What do you do with all the ideas you come up with but for one reason or another are unable to follow through on? I’m thinking along the lines of those projects we all like to fill our time with – in my case it’s usually programming/computer related. It could be a lack of time, resource, or ability – it doesn’t matter; we all have ideas for projects which we think would be great but never take-off.

Right now I’m looking at a rediscovered directory of old project folders. Within it contains:

  • An incomplete Tumblr desktop client built in .NET + WinForms,
  • A tiny WPF application which would allow you to update the journal feature in BackPack, if it was finished,
  • The genesis of a todo list/GTD manager, both desktop client and web-based,
  • Numerous experiments in stuff like CSS media queries, mobile web site development, and jQuery,
  • Several WordPress themes,
  • and two Posterous themes.

This directory is just one of hundreds of similar littered all over my computers and backup drives.

For a time I would start just about any project I thought of. I’d diligently create the project folder on my computer, and attempt to give it a go. Unfortunately the number of ideas I have buzzing around my head at any one time soon made this an impossible task. In the end, the debris of so many unfinished projects got too disheartening. So now I have to try and drown out the constant noise off ideas in my head.

Writing the idea down surely wouldn’t do much good; if the idea going through my head is distraction enough then the last I need I need is a permanent reminder. At least if it’s in my head it can be forgotten or crowded out by the other ideas vying for attention.

Surely there must be a better way? What’s your way of dealing with a surplus of ideas?

The flip-side to having a constant idea factory in my head is it can sometimes lead to some pretty inspired problem solving. The number of times I’ve come up with some “it’s crazy, but it might just work” solution to a problem at work is pretty phenomenal. As the saying goes, “if I had a penny…” and all that. When it happens it almost manages to balance out all the unfinished or never-started ideas which deep down, if you just had more time/money/whatever, you know could be great.

Needless to say, writing this down has inspired a few more ideas which I’d love to follow through on (including one which might be an answer to my question above), but seriously? I already have more than enough to be getting on with!

update: Comments are now enabled. Like a total spanner I’d forgot to turn them on!