I hate forgetting a great idea, because I build my life around working with ideas. My writing, my advising, and my business pursuits not only rely on my ability to be creative, but to also take those creative ideas and use them to their full potential. But that can’t happen if I can’t remember what I thought of.
Creative ideas can strike you at any time and in any place. A classic place that most people will agree on is in the shower. Another is driving/commuting to work. Also right as you’re falling asleep, ideas just seem to flow. Unfortunately, none of these places are ideal for sitting down, writing out your thoughts, and reflecting on how they can impact your work.
However, after many trials, I have started to develop systems that allow me to not only capture my creative ideas, but to also put them in context so that I can act on them later as if it were occurring in the moment.
First, I’ll share my system, but since I know it won’t work for everyone, I will include the key elements you want to make sure are part of any system you choose.
In order to capture my creative ideas I rely on my cell phone, my computer, and my memory – in that order and I will explain why.
My cell phone is by far the item I am most likely to have within my reach at any point in time. While it’s not always the best for long-form thoughts or drawing sketches, it works in a pinch and allows me to get what’s going on in my head out. I don’t bother with fancy note taking or doodle apps, although I have tried many in the past. Instead, it falls into three places, depending on what the idea is. Either it goes to my built-in reminders app that will send an alert at a certain time of day, my email drafts that I can access from any computer, or to a general note app.
The reminders app is my first choice for most ideas, since it will ping me later (usually I’ll set it for later the same day when I know I will be more available). But some things aren’t really time sensitive, so I put them in my drafts folder inside Gmail. It is accessible by my home, work, or any computer, so that’s especially helpful if it is something that can’t just live on my personal devices, or if it’s the start of an email to come. The note app is great for free-flowing ideas, but to be honest it is the easiest for things to get lost in. On top of all of these is the ability to use voice dictation, so if I don’t have the ability to type, I can just speak.
Also, all of these apps sync automatically with my computer, which is the second part of my system. If I do get an idea when I am at my computer and can’t act on it, it goes into one of the three apps above. If I can, then I usually try to get a start on it right then and there. The less time I spend planning to do something, the more time I can spend actually doing it.
My memory is a last resort, since I don’t remember everything. But sometimes breaking out my phone is not appropriate or available. In order to better remember ideas, I try to think of not only the original idea, but also the implications. For example, if I have a new idea for a blog post, I try to remember not only the title and theme, but also some of the key points I would like to make and how that might impact readers. That way, when I come back to write it later, I remember the feelings I had, which can help remind me of what the actual content would be.
Rules For Creativity Systems
That’s my system in a nutshell, but I know it won’t work for everyone. Below are three of the most important rules for the creativity systems you choose.
The most important part in creativity systems is consistency. If you are not consistent, then creativity systems become unreliable. When I have something on my mind, I immediately think to put it down in my system. There aren’t 20 different places I could have written it down, or a dozen different processes that might have gone through. It’s a very finite amount.
The second most important part of a system is that it is flexible, especially in the case of capturing creative ideas. This is very important since you never know when you will get inspiration, or what the circumstances will be in at the time. My system has multiple methods that can carry me through pretty much any circumstance.
The third is that is has to be intuitive to you. There are plenty of ways to build a system, but the best way is what works best for you.There are plenty of ways to build a system, but the best way is what works best for you. Click To Tweet
Whatever system you choose, it needs to be something that you can rely on, that can meet your needs in varying situations, and that doesn’t confuse you whenever you try to use it. Good luck!