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How Simply Jotting Down Ideas Can Make You Smarter

How Simply Jotting Down Ideas Can Make You Smarter

An adult has an average of 50,000 thoughts every day. Now try to recall 100 of those thoughts from earlier today. Pretty hard, right?

It’s normal to forget most of them as our brains have to filter out unnecessary information so that we don’t go insane. [1] The problem is that we forget a lot of great ideas along the way.

Great ideas often come when a person is unprepared

Most of the time great ideas come when your brain is in “diffused mode”: Thoughts come to you in this state when you’re not intently focused, like when you’re daydreaming or zoning out in the shower.  Creative ideas come to us during this state of mind because this is when our minds are the most relaxed. This is when our brains connect different neural pathways to come up with brand new ideas (the same as how creativity allows us to connect the dots, our brains do this naturally in this state).  The problem is that because our brains are so relaxed, there’s no intention to mark down ideas that come along.

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Never trust your brain: it’s bad at memory

Very often the ideas that come to us during diffuse mode can be a bit abstract. Out of the box thinking, if you will. This is your best content. The high level, creative, new ideas that are going to take the world by storm.

Remember the genius, ground-breaking idea you came up with in the shower? The one that was going to revolutionize the world as we know it? Of course you can’t remember. Your monumental idea slipped through the cracks of your memory, never to be heard from again because you didn’t take the time to write it down.

In today’s race against time, we just can’t spare an extra moment to jot down the ideas that constantly pass through our heads. Some people may think that it’s even a waste of time. We think that if the thought is that important, we will remember it later and put it into action. But we don’t. And we’re just left with that empty vagueness- “I know I was on to something, what was it again?”

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Don’t be lazy, jot down the great idea no matter how confident you are that you’ll remember it

Keep recording tools within reach, but not directly in sight. If you set out a notebook and pen directly in front of you, you are no longer in diffuse mode and thoughts are not free flowing. But you want the notebook to be close enough, so that when the thoughts do come to you, it takes very little mental and physical effort to quickly jot them down.

Smartphone apps such as Evernote are a great option for this. Some others are recording apps, a waterproof notebook for the shower, your laptop, or simply a notebook and pen (this is my personal favorite, more authentic.)

Resist the urge to organize

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of immediately organizing your thoughts as they come to you. Don’t do it. Organizing is a separate task for later, when you switch into focus mode (the opposite of diffuse mode).

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Stick to the process of free thinking and writing down ideas and leaving them alone until later. If you try to organize them as they come, you’ll lose many ideas because you are too focused on a single idea. You’ll also lose motivation because you’re loading yourself up with work and complicating the process.

Review your ideas from time to time

Now that you have the ideas written down, you need to reinforce the ideas to turn them into something bigger. You should review your ideas around 3 times a week.

While reviewing you can filter out some of the less useful ideas, organize them, and start developing the potentially successful ones.

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Remember, most people have plenty of great ideas, just very few of them bother to jot them down. And those who do are the ones who succeed.

Reference

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Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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