One of the downsides of being a passionate entrepreneur is the sheer volume of great ideas and incredible opportunities that you’re likely to accumulate.

You will begin seeing opportunities everywhere, taking business advice from all quarters, and gaining inspiration from all areas of your life.

Distinguishing the gold from the just plain shiny can be incredibly tough.

Where do you start? How do you make sure you’re choosing the right things to build your business quickly but sustainably? How can you scope out opportunities without losing your enthusiasm to a deep sense of overwhelm?

“Whether you’re a one (wo)man band or leading a team, being able to quickly identify which opportunities are vital to your business growth and which opportunities are simply ‘interesting’ is an essential skill. Not just for the success of your business but your sanity too!”

Why not focus on both the interesting AND the essential? Firstly, because time is frequently money when you’re running your own show, so investing it well means investing where it’s going to earn a return.

Secondly, vetting opportunities alleviates the mental weight of subconsciously juggling a multitude of ideas so you can focus on just those with genuine merit and (literally) free up your mind to do your best work.

If you’ve ever found yourself so inundated with great opportunities that you’re rendered immobile by the breadth of choice, or mildly panicked by where to begin you’ll know what I mean.

Begin by setting a timer for each part of the process.

If you can feel yourself tensing at those tight timeframes, remember that this is going to take as long as much time as you allow it to.

It’s one of those annoying ‘natural laws’ that’s been proven by research. These jobs have an annoying way of taking forever – this is your opportunity to take charge. Better to set a deadline and run over by five minutes than not set one and go down a rabbit hole.

Capture your ideas: 10 minutes

Getting everything down on paper (or screen) is essential. It works to both empty your mind and give you immediate perspective on the type and quantity of ideas you’ve been mulling over.

“Until your subconscious is comfortable that you’ve made a plan to do something (even if that plan is a little loose) it will keep reminding your conscious mind to take action.”

Start organising: 20 minutes

Mark three folders ‘great business builders’ (for anything that supports your business plan), ‘potentially great ideas’ (for ideas which feel fresh, competitive and worth adding into your plan), ‘ideas that fascinate me’ (to capture those things that caught your attention but which – for now anyway – are slightly left of centre).

Make a note of why each idea has captured your attention as a way of clarifying your thoughts and quickly qualifying the idea; is it to attract more clients, carve out your niche even clearer, position you as more of an expert, or people you wish to develop a JV with, or something that aligns with your values but may not have any visible commercial benefits just yet.

Evaluate for best business plan fit: 10 minutes

The only folder to focus on in the short-term is the great business builders.

Take each idea and evaluate it alongside your business plan or vision for your business. Which are a natural fit? Which seem a bit of a stretch?

Look for ideas that will help you to achieve multiple outcomes. An example is speaking at events: that one activity promotes your business, builds your credibility and profile, generates lead, acts as a research tool, builds your experience and boosts your confidence.

Prioritising ideas that can leverage your time this way will help you to free up valuable time and energy to invest in other endeavours (be they essential business builders or pure enjoyment).

What about the other folders? Those are the ones you dip into when you’re looking for inspiration, or when your business is working so fluidly that you’re ready to add something new.

Plan: 20 minutes

Create a timeline of your ‘great business builders’. Think about what’s important to you in terms of your business objectives and how you want to run your business.

Then lay out your ideas on a continuum so you can see a natural progression from the first logical step through to bigger ideas.

Being able to see the ideas as they build into each other and step you towards your business plan, helps to clarify and reinforce what really matters as you grow your business.

Don’t be surprised if you start to pull a few ideas out of the running or if you begin to tweak your business plan to include something that’s too good to lose (just make sure it aligns to your overall objectives first).

Remember, first steps first!

Choose the first 3 things to focus on, mind map or list out the steps needed to fully realise them, apply the 80/20 rule and begin scheduling the top 20% (which will deliver 80% of the results) into your diary, assigning it the space it needs to fully develop.

Keep yourself focused, the momentum flowing and overwhelm at bay by focusing on just one key thing each week for each of the three ideas. Allowing yourself a week to nail those three things gives you the flexibility to schedule them into your existing workload with more ease.

Simple steps to remember as you get comfortable managing your energy reserves:

  1. Get perspective: capture your opportunities on paper and assign them to 3 categories; ‘great business builders’ (things that support your business plan), ‘potentially great ideas’, ‘ideas that fascinate me’.
  2. Plan: create a timeline of your ‘great business builders’ and choose the first 3 to focus on, breaking down the ‘next steps’ before selecting one from each idea that you can check off each week.
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