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How To Capture Your Best Ideas

You have a lot of great ideas… but you might be asking yourself how to capture your best ideas so that they don’t end up forgotten or lost along the way.

Ideas are a natural resource.

The more ideas you come up with and use, the more ideas you get.

But only if you can find a way to effectively capture your best ideas… and then execute on them.

Let’s go through the 7 easiest ways for how to capture your best ideas, whether these are marketing ideas, business ideas, or any other type of idea.

1. Designate A Place to Capture Your Best Ideas

Ideas need a place to live, just like all of us. If you don’t have a designated spot for them to “land” when they appear, they’re likely to float back to where they came from.

You decide if your idea capturing device will be electronic, like an Evernote app, or if it will be a simple process like sending yourself an email and saving it in a folder.

Your preference might run more toward post-it notes, or blank index cards that you can organize in a small box.

Either way, if you do write down your ideas somewhere… make sure they don’t end up in the bottom of a pile of papers on your desk, or forgotten in a document hidden deep in folders on your desktop.

Make a decision today about where you’ll capture your ideas.

2. Keep An Idea Alive Long Enough To Write It Down

One of my biggest pet peeves is when a great idea comes to me when I’m away from my “idea capture space”… Like in the shower, while I’m walking around or driving, or having a conversation with someone.

There’s a reason that many of our great ideas come when we’re not sitting down in front of our computers at a desk… The different environment and the lack of focus on “figuring things out” or “thinking hard” means our brains can come up with a fresh perspective.

But how can you make sure that this flash of inspiration doesn’t get lost before you can capture it?

One way that I’ve dealt with this is to come up with a key word or visual reminder for myself. (You can also get one of these shower notepads!)

For example, if I have an idea for a blog post… I’ll try to sum it up with one main concept, or visualize what graphic I’d use to represent it. Like a blog post about planning for business emergencies, I might think of someone holding an umbrella.

From there, when I’m able to return to my idea capturing space I can draw out my visual like a doodle… Or write down my main word.

Usually, that’s enough to jog my memory the next time I’m able to work through my ideas. So the hardest part here is to keep this image or word in your mind until you can capture the idea.

That doesn’t mean you can’t think about anything else until then, but sometimes if an idea is SO good, I’ll do my best to focus on it repeatedly until I can get it out of my mind and onto paper or in my digital space.

3. Use an electronic capture device like “voice to text” on your phone

One of my best tricks for how to capture your best ideas is really to use what you have access to, and for many of us that means a phone or other electronic device.

This one is especially useful if you’re not a visual person, and if jotting down a doodle of your idea doesn’t help you retain concepts.

You can simply hit “record” on your phone or tablet and explain your idea.

There are several ways to retrieve these ideas later – you can listen to your voice recording directly, and use that fresh inspiration that motivated you when you recorded it. This is helpful because we’re often not as clear when we revisit an idea as when it first came to us.

Another option is to let your device transcribe your voice into text immediately. I prefer this method because it’s usually faster to scan some written notes at a glance, than it is to listen to a (sometimes!) rambling recording.

In this case, you can even have your idea transcribed into your electronic “idea capture location” directly (like Evernote, Scrivener, etc.). That way, you’ll always know where your notes are saved.

The only downside to this idea capturing process is that sometimes the “voice to text” technology can get a word wrong… and if you don’t review the transcript right away, you might not remember exactly what you meant originally.

So be sure to double check the content of your idea breakdown before you move back into the rest of your day.

4. Unblock Yourself Creatively Through Movement

If you’re here, you might not be the type of person who gets blocked creatively… in fact, you might have TOO many ideas all the time.

But nevertheless, it’s possible for all of us to get stuck in an idea rut and to feel creatively blocked (these timeless books might help!). It’s also possible that you seem to get the same kinds of ideas over and over, instead of fresh new ones.

That’s where moving your body comes to the rescue!

We’re not just brains attached to a body that “does nothing”… our entire body has cells and receptors that can help you generate ideas. That’s why taking a walk, going for a swim, and carrying something heavy can stimulate new ways of thinking.

Plus, when you’re moving your whole body it actives both sides of the brain, so you’re not just going to be forcing logical thoughts to the surface. Instead, they will be whole brain ideas that can totally transform your business and body of work.

Now you might be thinking, “Okay, so I’m out for a walk to clear my head and get some fresh perspective… what happens when an idea strikes?”

How to capture your best ideas at the gym, out in nature (without wireless signals?!) or in the pool is not obvious…

But if you use the recommendations from #2 and #3, you can do it! In fact, I’ve written entire blog posts while walking my dog at the park and dictating my thoughts through my phone.

Just remember, that these rough ideas will still need to be polished in a second step.

5. Work Through an Ideation Process to Generate and Capture Related Ideas

Sometimes the first idea you get isn’t the one you end up executing on. (Sad, but true!)

That means that having an ideation process that you can work through after you get that first stroke of genius is important. So you might have captured a great idea, but once you examine it closer… you might realize that it’s not the “best idea” after all.

That’s totally normal, and it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a good idea. It just means that there’s more work to be done to refine it, validate it, and maybe come up with related ideas that will achieve the same purpose but solve additional problems.

It’s useful to look at the existing ecosystem that you want your idea to enter into…

For example, you might look at competing ideas and products, see what customers are asking for or stumped about, and look at how you might collaborate with others, too.

Each of these inputs can help you refine your initial idea and make it stronger.

In the end, looking at your idea from a few different vantage points will lead to potentially more successful ideas for your business, so don’t just write down the first thing that comes to mind and call it a day.

6. Empty Your Idea Tank Each Day

As a creative person and entrepreneur, falling asleep can be tricky when there are a lot of thoughts and ideas going through your mind…

That’s why I recommend doing a brain dump of thoughts, tasks, and ideas every day. You don’t have to be militant about it, if you skip a day or two it’s not a big deal. But you’ll notice that the more often you clear your mind (preferably on paper and away from the digital distractions!) the better you’re able to generate and act on your ideas.

It’s easy to empty your idea tank. Just get a fresh piece of paper and start writing. Whatever comes to mind is exactly what needs to come out.

You could pick a theme or problem that you want to think on more creatively. Or, you could keep it more general.

Over time, you’ll have practiced priming the pump of your creative well… and you’ll be able to generate and capture fresh ideas more easily. It’s like a muscle that gets stronger, the more you use it.

7. Keep a Pen and Paper Next to Your Bed For Late Night Inspiration

If you frequently get great ideas before you fall asleep, in the middle of the night, or around nap time… you might also know that these are the ideas that tend to disappear most easily (hello, slumber!).

So the solution here is to keep a pen and paper next your bed to capture these best ideas as they pop up.

Now the eternal dilemma is this: if you’re half-asleep, should you open your eyes to write down your idea or try to keep sleeping?

Personally, I prefer to make a decision based on how tired I am and how great the idea is. So that means that half the time I do get up and scribble something down before falling back to sleep. Sometimes if I’m extra sleepy, I won’t turn on a light and I’ll leave it to my morning self to try to decipher my doodles later.

Other times, I use trick #2 and try to find an image or word anchor that I’ll be reminded of in the morning.

For example, if I usually make breakfast a certain way, I can imagine myself thinking about eggs in the morning and being reminded about how my idea involves cracking codes.

Although this is a tricky one to master, you’ll find that some of the best ideas come when we’re really relaxed… so it’s no surprise we need to be able to catch these ideas before we nod off into dreamland.

Once you have great ideas, it’s time to put them into action

At AccessAlly, we help creatives lead with learning and put their best ideas out into the world with our WordPress plugin.

Nathalie Lussier

I’m a writer, technologist, and regenerative farmer. I founded AccessAlly with my husband in one frantic weekend to solve my immediate course platform issues. Over a decade later the company has grown, and our product has evolved to serve millions of learners across the globe.

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