We all get errant thoughts throughout the day. Sometimes they’re brilliant new ideas and other times they’re complete nonsense. Capturing these thoughts isn’t hard, but keeping track of them can be a little difficult.
I have notebooks filled with random thoughts on random pages and half-thought ideas across several different apps. This system hasn’t worked for me, and up until recently I didn’t know how to handle this form of mental diarrhoea. Here’s what I’ve been doing to help keep it organised, but I’m more excited to hear how you handle it.
- Use one notebook or app just for those quick, eureka moments: My biggest problem was that I had notes everywhere. I had brief, one-sentence ideas right next to complex, fully thought ideas. Since I don’t really want to carry around an extra notebook, I decided to get a note-taking app and dedicate it solely to these errant ideas. I picked previously mentioned Pop, because it’s simple, no nonsense and doesn’t let me waste space. But any smartphone note-taking app will do.
- Write thoughts down immediately no matter where I am: We’ve mentioned before how easy it is to forget something when you walk through a door. I take that to heart and write down ideas immediately, no matter how stupid and half-realised they are. If my phone isn’t near me, I’ll write it down on paper and put it in later.
- Write down as little as possible to still remember the concept: The other thing I’ve learnt going through old notes is that I have a penchant to write down completely absurd ideas with no explanation. The solution I’ve come up with is to expand on that and write as little as possible while still keeping enough triggers to get me back to the original idea.
- Review them once a week and pick out the good ideas: I would say 94 per cent of my ideas are terrible. While I still keep the bad ideas around, I go through my notes at the end of the week, pick out the ideas I like, and move them to a place where I can expand on them more. Sometimes it’s a post idea for Lifehacker and just needs a Google Doc. Other times it’s an idea for short fiction, or a song idea, or whatever else. After I vet them, I move them to a place where I’ll actually look at them.
So that’s how I capture my eureka moments. I really want to hear how you do it, because my system is by no means perfect. Share your process in the comments.