What can be removed from your idea to improve & make it easier to work on?

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Your original idea is the core purpose of doing your work for your users. We often stray a little over time as we think of new things to add or the tiny changes we make. Is this beneficial for you, your idea, and those you wish to help?

Why you should read this guide.

If you’re a maker, creator, designer, entrepreneur… with an idea, or perhaps a product/service already serving others, and you’re thinking about making improvements, this guide will help you with removing things to improve your work.

We tend to add more and more over time.

If there is one thing we’re good at, it’s making stuff and iterating it over time. That’s the definition of a maker… or entrepreneur… or a dreamer?

The “over time” part is where things become a little “mucky.” The further from the original release date you get, the more you may be straying from your primary goal.

We usually have a burning desire to constantly improve our ideas and often extend our goals (sometimes before reaching them), especially if we don’t think about how we will measure our ideas’ success.

This is true even before we release our ideas to the world. We’ll work on it, have another idea to add to it, work on that, have yet another idea… the vicious cycle of being a creative thinker (doer).

But why not add every cool thought to our idea?

Because you do want to finish it, right? Or better yet, chances are the people you help don’t actually want more features. They will tell you they do. That’s their subconscious asking for even more value from what they spent with you.

But when you actually create the features, the original concept often suffers. Your users become a little grumpy because what they were used to has changed. Or it has become more complex for them to use — you’ve interrupted their habits.

Identify your core idea.

Let’s get back on track. Think back to when you first launched your work. What was the reason you did this work? Don’t spread this out over a series of bullets.

What is the one core thing you hoped your idea would achieve/solve? Maybe you could ask a friend what they think the core of your idea is? Never forget about your friends, sometimes they’re too nice, but they are still a great source of help when you need it.

Actually, start a document and at the top write this question, then your answer. You can use a paragraph to answer it, but don’t stray from the original reason; don’t make a list of things your idea was about—just the one core purpose.

What is something that does not support the core idea?

Now go through your product, service, or idea… your work is actively in use by those you seek to help. 

Take an inventory of all the things it does. Don’t miss even one tiny thing. Go all the way down to the nano level if you have to. Honestly, no detail is too small when you’re doing this.

Essentially, if it’s something that comes to mind in any way while you’re reviewing your work, note it down. The more you write down, the better.

Spend time reading everything you’ve written about your idea. Every blog post, conversation, task… anything. Even things you share in Facebook groups, Twitter threads, etc.

This process is almost as important as understanding the core of your idea. The effort spent here matters a lot. You’re about to put it to good use.

Can you remove it?

Now it is time to take action on that list of “things your work does.” With the core purpose of your work in mind — go through everything you listed as something your product/service now does.

As you go through each item, ask yourself, “can I completely remove this?” Obviously, you’ll want to take some time for each feature you review. Some may have real tangible effects on your business.

If you determine the feature doesn’t support your work’s goals and be cleanly removed, do it. Remove it. Note it on a list of “stuff I removed from my idea,” just if you want to revisit them later.

Sometimes you can’t just remove the feature, or the energy you’d spend on removing it outweighs the benefit.

Can you change it to better support the core idea?

If you cannot remove it, can you change it to support the product/service (and therefore the people you’re helping)?

This could be as simple as better wording in your copy, so it is clearer for your users. Or perhaps a small touch of automation to boost usage. Even an easy to follow checklist can help.

Maybe something added to onboarding to help users discover why the feature exists, how it can help them, and even show off examples to help them imagine improving their lives.

Can you pare it down to more succinctly support your idea?

Sometimes the features we add to our work are doing more than they should. Is it possible, as you go through your list and determine you can’t remove it, can you pare it down?

Perhaps the feature is useful, but you were testing some thoughts during the development of it and didn’t go back to remove parts that don’t directly affect the feature.

You should consider copy too. If you can reduce your copy’s wordiness or completely remove “fluff” from it, you’ll have a cleaner look and easier to read for your users.

From now on, can you say no to new things?

Now for what might be one of the most important parts of this guide. From now on… when you think about something you want to add to your product or service — can you pause and ask if it is necessary?

Does it support the original purpose of your idea? Does it expand too far and blur the focus of your work? Will you make your loyal users grumpy when things change?

Is it worth it?

Only you can make that decision. Decisions like this are what drive successful people. I wish you the best of luck with reaching your goals — and may all your leads convert for you. 🙂