Using the Action Method to Make Your Ideas Happen

Making Ideas HappenLast year, at the recommendation of a few friends, I decided to pick up Making Ideas Happen.

This book teaches a simple project management solution for creatives called the Action Method.

The perpetual struggle of acting on creative ideas can finally be overcome, thanks to one very simple philosophy:

Less ideas, more action.

My team at the time — a group of designers, writers, and marketers — started reading the book together. We ate it up.

Reading Making Ideas Happen launched all kinds of interesting side discussions and debates and even reshaped how we approached creative projects.

Because we adopted the Action Method, we made more ideas happen.

Creativity without organization

Author Scott Belsky puts it like this: your creativity multiplied by your organization equals your impact.

If you are incredibly creative and completely disorganized, you will have no impact.

Conversely, if you have only half of your creativity and a tiny amount of organization, the impact can be exponential.

Here’s what it looks like:

100 (Creativity) X 0 (Organization) = 0 IMPACT

50 (Creativity) X 2 (Organization) = 100 IMPACT

Does that make you want to get a little more organized or what?

If only it were as easy as a math equation.

The struggle of every creative

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with this. I’m full of ideas but often fail to act.

On my desk I have the following:

  • a partly-written book on my computer
  • a recorded song that I’ve yet to share with the world
  • a stack of books on my shelf that I haven’t read
  • a mess of papers and receipts I need to file and process

If you’re a creative person, I’ll bet that you have your own personal “wall of shame” — a collection of projects you’ve yet to finish.

Coming up with ideas for new projects isn’t the hard part; finishing is.

The idea of adding a little bit of organization (while sacrificing a few ideas) to get more done is very attractive to me.

I’m tired of a bunch of ideas and no action. I’m worn out on meetings. I’m exhausted from brainstorms.

I want my ideas to make a difference. (Don’t you?)

Applying the Action Method

If you struggle with making ideas happen, I recommend buying you pick up Belsky’s book and adopt the Action Method now. Not in a week or a month from now. There’s too much at stake here.

And if not Belsky’s method, then someone’s (even your own). Find something that works, and starting making stuff that matters.

The Action Method is a system that you can manage yourself, or you can use the tools Behance has developed to make it easier (at a cost, of course).

In a nutshell, here’s how it works:

  1. Use only one inbox that receives all incoming tasks.
  2. Decide if inbound communication is a reference, action step, or backburner.
  3. File references and backburners and review when needed.
  4. Prioritize action steps, set a target date, and do them.
  5. Delegate what keeps piling up.
  6. Review weekly.

I use this method for every creative project I tackle.

Find out more about it here: Action Method
Get the book here: Making Ideas Happen

How do you make your ideas happen? Share your method or system in the comments.

Disclosure: Some of the above links were affiliate links.

45 thoughts on “Using the Action Method to Make Your Ideas Happen

  1. I think my wall of shame is my Drafts folder on my blog.  My day job is organization.  I tag, create lists, track, promote, etc.  But at home, I have a pile of unfinished posts.

    So, at work, my way of getting things done is Google’s task list.  I drop tasks on my calendar on the day they’re due.  I also use the Franklin Covey “ABC” prioritization system.  “A” tasks are most important, “B” tasks need to get done but maybe less time sensitive, and “C” tasks are if I have time.  I start every entry “A -” or “B -” or “C -” so that the A tasks are always at the top.

    Keeping them on my calendar allows me to move them around if deadlines change or push them if there just isn’t enough time in the day.

    Hmm, this has got me thinking I should write a post about this.  Organization is not something I enjoy all that much, but I’m pretty good at it when I force myself to do it.

  2. I so resonate with the personal “wall of shame.” I definitely need to increase my organizational skills and make these ideas a reality. I might just go pick me up this book later (and by later I mean now). Thanks for sharing!

  3. Oh, I’m so glad you wrote this.  I wrote a post entitled, “Why Organization Will Nurture Your Creativity” and I found that many didn’t agree that being organized helps you create more… and execute more.  I think many artists like to defend their chaos.

    I’m certainly not always organized.  At the moment… lots of chaos all around!  But when things ARE in order-  much bigger impact!  There’s no question!

  4. I’m a list freak! Seriously, I make lists for just about everything…pathetic, but it works. I have a daily list of priorities that have to be done for that day. Every week I have to make time to look at my projects and prioritize what has to be done that week. 
    I just started making a writing list with deadline dates on them. 
    This may sound organized, but sometimes it is out of control! I focus too much on the “list” and not on my relationships. Got to have balance.
    Thanks for the book suggestion…I’m going to take a look at it.

      1. THAT sounds just like my husband! LOL…it doesn’t stall me…I love making that huge scratch across the item that I just finished. 

  5. Dude, I love Action Method, though there are a few things that annoy me. I kinda wish the References area were an Evernote integration. I don’t really use the “Events” much either.

    I hear they’re making some cool updates soon.

    1. Right. Just to clarify: there’s the Action Method (a system you can manage yourself, using whatever tools you want) and there’s the Action Method Online (their task/project management software). I’ve used both and enjoy the software, but recently, I’m just using my own tools and applying the method there (for free).

  6. Ideas. Lots of them. I suppose I make sure I write them down, generally in a mind map. Then I let them stir gently in the thought blender. Then I set some goals around them. Achievable goals that I know I ‘can’ do, not hope to do or should do.

    In planning I set goals for the month plus 10 days (so generally 40 days), then at the start of the week i set weekly goals. I like to use Mind mapping  as a tool, it helps me break down a goal or idea into smaller steps. I also just throw writing ideas down on the mind map for later use and to add in other ideas etc.  Freemind is a great Open Source free version. 

  7. On my hard drive I have 3 stories completely plotted out, even arranged in chapters with loads of research and even character sketches from some of my disgustingly talented art friends! One of them is a 4 book fantasy series! Another is a multi ‘season’ story I designed to post online in a similar style to a TV show.

    None of them are finished of course…

  8. “Less ideas, more action”  You probably don’t realize this put by suggesting I read this book you just offered me another idea to distract me from putting any of these ideas into action.  Oh look, I can read another book about becoming organized and becoming more productive… I’m halfway joking, but that tends to be how my mind likes to avoid things.    Thank you for the suggestion. 🙂 

    At some point I need to stop reading so much advice and become MUCH BETTER at implementing advice.

  9. I’ve ran across Belsky’s Action Method in the past, but never really looked too deeply into it. I definitely need to check out this book and start making more ideas happen. Thanks Jeff!

  10. Is it just me or does it kinda sound like one of those “guy” movies from the 80’s “the ACTION METHOD 2  :  the Method is back and this time he’s not taking prisoners!!!”

    The “action” method is a loose cannon cop on the edge with nothing left to lose, add a wacky partner for bonus points.

    Actually I need this book and will probably get it when I’m done with Bryan Allian’s 31 days to finding your Blogging Mojo. 

      1. Starring Jeff Goins as a loose cannon freelance writer/blogger on the edge with nothing to lose…explosions, chase scenes, ACTION TYPING, writing on a laptop at starbucks.

  11. This was all i needed to read. 

    100 (Creativity) X 0 (Organization) = 0 IMPACT50 (Creativity) X 2 (Organization) = 100 IMPACTThis advice solidifies my need to focus on small achievable creative goals. Thanks Jeff. 

  12. Interesting. I’ve heard of the Action Method burble investigated it. It sounds a lot like Getting Things Done.

    I agree, organization helps creativity A LOT.

  13. Something I picked up from Sarah Fain’s blog https://starfishenvy.typepad.com/ was a simple line… ‘When in doubt, always do the more active thing.’ A simple thing that has really wide-ranging implications.

  14. I’ve always been good at the inbox thing. I read the book Take Back Your Life which is a great resource for leveraging Outlook to organize your life and minimize channels of information. That being said I am highly organized, but my productivity suffers at the hands of distraction. I need to work on #4.

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