Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Write it Down

Technique Tuesday

I planned to discuss another little system this week, but I want to make a case for the importance of having a simple and consistent way to capture ideas as they arise and hold them until you have time to act upon them.

Why?

Twice this week, on consecutive days no less, I had an epiphany as I showered about topics I wanted to cover in this blog. The ideas were so good that I was confident I would remember. But one thing and then another required my attention and ... well you know where this is going.

Psychologists say (perhaps apocryphally) that the average person can only keep track of seven things at a time. If something new requires your attention, then one of the seven things you're currently tracking falls off the list. (In a number of cultures, seven is a holy number. Coincidence?)

I try to keep pen and paper nearby for this very purpose. Some people like notebooks or bound journals. I prefer my clipboard of power* and a stack of scratch paper.

Where the relative permanence of binding calls for something significant, scratch paper is definitionally expendable and so it doesn't matter what or how I write. But an obligation (or lack thereof) to write something significant is only half the story: I use my scratch paper as a temporary repository to hold the idea only long enough for me to act upon it. Others like the bound notebooks because they want a record of their ideas.

My point is not to argue for scratch paper over notebooks. Rather, I want to encourage you to develop a little system for a) capturing and b) acting upon your ideas. And for those of you who try to do this, let me encourage diligence.

* A sleek, all-aluminum clipboard that never runs down its batteries and is almost as stylish as the fruit-themed products from Steve's Job Shop in Cupertino.

Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net