Don't Forget Your Great Ideas

by derek on October 18, 2007 · 16 comments

Dont Forget

Picture the following scenario – you are away from your normal work area when you have a great idea. You make a mental note of it and promise yourself that you will remember once you have a chance to get back to your work area and record the idea.
I’ll bet on at least one occasion you forgot the idea before you ever had the chance to record it.
That has happened to me – more times than I care to admit, although one could argue exactly how “great” my ideas actually were but that is a story for another time.
So what are you supposed to do?
One thing that I have been doing lately is to carry a notebook with me just about everywhere that I go. When I leave for work, I’ve got my dedicated “idea book” with me in case inspiration strikes while I am at the office. When I am out of town traveling, I’ve got the notebook right there with me.
I’m a pretty low-budget kind of guy so I just carry a plain old notebook. You might want to be a little more “first-class” like Darren Rowse from ProBlogger who has mentioned that he always has his moleskine notebook handy. Whatever suits your taste is just fine. The important thing is to have something with you where you can record your ideas. The notebook works great most of the time.
But what about while in the car?
Tonight I was driving home from work when I mysteriously discovered a rare moment of clarity while thinking about a series of posts that I am planning to write at Dad Balance.
Unfortunately it is not the wisest idea to try and break out the notebook and pen while driving 80mph 55mph down the highway. Not wanting to lose the moment, I opted to break out my cellphone which has a “voice memo” feature where I can record my little nuggets of wisdom.
Some might debate that fumbling with the cellphone buttons to find the voice memo feature is only marginally safer than actually writing in the notebook. While I’ve done this quite a bit, I have to admit that it is not the best option.
As I was recording my thoughts on the drive home tonight, I thought it would be a nice investment to pick up a digital voice recorder for capturing my mobile thoughts. This seems like it would be much easier than messing around with the cellphone and could potentially replace the notebook and pen completely.
With my notebook and cellphone, I’ve been much better at capturing the ideas that I used to do my best to remember only to forget them moments later. But there is always room for improvement.
Do you have your own system for recording ideas when you are away from your work area?
Photo courtesy of cbicenhour

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Heroes October 19, 2007 at 7:02 am

I think it really doesn’t matter in witch form you will save your ideas on.The notebook is one of the traditional methods of doing it and it’s a lot of easier,well not in the car at that speed, just have one more thing to say, i don’t like that voice recorders at all, i don’t know why, it just remains to me the notebook more important !


Nick October 19, 2007 at 3:10 pm

I personally use a variety of methods. I tend not to carry a notebook around when I’m not on my way to or from class, but I always have a pen. I will often times write an idea on my hand and then transfer it to paper when I get a chance.
I also always have a supply of scratch paper available to write ideas on (both at home and at work) as well as occasionally putting ideas down by making notes in my PDA.
I have used the voice memo feature on my cell phone several times while going down the highway, but don’t see a need for a voice recorder.


Dave October 19, 2007 at 3:44 pm

I do one of two things:
1) If I’m on a computer, I will create a draft post with the name of a post along with any relevant links. I have wayyy too many in my Wordpress admin, I need to get to writing 😉
2) If I’m on the road, I have my trust Treo 700W that I can pop a note or task in with an idea.
Between the two, I have a digital notepad at all times!


Thomas Sinfield October 19, 2007 at 4:38 pm

I find I forget a lot of my ideas because I don’t stop and write them down. Some nice tips!


Matthew Anton October 19, 2007 at 6:03 pm

I do the same thing…I always have my notepad with me in case I come up with a good idea..funny looking back through old notes and looking at which ones you put into practice successfully and which ones are still back burner; you may think at the time you’ll never forget it but you will so write it down! 😉


Austin Realty October 21, 2007 at 1:41 pm

I usually try and write stuff down on a notepad. I have tried voice recorders but found it to be a mess to listen to it later


lilbosley October 22, 2007 at 7:57 am

I have this notebook and pen that never leaves my bag. I call it my “unorganized organizer.” It’s where I jot down anything that pops into my mind–significant or not. But when writing is not possible (like when I’m in a bus or a moving car), I just try to play the idea over and over again mentally until I get to a place where I could jot it down.


derek October 22, 2007 at 10:29 am

@Heroes :: My preference is certainly the notebook but I have found when I try to remember things in the car that I end up forgetting at least some of the detail. Thanks for the feedback.
@Nick :: I thought the voice recorder might be easier than messing with the cell phone. Something with a simple record/stop button rather than having to navigate through menus and options.
@Dave :: Lol, I can only imagine what your list of draft posts looks like. But that does sound like a good idea for when you are sitting at the computer.
@Thomas :: Thanks for the feedback. I find that I may remember the basic idea but I lose some of the detail if I just try to remember.
@Matthew :: That is a great point about looking back at old notes to see some of the ideas you had and what came from them. It can be very enlightening.
@Austin :: You’re right that the voice record or digital memos can be harder to make sense of later. It took me awhile to transcribe all of my notes on my latest memo. I need a personal assistant, lol.
@lilbosley :: Thanks for the feedback and I love the term you coined with your “unorganized organizer.”


panama canal October 22, 2007 at 11:33 pm

great tips. sometimes as we get older its easy to forget stuff so writing them down will help


Education Blogger October 23, 2007 at 4:43 pm

Haha.. that is TOO funny…. I carry a notebook too! I bring it with me EVERYWHERE. Sometimes the best ideas come to me while I’m surfing sites at work, or just driving around running errands. I hate when an idea comes, and I don’t have a place to write it down. I inevitably forget it later on, which is really too bad because the most creative and original ideas seem to come when you least expect it! 🙂


derek October 23, 2007 at 10:33 pm

@Panama :: Thanks but who are you calling old? 😉
@Education :: Thanks for the feedback. Another time I have found that I need to keep a notebook handy is by the bed as I will often think of things as I digest the day before drifting off to sleep.


Rose Sylvia October 27, 2007 at 8:35 pm

For those who still drive a lot I suspect there are voice-activated recorders that you could clip to your visor or attach to the car dash.
For others notebooks are handiest. If you have as many ideas as I do you have to have a keyword searchable program or you’ll never find them again when you’re ready for them.
If anyone needs some extra ideas drop by and I’ll throw you as many of mine as you want. There is no way I’ll ever be able to use even ten percent of them anyway.


derek October 28, 2007 at 10:06 pm

Rose, that is a good idea with the voice-activated recorder. When I have to travel to the office, I spend a good deal of time in the car with commutes that have been taking 2+ hours each way due to construction.


Wendy Piersall October 31, 2007 at 6:32 pm

Heh. I love that you are flooded with ideas! I think it’s been pretty obvious on Dad Balance! 🙂
I hardly ever leave home anymore, but I swear to god that I hardly ever have my best ideas in front of the computer. It’s always when I’m cleaning, in the shower, or cooking, or something where the rest of my mind is occupied.
But if I ever do get those ideas when I am out and about, I just call myself and leave myself a voice mail. 😉


derek November 1, 2007 at 10:51 pm

Wendy, thanks for stopping by and sharing your tip about leaving yourself a voice mail.
I didn’t even think of that myself, although my thoughts when driving are usually just bits and pieces so I’d probably end up with 10 voice mails by the time I got home. 🙂


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