If life is like a box of chocolates, then my head is often like a lottery ball hopper. You know that hopper with all the 42 balls or whatever and they’re all bouncing around in there. And then, suddenly, one of them finds its way to the magical exit tube and floats up and then out the chute.

That’s kind of like ideas for me.

I never know when an idea is going to float up out of the tube and into my brain.

And if I don’t have a good way to grab a hold of it then it might just drop back down into the hopper.

If you’re like me at all, sometimes one of the biggest challenges is not necessarily coming up with an idea, but capturing ideas and being able to actually do something with them.

So I thought I’d at least share some of the ways I’ve done that… and it is always evolving, but I thought maybe some of these might be helpful. And I’d love to hear what you do as well. I know a lot of you have some great thoughts on this.

Here goes. And a quick note. This system goes for new ideas that pop up as well as reminders and notes I need to remember through the day.

So, I kind of look at my idea retention system like some kind of fleet where there is a mother ship and then reconnaissance ships.

My mother ship is my laptop or desktop. That is where I both process information from the reconnaissance ships as well as enter some information straight up as well.

My reconnaissance ships on the other hand take many forms.
– My phone
– A notepad
– A sticky note (I love these — check out episode 11 to find out why).
– Even writing on my hand in a pinch.

The purpose of the reconnaissance ships is to gather the information, capture the ideas and thoughts and bring them back to the mother ship to be processed.

Let’s talk about each of these.

My phone, as you’d imagine is used in a few different ways.

The nature of my job in manufacturing is that I’m often on our plant floor looking at a machine or troubleshooting and investigating a quality concern.

More often than not, I’ll take a picture to capture some of these things since… you know… a picture is worth… I think it used to be a thousand words but I’m not sure how inflation has affected that over the years. Just to say, a picture fills in a lot of gaps that words can leave behind.

I love that I can grab whatever detail I want with my phone’s camera, including slow motion video or whatever will help capture that thought or idea. When I get back to my desk, I’ll connect up my phone to my computer to put those pictures in a folder or at least log the notes or ideas in my log. I’ve also sometimes just synced my photos over as well.

I also use my phone to capture ideas via Evernote or Trello. Check out episodes 23 and 33 for more on those. Trello is probably my go-to here for quick ideas where Evernote I might use to dictate a longer note.

I also carry a notepad around. I may use it for notes but sometimes more to sketch out ideas on paper that would be harder for me to verbalize.

Same thing. When I get back to my desk I’ll transfer those into action in some way.

Sticky notes are similar. If someone stops by or I get a phone call I may just use the sticky note as an intermediate way to grab that idea or note and then

And then if I have to I’ve even written notes on my hand.

Then, when it comes to an organization system for processing the ideas and notes, I have a master Excel file with both a log tab and an interactive To Do tab. I use the log tab to enter notes, decisions, and general things I might want to search for later.

The To Do tab is my place for putting specific items that I want to knock out or address later. It has a lot of functionality that you’d find on some apps (due dates, assigning hours, etc), but I like it because I have total control over how it functions and can adapt it as my needs change.

For some things, I’ll also keep a Trello board going as well. I have one for general household things I know need to get done or remembered as well as a few other simple ones with ideas for podcast episode topics or resources.

So, there you have it. Like I said, though it’s always evolving the one main thing is that I’m one way or another able to capture that idea or thought that pops up before it vanishes forever into the depths of my brain.

Thanks for listening to today’s episode. You can shoot me an email at shawn@shawnwashburn.com.

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