5 Great Ways to Capture Ideas

By , January 3, 2010

Happy New Year! 2010 is as good a year as any to put your ideas into play as you get them, right? Of course it is. However…

If you’re anything like me and my friends, you get a ton of ideas at once in a massive new year deluge. The time of year when you’re awash with inspiration, creativity, desire, hope. Really you want to go for everything, I know. And you can go for more than one, in fact as many as you’re physically and financially able to pursue. But, usually you can’t pursue all your ideas at once.

It’s Important to Capture Ideas When you get Them

Even if you can’t pursue them all at once, you need to capture your ideas for future access and development. You should record as much detail as you can, too. There are two main reasons you should record your thoughts when you get them.

  1. If for any reason you can’t immediately start in on your project, you need to keep the idea for later use, when time, funds, materials and skills permit.
  2. Your ideas are freshest when the inspiration hits you. It’s the ideal time to capture the idea and hopefully the nuances that make the idea so appealing to you.

Later on, when the stars are aligned, funding and everything, you’ll want to evaluate it again to be sure it’s still a viable idea. Having good notes will make it easier for you to do review the plan before you get started.

Five Great Ways to Creatively Capture Ideas

Your ideas are great, innovative, and life-changing. Capturing them is important, and your means of capturing them can be equally as inspired. Taking action to remember ideas is better than trying to rely on memory alone. The following activities can help to hard-wire your ideas, making it easier to recall. I’ve used a few of these, and they do help to make them sticky.

  1. Tell it to yourself. Use your recorder to tell yourself the story of what inspired your idea. Make it as detailed as time will allow. Use colors and scents that come to you when you ruminate on developing your idea. If you only have a short time, get all you can. You can return to it later to add details and other information.
  2. Build a model. When you feel strongly about an idea build what you want it to look like. Use wire, paper, plastic, plaster, whatever you are comfortable with. You may come up with more insights when you’re working it out, that will show you obstacles as you think it through. You could use index cards
  3. Draw a picture. If you can see it in your head, making a graphical representation is another way to make your notes. It could be a flowchart design to show parts and relationships in your process. It might be that you draw stick characters to populate your image. Use colors and words to annotate your image. It just needs to be something that will depict your idea in a way that keeps it alive for you.
  4. Write it up on your whiteboard and take a picture. Ideas that are easy to list or draw on your whiteboard, to keep it for later, instead of vowing never to touch your whiteboard, photograph it. Then print it and put it where it needs to be–filed away or posted on your office wall.
  5. Put it in your idea journal. If you don’t have one, get a book for your ideas. I suggest a 3-ring binder because that makes it easy to add to a particular subject.

BONUS: Don’t dismiss the Paper Scraps Method

I didn’t list the more traditional methods for taking notes. Not because they aren’t important, they really are. They’re the things that we do most of the time, often almost reflexively. These methods include writing your important notes on napkins, paper scraps, corners of junk mail, and collected for later. These are the tools we use when we have no time for anything more.

Think about this: J. K. Rowling, famed author of the Harry Potter series, wrote her first Harry Potter book, The Sorcerer’s Stone, on scraps of paper and napkins to sort through later. Look how far she got with that method!

A Caveat: If you do write on scraps of paper, napkins and such, let me suggest that you keep them in envelopes, files with pockets, boxes or other containers they can’t easily slip out of. After all, since it’s important enough to record it, you definitely don’t want to lose the papers.

How do you record your ideas so they stick with you? Or, do you believe that if you don’t remember it, it’s not a very good idea?

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