Inventors, scientists, writers, singers, and songwriters all agree; your brain is bad at remembering things.
Great ideas often come to us when we least expect it. That is to say; they come when your mind is in what is commonly known as “diffuse mode,” It is that semi-conscious state that we often hit when we are doing mundane things like showering or walking the dog. Things that we regularly enough that don’t require too much focus. You’ll often notice during these moments that your mind will wander from idea to idea, concept to concept. Often you will muse on a problem or situation that you find challenging. It’s on these moments that an idea may strike you. You may see an otherwise indiscernible link between two or more seemingly unconnected ideas.
You have a eureka moment, and you think, naturally, that you won’t forget it. It’s too big, too important, too novel to be forgotten. The fact of the matter is that you are wrong.
You will forget it, or at least you’ll forget key details even if you retain the kernel of the idea itself.
For this reason, many famous poets, inventors, playwrights, and comedians will tell you that they have a system of notebooks or other recording devices to jot down notes. They are never more than thirty seconds away from a way to record their thoughts. Many people use note taking apps on their cell phones for this function, but a good old-fashioned pocket-sized notebook is just as good.
So why should you care?
Whether you are pursuing a creative career, or a more conventional career path, keeping track of your ideas is a great way to do what you do better. Not only are you less inclined to get distracted by following up on random ideas, but you are more likely to find useful ideas and insights that can improve your performance. Take notes during meetings, jot down ways that you can improve or eliminate redundant office procedures, record questions, and sketch ideas. These note-taking practices are effective ways of improving your performance.
Jotting down notes helps to improve your creativity and keep you focused on the task at hand. Instead of feeling the need to pursue a sudden whim, you can write it down and move forward knowing that you can return to it later. You will also find that among the random ideas are real gems. Resist the urge to organise your ideas or to dwell too long on any one ideas as you’re jotting them down. Development and organisation can happen later. Notebook style apps like Evernote are great for that, allowing you to move your notes into organised files at a later date.
Ideas for great jokes, research for potential articles, and random sketches can all find a home in your notebooks. Writer’s notebooks, bullet journals, an artist’s sketch pads are great examples of this process at work. So, the next time you are walking Fido, and a great idea pops into your head, take a moment and write it down. It might not be the next big thing, but it will leave space in your mind for new ideas to germinate.