How to Keep Track of All Your Ideas
Photo courtesy of Cyril Rana.

How to Keep Track of All Your Ideas

Written by Joanna James-Lynn

Topics: Productivity

If you’re anything like me, you have several exciting ideas a day. Sometimes it’s an idea for a business. Sometimes it’s an idea for a new hobby. Sometimes it’s an idea for a quest or an activity that you’d like to do.

Having that many ideas floating around in your head can be quite stressful. Your mind gets full and you worry that you’ll forget all of these great ideas.

From time to time, you find yourself with a spare moment and somehow end up bored because you’ve forgotten all the things you wanted to do. Luckily, keeping a record of your ideas is pretty straightforward. Just follow the three steps below and you’ll never be short of them again.

1) Decide what to record

The ideas I have tend to fall into one of three categories: things I’d like to do, things I’d like to learn, and things I’d like to make. I like to keep these different types of ideas in three different records.

A Bucket List

Almost everyone knows what a bucket list is these days; it’s a list of the things you want to do before you die. Common bucket list items include climbing the Eiffel tower, swimming with dolphins, and learning a foreign language.

If you haven’t already got one, start a bucket list to record all the different things you want to do, see, and experience in your life. Start by thinking of activities that fall into the following categories: travel, career, relationships, adventure, education, money, and body.

A Would-Like-To-Learn List

A would-like-to-learn list is simply a list of everything you’d like to learn. Mine contains everything from paragliding to how to grow my own vegetables.

Take a moment to jot down all the things you’d love to learn. Don’t censor yourself here. You don’t actually have to learn all of these things. You’re just creating a record of everything that sounds interesting to you, so that you can look back at it the next time you have time to pick up a new skill or interest.

An Ideas Log

An ideas log is a record of all your ideas. They could be business ideas, cool names for bands, novel plots, the beginnings of a quest, a few lines of a poem, or any other thoughts you think might be worth keeping hold of.

You might want to organize your ideas log into sections, to make it easier to search through your brainwaves. For example, if you’re interested in entrepreneurship, architecture, and songwriting, you might wish to record your business ideas, building designs, and lyrics separately. Alternatively, you could collect all your notes in one place and use a coding system, perhaps using different colors, to organize your ideas.

2) Decide which format to use

There are lots of different methods you can use to store your notes. Pick the one that you’ll find easiest to use and stick with.

A Phone or Computer File or Folder 

You can save your ideas in a computer or mobile file, such as a Word document, or a folder of lots of files. Evernote is great for this.

If possible, choose an app or program that will work on both your computer and your phone, so that you can make notes whether you’re at home or on the go. Make sure to back up your files too, so you can’t lose them.

A Website

If you have a website or blog, you could publish your ideas on their own web page. On my site, I have separate pages for my bucket list and my would-like-to-learn list. I also have a wish list up there. Having it all in one place feels great, and other people like being able to see them too. My mum often uses them as Christmas present inspiration!

Of course, only choose this option if you’re comfortable with the whole world being able to see your ideas. Alternatively, you could keep these pages in draft form or hide them in a private access area.

A Book

If you’re more of a paper person, buy yourself a nice scrapbook or journal and turn it into a Me-Manual or a commonplace book.

Decorate it to suit your style, stick in any photos or magazine cuttings you come across, and have fun with it!

A Folder

If you know you’re likely to want to save lots of bits of paper, how about storing all your ideas in a folder or box file? You could even have one for each different project, part of your life, or type of record.

A Box 

If you’re going to need to keep track of bigger items, such as books and fabric samples, try using a box. Just don’t store it in the attic, because otherwise you might forget about it!

3) Start logging your ideas.

Once you’ve decided what you’re recording and how you’re going to record it, start recording your ideas as and when they come to you. If you can, keep your log(s) with you at all times, so that you can capture your ideas straightaway. Phones and bits of paper are good for this.

If you can’t note down your ideas straightaway, make sure to write them down as soon as you can. We’ve all had that amazing idea that we couldn’t imagine ever forgetting, and then lost it. Don’t rely on your memory alone.

You’ll Never Lose Your Best Ideas Again

If you manage to log your ideas as they come to you, you’ll never have trouble remembering or finding them again. When you next find yourself in need for a change, deciding on your goals for the year, or itching to start a new project, you’ll have plenty to choose from.

You’ll also be able to relax, knowing that your ideas are safe. And with all that mental space freed up, you’ll probably come up with even more ideas!

Your Turn

How do you keep track of all your ideas? Share your tips in the comments below.

jo_authorbioJoanna L K Moore (Jo) is a thinker, writer, maker, and doer. She writes about self-awareness and living a life that suits who you are at JoannaLKMoore.com. A multipotentialite through and through, Jo’s also a linguist, a runner, a powerlifter, a virtual assistant, the creator of DIY Self-Esteem: How To Start Liking Yourself, and an aspiring LGBT chick lit author.

23 Comments

  1. Nela says:

    I wrote a blog post about this very subject a few months ago because I know many people must be struggling with it..

    I won’t link it here because I’m not sure if it’s OK, but the gist is that I have a folder in Google Drive with subfolders by topic and then I post text documents, audios and sketches inside.

    I love Drive because it’s accessible from my phone so I can always add new stuff to it :)

  2. I am currently working on this. Right now I’m using a couple of notebooks and Google Drive, but I see a shiny new laptop in my future :)

  3. T Michael Salter says:

    I started doing this some time ago in a “Field Notes” brand notebook contained in a handcrafted leather cover. It’s where I collect anything that I want to remember, whether it is an idea for an article, a design for a project I want to complete, or a “Do Today” list. This approach works for me because it all seems more real to me if I write it down rather than type. And the slower pace of handwriting allows me to do some edits as I write. The best part is that I can track progress over time (my own growth or a specific project).

    • Joanna Moore says:

      Love that. I tried to keep a kind of ‘commonplace book’ a year or two ago, but I didn’t carry it around with me, so it didn’t work. Evernote works best for me because I can have it with me on my phone. But I do love figuring things out on paper!

  4. Connie Nagele says:

    My favorite tool is Trello, I have a board for each category. Attaching documents, images is easy and I can email website links. The bonus is that can turn my ideas into projects and action items.

  5. Lela Selmo says:

    I use Pinterest for saving visual reminders of things I want to learn, DIY projects and places I’d like to visit, some of which fall in the bucket list category. Also on Wunderlist on my phone I keep a list of projects I know I will be working on in the immediate future and a list of things I need to acquire before I start each job. Typically some of these projects have a deadline, like a friend’s birthday.

    • Joanna Moore says:

      Ooh, good points! I’d forgotten that I use Pinterest to collect ideas. I have a ‘to try’ board that’s mostly full of weird baking concoctions but also funny outfits for kids!

  6. jimothi says:

    1. Always carry a notebook and something to write with. When they are filled, I date the spines, and store them away in a single place. I can always remember when I first started working on a certain project, or first met a certain person, so I can just go back and find information from my notebooks from that period of time.
    I prefer to only write in one notebook at a time, but I will use more if I really need to. Right now I have a small notebook in my purse, a big journal around the house, and a small waterproof notebook that I carry in my pocket at work. 12 years ago I had a crisis of ideas, after obtaining employment in which I get wet every day. Notebooks were destroyed in a week. No notebook: No ideas. This is an important enough issue for me that now I choose the clothes that I wear for work so that I always have a pocket for a waterproof notebook available. I still have the water job, but now I get ideas at work.
    2. For projects that are strictly in front of the computer, I use evernote. I like that the notes are in one big pile by date.
    3. I have used just about every mind mapping software out there too. Mind mapping puts your ideas into context with all of your other ideas, and projects.
    4. If I am in front of the computer, I email ideas to myself. Ideas look different by the light of my your inbox.
    5. I have used my blog this way too, but it gets my blog junked up pretty quick.
    6. Once a set of ideas is starting to transform into a project, it is time to find a home for it. This is a place to put the project away that contains ideas, supplies, tools, and a separtate space for completed work. Now, I can put the project away for months or years at a time, then return to it with very little fuss.

    • Joanna Moore says:

      Good points!

      You’ve made me realise that I need to get better at organising my notes. I do ok in Evernote but every now and then I need a tidy up.

      I can’t stand mindmapping! My brain just hates it! Funny because it makes so much sense!

      I text ideas to myself if I’m waking. :-)

  7. This is fantastic! I love how you’ve put systems to make sense of what I always just think of as my having ADHD (I’m self-diagnosed, but it’s pretty obvious). I’m all over the map, constantly thirsty for more and more and more information).

    I use a hybrid of paper and tech (I’ll share my tool in a sec). My problem with paper is that I have 157 (not really) notebooks filled with all my randomness, because I just grab whichever one is closest to me when a thought or idea strikes. I lovelovelove your idea of sectioning it out, so there’s some rhyme or reason to it. I’m totally going to implement that!

    My tech tool that’s been a lifesaver for me in this regard is Trello. I have a running list of Bucket List stuff I want to do, ecourses I want to take, ecourses I’ve signed up for and need to actually DO, etc. I love being able to get to it on my phone or desktop and the free version has all the capability I need.

    Thanks for the great post!

    • Joanna Moore says:

      I could not cope with life if I couldn’t record everything! I always thought that the hardest thing about being in Big Brother (the TV programme) would be not having a pen and paper!

      It sounds like Trello is quite popular for this stuff! Maybe I just need to get more used to it!

      :-)

  8. Simon says:

    Interesting post – thank you.

    As a multipotentialite I find it ESSENTIAL to have somewhere for my relentless stream of thoughts to ‘go’ and to keep track of everything that’s going on. For this I have developed my own system involving a mixture of tools:

    Evernote – used as a digital filing cabinet for things I need to keep. I scan physical documents in using a ScanSnap scanner and send electronic documents straight to the relevant area. I have the Evernote app on my phone so I can get instant access as well as on my PC.

    OneNote – for keeping digital notes, sketches, mindmaps, lists, ideas…everyday brain dumps I want to keep. I have it structured against a balance wheel of the major areas of life – spirituality, development, social, health, work, play, life planning and family. I use a separate OneNote structure for use in my professional life. Again, I have the accompanying app on my phone for quick access as well as OneNote installed on my home and work PCs (since OneNote is usually installed with Office it’s not a problem to use it at work).

    (Note: I did originally try to use Evernote for everything, but it just got messy. I find the OneNote/Evernote combo with defined and distinct roles works much better.)

    3. Paper notebook. I use Leuchtturm ‘Whitelines’ notebooks (like this one: http://amzn.to/1V1AcPA) for general scribblings, rants and thoughts which need to come out immediately. The advantage of the whitelines notebook is that I can scan any pages I want to keep using a free app and send them digitally to Evernote, email or Dropbox so they’re ‘remembered’.

    4. I ‘glue’ all this together with hybrid versions of “Getting Things Done” (GTD), “Eat that Frog” and “Personal Kanban” for capturing, filtering, prioritising, focussing and maintaining energy throughout tasks.

    Hope you guys find this useful. Ultimately we need to develop a system that works for us, and in my experience that’s best achieved by trial and error. Before I developed my system I used to suffer from having lots of notebooks all over the place with rare nuggets of gold strewn randomly through their pages (even with printouts inserted between pages!) so I could never get rid of any of them and knowing I couldn’t easily find what was contained within only added to my angst and mental chaos. Now everything is part of one structure and tagged for easy retrieval it’s like a weight’s been taken off. I wish I’d have found this years ago!

    If anyone wants more detail on my system get in touch and I’m happy to share. I’m not perfect at it but I’m a whole lot better at it than I used to be! :)

    Simon

    simonpollard.net

  9. Leanda Miller says:

    I’m supposed to be catching up on a pile of Uni posts but I started to read this & got sucked in (it’s a positive avoidance mode topic so I don’t think I need to feel the least bit guilty). I like being able to put my hands on what I need but I have become so disorganised since moving – I really need to do take up some of these suggestions before I’m buried under a pile of ‘to do’ stuff. I came upon this site the other day, & at a quick glance, I think it looks like it has similar ideas to some of points made here. http://www.quicksprout.com/the-advanced-guide-to-content-marketing-chapter-5/

    Thanks for the inspiration…

  10. Victoire says:

    I find Workflowy to be the magical answer to organising thoughts and ideas.
    It’s the ultimate listing tool!

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