April 5, 2010

The Best Way To Capture Your Thoughts

blackboard 225x310
We have 50,000 ideas run through our minds daily. Ideas are like wet slippery fish. You got to get 'em when they show up or they will slip away never to be seen again
--- Earl Nightingale

How do you capture your thoughts?

Here are five possible places
  1. your mind
  2. your portable computer
  3. your smartphone
  4. a voice recorder
  5. on paper
Let’s explore the options.

Your Mind

Unless you have a photographic memory and an effective retrieval system, your mind makes a lousy storage place. That's the principle behind David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology.

Even if you have a mind like a … what's the name of that animal that never forgets? Even if you remember everything, how do you delegate without records?

Portable Computer

You can use your computer but it’s difficult to flip to the right page and to view multiple pages at the same time. If you’re already using your computer, you’ll need to an application that’s handy for taking notes. That might disrupt your thinking if your ideas are related to another window or web page you were viewing.

What about a tablet? The better ones let you use your handwriting, which is very convenient, but you still face the same issues as with a computer.


When ideas strike, you're more likely to have your smart phone than a computer or tablet. Adding content is slower your speed of thinking. The screen is small. You may be somewhere you can’t talk. What you say might get overheard.

Unlike paper, you can use your smartphone in the dark.

Voice Recorder

A voice recorder seems like a great idea. If you don't have one, your phone may have this function. In a pinch, you can leave yourself a voicemail.

What do you do with these recordings? Unless they're transcribed automatically, you spend time listening to them and transcribing them yourself. Delegation becomes a problem until you do. You can’t talk aloud everywhere, which limits usability.


It’s tough to beat paper. It’s portable. It’s cheap. It’s fast. It’s available widely. The same for pens and pencils.

Does filling an 8.5”x11” page intimidate you or use up too much space. Try smaller pages. A pad works better than a spiral bound notebook. A pad lets you reorganize your thoughts by rearranging the pages on your desk. I often use lined yellow 5" x 8" or unlined white 5.5" x 8.5" (cut an 8.5”x11” page in two).


What do you do with the paper? You probably want the content on your computer. Here’s what you can do.
If the content can stay in handwriting, just scan it. Here you’ll be glad that you used smaller paper because you’ll be able to read the whole page on the screen in either portrait or landscape. Try that with 8.5x11” paper.

If you want the content in your computer, you can type it but it’s probably faster to dictate with Dragon NaturallySpeaking and then edit.


PS Whatever you use, do catch those elusive slippery fish!

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