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How to Simplify a Project or Idea into 3 Steps

When we look at a great success like Instagram or Twitter, we are left wondering, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Photo Credit: Cine Fanatico via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Cine Fanatico via Compfight cc

The truth is, we do think of that, but rarely do we execute on them. Why? Simple: fear. The fear of failure. The fear of starting. The fear that this thing might not work.

But this process of mapping out our ideas could be less daunting.

In Do the Work by Steven Pressfield, he provides an excellent example in how any enterprise or project can be broken down into three simple steps. He says:

If we’re inventing Twitter, we start with What Are You Doing Now?, the 140-character limit, and the Following. We fill in the gaps: the hashtag, the tiny URL, the re-tweet. If we’re writing The Hangover, we kick off with Losing Doug, Searching for Doug, Finding Doug. Fill in the blanks: Stu marries a stripper, Mike Tyson comes after his tiger, Mister Chow brings the muscle. Any project or enterprise can be broken down into beginning, middle, and end. Fill in the gaps; then fill in the gaps between the gaps.

Try this with your next idea, or possibly a problem that you’re having.

Here’s how it went for the redesign of my website: I started with removing the sidebar, greater focus on the aesthetics of the content to provide a rich, reader-friendly site, and changing my logo and colors. Now I fill in the gaps: Removing the byline and creating a manifesto, providing rich content by being vulnerable and sharing what I learn through the many books that I devour, and never having ads on my site.

By breaking it down into its individual parts—especially writing it out or drawing it with simple stick figures—you can visualize it instead of trying to conjure it in your mind’s eye. You can simplify it, instead of being overwhelmed by the idea itself.

The next time you shoot out of bed with an idea or have a random ah-ha moment, break it down into beginning, middle, and end, then fill in the gaps and then the gaps between the gaps. Give it a shot. You never know.