There is a concept that is so simple, yet requiring so much discipline, and in return will become the most valuable tool in your career in any creative industry:
Start Writing Every Idea Down.
Every idea with a hint of potential is in serious danger of disappearing into the depths of your sub consciousness. Of course it’s not lost forever, but it there is tremendous value in keeping your ideas in your conscious mind by structuring them outside of your brain. In time this will create the most valuable database you will ever have access to.
Because idea’s can strike at any time, any place and in any shape or form, it’s important be ready for them at any time and use a good structure for your ‘idea database’.
First of all, be prepared for ideas to strike at any time, especially when you least expect them. Have pen and paper handy to make quick notes. Don’t think you will do it later – if you are anything like me chances are you won’t and the idea is lost. Take pen & paper with you in the train to work, on your way home from school or doing grocery shopping.
Apart from pen and paper, there are more modern ways to note down ideas. My absolute favorite one is Evernote. It’s available on all platforms, including the iPhone – it synchronizes automatically and is also able to store pictures, or fast audio recordings. Alternatively you could use Google Docs – which has a better text editor but is slightly slower loading, and doesn’t have the great picture and audio note function.
Inspiration from the webpages is often stored in social bookmarking services like Digg, Technorati, del.icio.us and about a dozen other popular services. Though they all have their advantages and disadvantages, the most crucial part is to pick one and stick with it. Don’t scatter your ideas over multiple services.
I’d can recommend del.icio.us because it allows you to place notes with your bookmarks to remember the context of the web page when you felt inspired by it. Another good system is Tumbler – creating something of a mini blog which makes your ideas very searchable. Both del.icio.us and tumbler can add webpages from the browser within a few clicks which is vital to consistently bookmarking inspiration.
The final tip toward creating and organizing your idea database is to digitalize the ideas you have on paper. Make pictures of your memo’s and add them to your centralized database. Relying on the fragile and disorganized nature of a paper idea administration is really asking for trouble. As with anything of value, it doesn’t come easy, but I speak from experience when I say it is well worth the effort.
4 things to do after you’ve finished reading this
Now that you’ve heard the theory, it’s time to put it into practice. Here are the 4 simple things to do to complete the first step towards creating better ideas today:
- Find a pen or pencil and put it in your wallet/purse/jacket – anywhere you will have it on you at all times. Pen is better because it writes on the back of your hand when you are out of paper
- Pick a social bookmarking service and stick with it. Make it as easy as possible to post to the service of choice by placing bookmarklets in your browser.
- Buy a dummy (blank) book, notepad or simply some pieces of paper. Paper without lines is better because it challenges you to use the space more creatively and encourages visualizing your ideas.
- Make a Google Docs or Evernote account. It’s important to have your ideas available to you on one centralized place. Word or excel documents are locally stored and require manual synchronizing.