The idea that you want to write down all your ideas is common sense. Author Steven Johnson recommends not just keeping all those ideas in a single document, he recommends reviewing that document every few months.
Photo by Dvortygirl
Johnson keeps all his ideas in a single “spark file”. He doesn’t tag different notes, use various notebook for different projects, or divide up ideas. They’re all right there in a single document. Then, every couple of months, he digs in:
But the key habit that I’ve tried to cultivate is this: every three or four months, I go back and re-read the entire spark file. And it’s not an inconsequential document: it’s almost fifty pages of hunches at this point, the length of several book chapters. But what happens when I re-read the document that I end up seeing new connections that hadn’t occurred to me the first (or fifth) time around: the idea I had in 2008 that made almost no sense in 2008, but that turns out to be incredibly useful in 2012, because something has changed in the external world, or because some other idea has supplied the missing piece that turns the hunch into something actionable. Sure, I end up reading over many hunches that never went anywhere, but there are almost always little sparks that I’d forgotten that suddenly seem more promising…
In a funny way, it feels a bit like you are brainstorming with past versions of yourself. You see your past self groping for an idea that now seems completely obvious five years later. Or, even better, you’re reminded of an idea that seems suddenly relevant to a new project you’ve just started thinking about.
If you’re not keeping track of all your ideas and hunches — good and bad — you should start doing that first. Then as that document grows and turns into something larger, take the time to review it. You might be surprised at how dumb ideas are suddenly more feasible a few months down the road.
The Spark File [Medium]