Your Brain As a Funnel

I’ve been working a lot on marketing recently, as you’ve hopefully noticed if you subscribe to CruiseSheet‘s (awesome) newsletter. A basic part of marketing is thinking about the funnel. At the top of the funnel you have people who go to the web site, and at the tiny end of the funnel you have people who actually book a cruise.

Ideally you’d want that funnel to be tube shaped so that every person who visited would also book a cruise, but that’s not possible. So while you try to stretch the opening at the bottom of the funnel by increasing conversions, you also try to get more people into the top of the funnel, since some of them will make it all the way down to the bottom.

Over the years I have had some really amazing ideas for blog posts. Hopefully you’ve read a few of those posts, but the majority of them never got written. That’s because I have the exact same thought process every time:

“Wow, that’s a great idea for a post. I should write it down! Actually, it’s so good that I will just remember it.”

Then when I go back to write it, I can’t remember it anymore. This has literally happened hundreds of times.

So I made a really simple way for me to record ideas. I put a button dead center on my phone’s home screen that brings up a text box and lets me add a todo item (Taskwarrior, if you’re wondering).

Now I think of my brain as a funnel. I will have some amount of ideas. Some of them will be captured. Some will be acted upon. Some of those will come out well. Some will be shared with others. Some will be received well.

Like visitors to cruise sales, that’s a pretty steep funnel. The vast majority of my ideas will not be executed, published, and enjoyed. Most will die somewhere along the way.

The reason I never felt motivated to capture every idea is because I figured that I’d just come up with enough good ideas anyway that I could afford to lose some. But now I think more about feeding that funnel— you can’t just neglect one part of it.

Maybe even more important was to realize that I was narrowing my funnel at the point where it was most easy to keep it wide. Coming up with ideas is hard. Executing well on them is hard. Polishing them enough to share them with others is hard. External reactions are beyond my control. But setting up a system to make it trivially easy to write them down is simple. There’s no excuse to narrow the funnel there.

Of course, the idea for this post was the first idea I wrote down.

Maybe it’s worth thinking about the processes in your life as funnels. Each step is part of a system that affects the other parts. It’s worthwhile to figure out which parts are unnecessarily constraining the others and working on them, even if they don’t viscerally feel like they’re so important.


Photo is a cool modern Korean ceramic piece in The Hermitage. I took it a while back… still in Budapest for a few more days.

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