Is this you?

You wake up at 2am with an idea. Awake isn’t the word; the idea is crystal clear and your energy level shot up several notches. So you grab your pad of paper and pen on your nightstand (you do have that available to you, don’t you?) and you write it all down.

You’re running the kids to school and the idea pops into your mind sitting at a light. You scramble for a piece of paper from your purse, the glove compartment, or underneath your seat (yes, I’ve been known to write down a lot of ideas on an old receipt from the floorboard of my car) and you write away at each stop light you hit between school and the office.

After a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years of this, you probably have a stack, a box or even a drawer filled with ideas.

The ideas aren’t the problem. The problem lies in the fact that they are all one thought ideas. They are only half way there. It’s an inspiration with no meat to the matter. You have a thought without a plan.

And without the plan, they will forever lie in your boxes, waiting for the day when you say “I thought of that” when you see it prospering in the real world.

An idea without execution is worthless. Without the next step, the idea might just as well never been thought at all. So the only way to make it valuable, turn it into something more, is to get organized and take the next step necessary to turn it into reality.

Here is your guide.

Build Your Idea Bank

The problem with the “sticky note idea” is its written down and never thought of again. You may look at it when you’re cleaning your desk, think it’s a great idea, and quickly throw it into the trash as you attempt some type of organization. But with ideas floating around, you are simply too overwhelmed to take it to the next level.

An idea bank is a place to organize your thoughts, have access to them on a continual basis, and have an easy way to breathe life into them at a moments notice.

Your idea bank can be as easy as a spiral notebook or a three ring binger. The key is to create the notebook exclusively for your idea bank. When you have an idea and write it on a sticky note, don’t throw into a box. Instead, spend an extra five minutes and create a “vision board” for it. Use your one sentence sticky note reminder to expand the concept. Think from a “who, what, where, when, why” level and fill in the details. You can include URLs, examples you may have received in the mail, flyers, photos – whatever you need to fully record your idea.

If you want a more sophisticated, electronic version, there are many programs to help you out.

Try Wunderlist. It’s a free organization tool you can use on your computer, your iPhone or your iPad, taking it with you wherever you go. You can create unlimited lists, collaborate with others, email lists to yourself or your friends, and even send yourself reminders along the way.

Are you more visual in nature? Try Evernote. Evernote also makes it easy to view on any of your technology, yet also gives you an easy way to capture everything in a convenient way. Audio, video, photos, or copy can all be added to each file you create, giving you unlimited potential to make sure you remember your idea in every detail.

Take Your Ideas To The Next Level

Your idea bank will remain inactive unless you occasionally go through it and pull out the best ideas.

Once you have an idea you want to run with, its time to use mind mapping to put the pieces together.

Again, you can do something as simple as put pen to paper, categorizing and subcategorizing as you go. Or try one of the many mind mapping software programs available to you.

MindMeister is a free application that is simple to access and simple to use. With just a few clicks, you can create a fully functional mind map using directional arrows and customized nodes.

Or try out MindNode, an app that allows you to quickly map out your ideas and connect them in a variety of ways. A simple program that you can take with you anywhere, making it readily available when you are sitting in carpool or waiting for your next client.

Prioritize Them Along The Way

The hardest part of managing ideas is to know which ones to act on and which ones to put away.

Ideas have shelf life. If they pertain to something happening right now in the mainstream, say an election or a new technology, it may not exist in quite the same format down the road. But it’s a solid, long term idea that has potential, it will have the same possibilities today as it does next year.

Choose ideas that motivate and resonate with you today. Do you have the tools and resources necessary to take action today? Or do you need something more to turn it into a reality; things you may not have available to you today?

As you search through your lists, certain things will jump out to you. And some of them will scream “right now”. Those are the ideas to start with. Those are the ideas to pull to the front, evaluate, and select from.

That’s where your next venture should come from.

Deposit, Withdrawal, Its An Idea Bank

The reason I like calling it an idea bank is it has the concept of “banking” in it. When you visit your bank, you deposit a check from your latest client, and you withdrawal money to pay for your latest purchase. It’s a never ending stream of debits and credits, providing you with the wealth you need for your lifestyle.

Your idea bank is much the same thing.  It’s a place to deposit regularly and withdrawal as you need. You add content freely when the ideas hit you. You pull your best ideas out at the appropriate time to work on further.

Some ideas will be winners. Some ideas won’t have much traction. And some ideas may never make it past the cover of your notebook. Yet if you keep it going as you move forward, you will always have a way to generate everything you need from your business.