Inspiration on the Go – Never Miss a Great Idea

Posted on July 22, 2013

According to the UCLA Labratory of Neuro Imaging, we humans have an average of 70,000 thoughts per day. That’s over 48 thoughts per minute.

If you’re anything like me, it might seem closer to a hundred.

Now, I’m not saying all thoughts are genius, revolutionary gems. But there certainly are a few diamonds in the rough that are worth noting down.

The only problem is, when you’re having so many thoughts is such a small amount of time, it’s easy for the good ones to get lost in the furor.

During my time in journalism school, we were told to carry a notebook and pen at all times. You never knew when some crazy event was about to unfold before your very eyes.

Without really knowing it, I’d actually been following this little piece of advice ever since high school. I always seemed to have a small pad and pen tucked away for emergencies. As I liked to dabble in the odd bit of creative writing, I kept a notebook on hand to record ideas for stories, characters and so forth.

While ambitious, the only real outcome was a stack of half-full notebooks lined with half-baked ideas. I’ve now figured out that there’s a much better way to keep track of those nuggets of inspiration that hit us at the strangest times.

So how do you make sure you never lose a good idea no matter when it strikes?

Find your medium

Are you a pen and paper kind of person or a fully-fledged techno junkie?

If you tend to instinctively reach for your smartphone/tablet/insert-device-here no matter what the situation, a digital platform is probably going to suit you best.

If you’re like me and always have a pad and pen at the ready, often the physical act of getting your thoughts in writing makes this the more preferred medium.

Alternately, you can work with a mix of the two. Sometimes my first instinct is to jot down a bunch of ideas on paper and then organise them later into my digital database of choice.

The clock is ticking

It may sound a bit pedantic to you, but the most important factor in this case is time. When a good idea strikes, you need to go with what comes naturally, rather than wasting time deciding whether to pull out your phone or your pen.

For the digitally inclined, you can capture your thoughts instantly with a built in voice recorder and transcribe them later (or even get the magical Dragon Dictation app to do that for you).

You can also jot ideas down in a designated Evernote notebook or leave a simple text file open on your desktop to catch stray thoughts. Evernote definitely has the advantage here, as you’ll find out below.

If you’re writing these beauties down the old fashioned way, make sure you have a notebook on hand at all times. Leave one at work, by your bed, in your bag, anywhere you think you might be inspired. Or better yet, carry a tiny one around in your pocket, this way you’ll never miss a thought when it hits.

Get organised

With the surge of free and readily available digital platforms, recording those random nuggets of inspiration has never been easier.

That being said, creating an end database which you use to compile all the little scraps of content gathered from your different note-taking applications has become especially important.

I mentioned Evernote above, which is a fantastic application that allows you to label, arrange and organise your notes (in a whole range of different media formats including video, image and audio) for quick access later.

If you’re after a more Microsoft Office-esque feel, creating an database of ideas on Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) is another simple option. Thoughts can be categorised by theme or listed by date in a basic spreadsheet.

Make a point to update the database every week so that all your thoughts are in one easy-to-reference place.

For the writer, this process may be a little more cumbersome. A good idea is to split each of your notebooks into sections. You can color code them with Post-it notes for easier reference.

Label each section by category, blog ideas, social media ideas, random ideas etc. When the thought strikes, just flip on through to the right section and get writing.

If you can’t bear to waste even a second flipping pages, just get your ideas down as as quickly as possible and then go back later and categorise each idea with a highlighter pen: yellow for blog ideas, pink for social media etc.

Create a compilation notebook to store all your ideas in one place. Or if the mood strikes, get on your computer and set up a simple digital database on Excel or Google Drive and compile them there.

Review and repeat

Of these 70,000 thoughts a day, how many of them do you think are keepers?

Just under a handful, I’d say.

The advantage of following the above process is that you now have all those different ideas recorded, organised and stored in one end user database.

From here it’s easy to review and cull any ideas that don’t look quite right upon further inspection. Or better yet, move them into a backup database so that you can revisit them at the end of each month and see whether they have somehow magically transformed into winners.

Recycling at its best!

photo credit: Amir Kuckovic via photopin cc

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