If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s coming up with ideas. Some ideas come from real sources, like reading a great blog article with great tips on how to improve my business. Or reading a new book on marketing.
Other ideas come from more unexpected sources. I might be at a park, watching kids play, and get an idea for a new website or iPhone app. Or I might hear a song, or wake up from a dream and have new found inspiration. Perhaps it was the solution to a design problem that I had been mulling over recently. Or maybe it was a new way of tackling an existing problem, that I hadn’t thought of before. Either way, our mind works in mysterious ways and sometimes requires rest to come up with a solution.
In the past though, these ideas escaped me soon after they arrived. The excitement and details that seemed so vivid when they were first realized, just didn’t seem so exciting when I tried to later recall them.
I realized that I was missing out on a lot of wasted opportunity here, and needed to come up with a better system. In recent while, I’ve developed a three step system for myself, based around tools that are absolutely free!
Step 1: Brainstorm
I’ve been using the evernote app quite regularly recently. The beauty of evernote is that it can be used as a web app or mobile app. I regularly use it through my browser. on my iPhone and on my iPad, depending on where I am and what I’m doing at the time.
I keep several notes running, based around different themes. Each project I’m working on (that deserves inspiration) has its own note. So if I have an idea to improve one of my apps then I’ll click on the note for that app, and add to any existing notes that might be there already. If I just thought of a way to improve the usability of one of my websites, then I’ll click on the note for that site, and add to it there. If I’m reading an article online that inspires me somehow, then I’ll open up my evernote tab and add to the relevant note there.
One of Evernote’s key features is that the notes you create are always synced, no matter what device you entered it from. It even handles pictures and recordings, if you think that conveys your idea more effectively.
The key at this stage is to get the idea down as quickly as you can, without worrying about the details too much. Don’t even judge if the idea is that great or not at this stage.
Step 2: Maintenance
Over time, the notes I maintain on Evernote start to build up with several ideas in each of them. This is where some maintenance is required. Once a week, I open up my Evernote app at work and start to go through each note. This is when I reorder the ideas I have collected into a more logical form, and maybe change the order around a bit so that they make more sense.
I may find that some ideas aren’t practical or as relevant now as when I first noted them down. That’s ok though, as it’s part of the process. Along the way I will find some really good ones that need to be acted upon.
Step 3: Action
At this stage, I take all the ideas that can be implemented right away and put them in my daily task manager. I use Google Tasks in Gmail myself, but any task manager application should work. For each day of the week, I list out the tasks that I plan to accomplish that day, some of which may have come from my earlier idea list.
I’ve found this new system to work well for me, as I’m now able to record and act on new ideas that come to me from any source, at any time of the day.
Do you have a system in place to capture ideas and thoughts that come to you? Are you able to act on them efficiently?