More than 1 great idea? – Find an inspiration parking lot

3 minute read Published:

The other day someone told me about some premium parking spaces in Manhattan going for a million bucks. Somehow I don’t doubt it. We all value a safe place to park our possessions. Oftentimes, however, we lack a place to park our inspiration.

Are you a slave to your inspiration? Does your curiosity keep you constantly roaming from one tasty patch of interesting information to the next without ever getting a solid grasp of anything? Perhaps you need to “park it”. You need an inspiration parking lot.

Likely you are familiar with the practice of using an idea parking lot while refactoring. It helps keep you from going on a refactoring tangent as you notice more and more areas of the code that need your tender-loving-coding. Next thing you know, you’ve got the system ripped so wide open that you’re not sure which way is up anymore. The answer of course is to only refactor one thing at a time. If you get an epiphany while you’re at it, you write it down for later in your refactoring parking lot. The same goes for the next idea, and the next one… When you’re done with the current refactoring, and you find you still have time and breath left, you can review your idea parking lot and determine which are still valid. Now the heat of the moment has abated and the cool voice of reason should tell you whether or not your idea was brainy, or just hair-brained.

So why not refactor your life? If you’re working on one thing and a sudden amazing thought blooms in your mind, rather than acting on impulse (unless it truly is an AMAZING thought), write it down! Park it! List it. Put it on a to-do list. But whatever you do, don’t act on it right then and there. When you’re done with the current task, then review your idea parking lot. Determine which ideas have validity and are actionable, and go for it buddy!

This approach is also quite effective for managing your online reading. Somebody sends you a link to an interesting article while you’re buried in a tough problem, and you’re tempted to take a little peek… Park it! A service like Instapaper is nice because it allows you to easily save articles for reading later. It even reflows and pretty prints them, removing the ads in the process, so that it feels more like reading a newspaper. Then, once a week perhaps, you can groom your reading backlog, prune out the articles that don’t look so useful in hindsight, and read those you’re still interested in.

So get yourself a parking space or three, maybe even a whole parking lot. You won’t even have to pave paradise in the process.