Capture Your Smart Ideas with an Ideas Log

Don't let your genius get away: hunt it down and capture it!

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #361

Capture Your Smart Ideas with an Ideas LogThey say that we think 50,000-70,000 thoughts every single day. Some of those thoughts are idle ruminations, like wondering: Who are "they"? How did they do the counting? Some of the thoughts are about whether we really want a new iWatch. Nothing particularly noteworthy, right? But every now and then, just statistically, we'll have a really good idea. Then someone on Facebook will say our political party are poopy-heads, and their political party is awesome, and by the time we've convinced them that they're wrong, that cure for cancer is gone forever. (Thank you Mark Zuckerberg. You just tanked humanity's hope to cure cancer. I hope you're satisfied.)

If you're in a profession where you're paid to have good ideas, you need to capture those ideas, store them, and be able to retrieve them when and where you need them.

Use a Capture Device

Since the ideas will come to you somewhere between posting cat pictures and reading about Kim Kardashian's latest implants, you need to be able to capture them quickly and easily.

For me, a smartphone is not the best way to do it. Smartphones are slow to type on, they take too long to unlock and configure, and between icons and notifications, they have enough distractions that it can be hard to keep the idea firmly in mind until it gets entered.

As discussed in my episode on using one master system to organize your life, pen and paper are my tools of choice. For paper, a pocket-size Moleskine journal is perfect. It's super-thin and flexible and fits in a pocket. For pen, the Pentel P-07 navy ink roller ball pen is great, even for lefties (all the right-handed listeners will be totally mystified by that comment). When inspiration strikes, out comes the Moleskine and the Pentel, and the idea goes on the next available blank page. BOOM! Captured!

Store Your Ideas

The Moleskine is not where your ideas live. It's fine for capturing, but it's limited in space and ability to reorganize things once you've entered them. Create one master place to store all the ideas you capture.

A spreadsheet is a fine option. Create a spreadsheet in Excel, or Numbers, or Google Docs. Type your ideas into the second column. After you type an idea, put the name of the project, or the topic, or the category that the idea belongs to in the first column. For example, you might enter the idea, "Invent antigravity ray as alternative to hanging curtains on curtain rods." A worthy goal. You would type this in and give it a category of "Invention."

Retrieve Your Ideas

Now that your ideas are stored safely in one place, you need a way to get back to them. As I'm sure you remember from episode #3, File so You Can Find Anything Instantly,, the trick is filing according to how you want to retrieve the information.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.