You’re standing in the shower, humming to yourself as hot water cascades over your shoulders, and suddenly—voila!—serendipity smiles down and you have a flash of unmitigated brilliance. You’re a genius! This is the idea to end all ideas.
You’re sure you couldn’t possibly forget this amazing moment of inspiration, so you go about your business safe in the knowledge that you and your muse are in sync. Except, when you get home after a long day and a treacherous commute, the muse has abandoned you and you can’t seem to recall that moment of morning insight. Surely it’ll come to you once you’ve had some time to unwind, won’t it?
If you’re like most people, there’s a good possibility it won’t. Ideas are notoriously elusive and hard to hold on to. Here are a few tips to help you capture them and keep them.
Pick up some bathtub markers
Shower inspiration is real. Consider getting some washable bathtub markers that will allow you to write out the premise for your potential bestselling novel or award-winning blog article right there on the shower wall. Just remember to record that thought someplace permanent before you clean up and literally wash your idea down the drain.
Get a notebook
It may seem old-fashioned in the electronic age, but keeping a pen-and-paper notebook has advantages. For starters, writing in longhand boosts memory, and remembering them can make your ideas seem more real and encourage you to actually do something about them. Plus, if your process is more visual or tactile, you can doodle, store photos or clips, or even press a leaf or flower.
Send yourself an email
Ideas can spring on us at the most inconvenient times—in the shower, as we’re drifting off to sleep, or while we’re walking the dog. Grab your phone and send yourself a quick email to help you remember. If you’re dripping and need to dry off, or driving and looking for a place to pull over, talk to yourself. Speaking your thoughts out loud can improve memory retention and help you hang on to that rascally idea until you can jot it down.
Plenty of productivity gurus love Evernote, and for good reason—it’s the perfect tool for capturing and storing ideas. It’s available on all kinds of digital platforms, so it’s accessible just about anywhere. But Evernote can quickly become unmanageable if you don’t have some sort of organizational plan.
The key to keeping things on track in Evernote is a function called notebooks. You can create notebooks for various topics and then use them to categorize your ideas. Let’s say you’ve decided that 2017 is the year you’re going to write a blog. You might create an Evernote notebook called Blog Ideas. Then, as you save notes to your Blog Ideas notebook, simply tag them so they’re easy to sort through later. For example, you might create tags such as article topics, royalty-free images, design inspiration, articles to reference, bloggers to follow . . . you get the gist. Notebooks make sure that your great blogging ideas don’t intermingle with, say, your collection of gourmet macaroni and cheese recipes.
Keep a digital log
If Evernote isn’t quite for you, consider keeping a digital record of your ideas in something like Google Docs. A single document where you drop all your brilliant insights can work well if you remember to use it consistently. (Pro-tip: A bookmark on your browser bar can help keep your idea log within easy reach.)
Here at Grammarly, we like to brainstorm ideas on a spreadsheet. If the tidy, linear look of a spreadsheet works for you, and especially if you know how to use columns to tag and sort, you can save your creative right brain inspiration in an organized way that makes your rational left brain proud.
Revisit your ideas
The best method for storing your ideas is one that encourages you not only to keep them but to use them. Keeping track of your ideas is only useful if you have a plan to come back and put the best ones into action. Make a point of going through your idea file every few months to see if any of those amazing insights are worth pursuing.
Finding what works best for you will probably involve trial and error. If you have a habit of dumping everything into Evernote, for example, but you never look back to see what you’ve saved, then you clearly haven’t found the right process yet. Maybe a cool notebook or planner is more your speed. Or maybe, like author Anne Lammot, you’ll be the sort of person who keeps index cards and pens within easy reach. Some creatives have been known to use a pen to scrawl a brilliant idea on a napkin or even the back of their hand. Or maybe you’re eccentric enough to get away with writing on the wall. (Disclaimer: Grammarly is not responsible for any havoc this may wreak on your relationship with your landlord, roommate, or significant other. May we suggest Post-It Notes as an alternative?) Whatever method you choose, make it a creative catch-all that’s fun to revisit so you’ll be motivated to return to it and get to work on making your best ideas manifest.
Do you have a method for saving your ideas? Share a comment and let us know about it.