketches, draw flowcharts, make financial projections. Add whatever you can think of to make the idea more tangible.

Is it starting to take shape? Does it feel more real? Excellent.

Tomorrow, do the same thing for your other ideas.

Then pick one idea and ship it. Get that minimal viable product out there and get some feedback.

The other ideas are safe in your daybook, fleshed out and ready to be built later. They are no longer vague concepts floating about in your mind, but honest to goodness projects. You haven’t shipped them yet, but you can.

My Daybook #

As I said, I’m taking my own medicine. On the weekend I picked up a shiny new full page sketchbook for my daybook. And on Tuesday, I was chatting with my buddy Nate on Zoom and I got this cool idea for a Baker Roundtable Group that I could organize. Get a cohort of bakers together via Zoom and talk about their issues and challenges and help each other out. That kind of thing.

In the old days (like, last month), I’d add ‘Baker Roundtable Group’ on a single line in my book of lists and leave it at that. But this time I sat down with my daybook, opened up to a fresh, new spread and wrote out every component I could think of about this idea. How many people in the group, what the mix should look like, what I’d charge, what it would need for infrastructure, what we could talk about, and on and on.

In under an hour, I had two pages of detailed notes about every aspect of the project. And I have my next action too (draft an are you interested’ email to send to the first six bakers.) So when I’m ready to get started I can hit the ground running.

But then I got thinking about new breads for the Backyard Bakery and started making a roadmap for bread experiments. In my daybook, of course.

The Gold is in the Details #

I find the real magic here is getting specific. Going into detail.

So often we waste all kinds of time worrying about which idea to start, without ever defining what the ideas really are. Should I work with appliance repair people or filmmakers? Should I do graphic design or copywriting?

How about answering Yes to all of the above, but one at a time? Use your daybook, write each option down in as much detail as you can, then pick the one that excites you the most (or just pick C) and get started.

The other ideas will be there when you’re ready.

What do you think? Ready to go daybook shopping? Huh? Huh? Let’s compare notes (get it?) in the comments!