How many great ideas have YOU lost?

You never know quite when an idea will pop into your mind, do you? Surely I’m not the only one that finds inspiration in the shower, am I? (Actually, I believe the shower was a favorite of Stan Freberg.) At any given moment, whether I’m pounding out a rough draft, researching a topic or just doing a bit of “mind grazing”, I may have an idea that strikes. Maybe it’s something I read that strikes my fancy. Maybe it’s a tangent I wish I had the time to explore. Maybe it’s just a fun word that I like.

The fact is that you need a place to record these thoughts and experiences. Chances are high that you’ve lost a lot of great ideas simply for lack of scrap paper. How many times have you jotted down a name and phone number on the back of an old receipt? Just how many of those stray scraps of paper actually get used later? If you’re at all like me, the end up going through the wash the next time you do laundry, and you’re stuck with a little wad that used to be paper.

How to solve this problem? My dad always told me that if you have a weakness, use a system to compensate for it. If you have trouble remembering where you put your keys, then give them a specific place where you always put them. During the day, they’re in my left hip pocket. Once I walk in the door, they go in a small basket on the desk that’s by the door. If they’re not in the basket, they’re in my pocket. See? The system provides a simple solution.

My system for capturing important information and ideas is equally simple. If I’m away from the computer, I have my hPDA with me at all times, allowing me to jot it down then and there. I use a Mead Index Keeper, and I can quickly file away any index cards or scraps of paper I might need to save. This way, these clippings and musings have a designated place and are always accessible.

When I’m at the computer, I’m able to remove an entire step from this process by having a similar document there on the desk top. I have it labeled “Open Jotter”, because that’s exactly what it is, a running document that I can jot notes into. Cool bit of info? Jot it down. Any insights, factoids or flashes of brilliance are jotted down, in whatever order they happen to come in.

At the end of the day (if I remember, sometimes it’s the end of the week…) I go over everything and refile it as needed. Contact information goes in one place. Blog post ideas go another place. Large chunks of fitfully typed ramblings go into a folder all their own.

The two most important points are these:
1. There is a designated place for all of these stray thoughts.
2. This place is always immediately accessible.

Thus, I’m able to get stuff out of my head and recorded in some way, and I can do so with minimum hassle. This allows my mind to focus on the tasks at hand without trying to keep track of everything else all the time. Like my keys, I don’t need to remember where I set them down last, I already know that if they’re not in my pocket, they’re in the basket on my desk. Likewise, I never have to scramble to record a thought; I just whip out my handy Hipster or go straight to the Open Jotter.

How do you corral your thoughts?

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