Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
October 9, 2010 8:53 PM

Take Notes

How do you remember everything? Where do you keep those great ideas that pop into your brain at random moments?

Capturing ideas or bursts of genius is not as easy and/or obvious as one might think. Someone asked me where my ideas come from. It's hard not to laugh at a question like that (unless you take yourself too seriously). Like you, everything comes from my brain (be it conscience or unconscious). The challenge is in capturing and understanding (or deciphering) what it means and what it can be. Some stuff becomes a Blog post that you'll read here, other stuff is tweetable. Some things are perfect for clients, other ideas will be a part of my next business book. So, beyond the capturing and deciphering it's also about the final destination.

Capture your thoughts. Take notes.

Too many people think of taking notes... and they immediately think of school. They think of note taking as some kind of linear, clean and formulated process. It doesn't have to be. In fact, some of the best notes are the ones that would never make sense to anybody else, and they are the ones that you never look at again either. For years, I've taken notes in meetings. I hardly ever go back to them. In those instances, it's the act of writing them down that helps me to remember and focus. In other instances, I'll take notes to refer back to once (like ideas for a Blog post), but then there's no more need for them.

It's about how you capture them.

Here are my note taking tools...

  • Moleskine. I use two types of Moleskine notebooks. I use a super tiny one that fits in my back pocket and I use a soft-cover larger one for business meetings. Both of them are plain paper (no lines), have a black cover (the thin one). I don't get hung up on cleanliness... I get hung up on scribbling down the ideas.
  • iPhone. I use both the notebook application and Evernote. Admittedly, I am in purgatory here as I keep switching back and forth (not sure why, but it depends on my mood).
  • Text editor. If something requires more than a few lines, I'll use a simple text editor to let the ideas flow.
  • Windows Livewriter. I've tried them all and Windows Livewriter is the best Blog writing software. There are many times when I have ideas and I'm using the platform to just take notes. Sometimes it winds up as Blog content, but sometimes it doesn't.

Do you notice a trend?

My note taking is a mess (some trend!). It's all over the place. It's not simple. It's definitely not organized. No, that doesn't mean that I know where everything is (I don't). I'm looking for a better (more organized) system, but I know that when it comes down to it, it will have to be something that can be consistent and easy for me to adopt as a new habit. I am one of those people who can empty their pockets with napkins, business cards and random pieces of papers with ideas all over them (don't even open my briefcase where books, magazines and more random sheets of paper are all marked up). While you may see this as an unorganized nightmare, I'm fine with it. Why? Because I'm taking notes. I'm capturing everything. That's a whole lot better than most people, who don't capture anything because they see note taking as a task. It's a bad memory from school. It's a bad way to be if you really want to bring new ideas to life.

What's your take on taking notes?

By Mitch Joel