Lifehack Create Idea Backlog

March 17, 2023
March 17, 2023 Greg Olson

LifeHack: Create an Idea Backlog

EVERYBODY gets ideas. Me, you, clients, family, everybody. Part of the human experience is to get ideas about improving that experience. Some ideas will move forward and make an impact in people’s lives, while at the same time other ideas will remain trapped in our imaginations or become stalled, never getting the care and feeding they need to make an impact in the world. Apply this lifehack to create an idea backlog and give your ideas the chance to take flight.

Interesting Facts About Ideas

  • Everybody gets ideas
  • We have a poverty of language when discussing ideas
  • Ideas can appear at anytime
  • Some ideas have a long gestation period
  • Inspiration has expiration
  • Ideas can piggyback other ideas
  • Ideas can come from everywhere including customers, partners, and employees

Inspiration has Expiration

Capturing your ideas in an idea backlog, aka idea playground, is the best insurance against ideas lost to inaction. Ideas can come at inconvenient times. We may be driving or in the shower or in a meeting or otherwise occupied. At the first opportunity write your idea(s) down. If your idea is about going to an event and you don’t capture that somewhere then you’ll likely find that time marches on and you’ve missed the event. It’s happened to me and it’s probably happened to you. Hopefully, your lost idea wasn’t related to an anniversary or birthday!

Idea Backlog Borrowed from SCRUM

An idea backlog is a term loosely borrowed from the scrum agile software development framework. In scrum they use a product backlog. For those unfamiliar, the product backlog captures ideas, e.g. features, that could be built into a software product. The backlog is ever growing and gets reviewed periodically with certain ideas being further fleshed out and advanced for implementation.

Create an Idea Backlog inspired by Product Backlog from Scrum FrameworkLifehack Create an Idea Backlog

I’ve used napkins, voice memos, applications, paper, whiteboards, envelopes, sticky notes and probably just about everything you can imagine to capture ideas at some point in time. You have probably used some of these methods too. My third business literally started from notes scrawled on the back of a napkin while conversing with a colleague at a restaurant. These days I have a few choice applications and practices to create my idea backlog.

My Practices and Applications to Create Idea Backlogs

Some ideas are more suited to being captured in a certain way. I’ve surveyed my recent experiences to share some of my current idea backlog practices along with an example. Please adopt these for yourself or for your clients. Disclaimer: these are always evolving.

Low Tech Idea Backlog

  • Notebook to fit in a shirt pocket. I use a notebook to capture ideas quickly when I’m out and about. I have found a notebook to be absolutely essential for travel or when talking to people at events or listening to the radio in a car. It is much safer to scrawl a note in a notebook than to open your phone.

Tech Assisted Idea Backlog

  • Folders on the computer. I use the folder system on my computer to organize writing projects. I currently have a writing folder with 102 subfolders. Among these folders are 2 published books, 1 unpublished book and stubs that may or may not become books or chapters. Each represents an area of interest that started with a single idea. I have a similar folder titled Campaign Ideas with numerous subfolders.
  • Pictures and Photos App. There are times where it isn’t practical to capture an idea in words but a picture will suffice. I always have my phone with me. We all do in 2023. I’ll take pictures, back them up to the online photos app and peruse them for inspiration. Some of these photos end up spawning blog posts, client conversations, etc.

Collaborative Idea Backlog

  • Google Sheets. This is among my favorites for the fact that it is free and has built-in collaboration features. At JUG Team we have multiple idea playgrounds for our own work. We also create idea playgrounds that we share with clients to capture ideas. When I get an idea, I put it in the playground.
  • Google Keep. I use this application to capture ideas personally and professionally. I love to travel. I will note ideas to make future trips better than the last trip. I have a bucket travel list of ideas on Keep. On the professional side I use Keep for ideas and inspiration and oftentimes invite colleagues to share and add to the lists.

Evolving Lifehack for Ideas

I’ve used other software and mobile applications including mindmapping software but the ones listed above are my go-to practices for creating and managing my idea backlogs (playgrounds). I’m always interested in evolving my own practices.

What is Your Idea Backlog Lifehack?

These practices are equally applicable to professional life as they are your personal life. You probably have different experiences with ideas and idea backlogs. I’d love to hear your lifehack for capturing ideas and manage the idea backlog, no matter what you call it. I’d also like to know if your practices spill over from your personal to professional life. Please reach out.

"The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas."

Linus Pauling, winner of two undivided Nobel Prizes. In 1954 he won the Prize for Chemistry. Eight years later he was awarded the Peace Prize for his opposition to weapons of mass destruction.
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Greg Olson

Strategic and creative chief marketer working with business leaders to clarify and communicate vision, advance innovative products and services, and build more capable, more profitable enterprises. Agency and client-side experiences in startups, small businesses, nonprofits, and publicly traded Fortune 100 enterprises. Especially adept at creating a clear path forward for products and services that are new to the world. I am passionate about creating a better world.
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