How to be Intentional about Capturing Ideas

You may have been to meeting with your boss that requires you to write something down or record meeting minutes or minutes from the meeting. You may have been driving to work and had a great idea or been in the shower and wanted to write something down, but couldn’t. These are all typical times when you might want to capture an idea.

The Idea Capture Method

Epiphanies, Bright Ideas, Moment of Inspiration, and Flashes of Brilliance

It’s kind of the opposite of writers block where you’re sitting down in front of a computer screen or looking at a blank screen or a blank sheet of paper and having to figure out new ideas. What we’re talking about here is capturing ideas when they come. We’re talking about being intentional about that idea capturing process.

Being Prepared to Capture Ideas When they Come

In order to be intentional about capturing ideas, you need to be prepared for when ideas need to be captured. For example, let’s say you are in a meeting at work. What materials are you bringing to capture that material? For those ideas you typically would have a notepad and pen and you’re jotting down ideas as they are spoken. But if you’re really intentional about idea capture you might have a notepad in the car and a marker system on a suction cup in your shower. I recorded this blog post using voice recognition on my phone while driving, for example.

A Repeatable Method for Capturing Ideas

What I’d like to propose is a repeatable method for capturing ideas in any environment using a variety of tools. For example, you may find that for a work meeting it is better to record ideas on Post-it notes instead of lines on a paper or you might find that it’s better to use Evernote or to record the audio on your phone while driving rather than using the voice recognition function in a Note. However you might find that the voice recognition software built into modern smartphones can help you record ideas while driving, but you might find that the crayon in the shower is the best technology for that environment.

How to Process New Ideas Once You Have Them?

This prompts the question: What do you do with the ideas once you have them written down or recorded in some fashion? That brings us to the next part of the method: organizing the ideas that you’ve captured. Captured ideas can be organized using an even wider variety of tools than the ones used to capture them. Typical tools to organize ideas include:

  • pen and paper
  • software like word processors or spreadsheets
  • apps like Evernote
  • Post-it notes

What matters is that you create a system that’s useful to you to turn the ideas into action.

Turning Ideas into Action: Execution

The third phase of the method is to turn ideas into reality. After a meeting, typically what happens is you’ll come back to your desk and you’ll type up the notes from the pen and paper into a Word document or an email and you’ll send those out to the attendees of the meeting. They might store the document on the file server or Dropbox and then it may or may not be referenced sometime before the next meeting to remember what you did at the previous meeting. What if instead each idea was treated as an individual object instead of a line in a document? This is similar to how a database works and a simple database creation tool called “Trello” works. It’s similar to creating bulletin boards and a bunch of white note cards that go on those bulletin boards. Since every idea is an object, it can easily have an owner and a next-action step. From there, it’s all about accountability.

The 3 Step Method from Idea Capture to Execution

  1. Capture the ideas however you can
  2. Treat each idea as an individual object
  3. Assign each idea a next step