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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

More by this author

Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Last Updated on June 17, 2019

Ditch Work Life Balance and Embrace Work Life Harmony

Ditch Work Life Balance and Embrace Work Life Harmony

How do you usually go about your day?

Do you wake up in the morning, get ready for work, and then spend the whole day looking forward to being at home and unwinding?

We often hear about work life balance – having a good balance between work and personal time. Whilst this may sound like a smart idea, it can also imply that we should dedicate at least half of our time to work–and sacrifice time for our “personal life”.

To me, that seems… off balance. Because, the truth is, it’s nearly impossible to split your time equally between the two. And, you may end up stressing out if you’re not able to meet that expectation of balance.

Instead, why not think of having work life harmony instead?

With this mindset, you can actually integrate work into your life in a way that feels more complete. This way, you don’t need to view work and having personal time as separate.

So, how do you achieve work life harmony?

Work Life Harmony Explained

The difference between work life balance and work life harmony is pretty simple. With the former, there is an implication that you have to sacrifice your “life” for work. But, this is the worst way to go about things! How can you truly be at peace in life if you dread 8 hours of your day?

Work life harmony on the other hand, allows your work to be a part of your life. This means that you can choose to be happy both at home, and at work! Work no longer needs to be seen as the ‘bad’ or un-fun activity.

Having work life harmony also ensures you’re truly present in whatever place you find yourself.

Just take a look at Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon for example.

He uses a non traditional approach to work by making time for breakfast every morning with his family, doesn’t set his alarm before going to bed, schedules surprisingly few meetings, and still puts aside a few minutes every day to wash his own dishes.

He believes that all his staff should stop trying to achieve a ‘balance’ in their work and personal lives as that implies a trade off. Instead, he envisions a more holistic relationship between the two.

As the world’s richest man, he must be doing something right!

Rethink Time Management

Now, when we think of striking a balance, we usually associate it with time, don’t we? How much time are we spending at work versus how much time are we spending in our personal lives? Are we taking enough time to be with our loved ones, to do meaningful activities with others or even for ourselves, or are we just dedicating all our time to work?

This is the so-called-balance that many struggle with.

With work life harmony, we learn to rethink time management. By re-assessing how you manage your time, you’ll have a lot more of it. It’s incredible how much time can get wasted over the period of a day–especially when you’re not accurately tracking it.

Unfortunately, unless you’re consciously making an effort, your brain is not always the best at making accurate judgement calls when it comes to prioritizing. It tends to have a bias towards short term benefits and short term costs.

As there are often many more options our brains link to short term benefit; when you’re trying to focus on a task that gives you a long term benefit, that task usually becomes low priority. This is otherwise known as Priority Chaos.

In order to overcome this and be in better control of your time, identify the tasks that need the most focus to get accomplished. If it’s a big task, then it’s good to break it down into smaller bite-sized actions that will provide you with a clearer short term benefit.

When setting up tasks, give yourself a time limit. The brain has a bias towards short term benefits, and your attention span is limited, so if your tasks are going to take ages to complete, you’ll end up losing focus… and wasting time.

Once you have all your tasks written down, it’s time to prioritize them. Since you have a time limit, your focus should be on the top priority tasks. By doing this, you will already be able to get more done in less time at work!

Have Passion for What You Do

Managing your time is important in achieving that work life harmony. But, perhaps of greater importance, is loving what you do in life. One of the most effective ways to achieve a work life harmony is to really enjoy, or find a purpose, in what you do for a living. Even though everyone isn’t always lucky enough to find a position that pays them for pursuing their passion, you can strive to find meaning in what you are already doing, or pursue something new entirely!

For example, say you work at an office that sells paper. While many people wouldn’t consider this a world changing pursuit, I beg to differ. Think of all the individuals in the world that rely on paper. From creative types to quantum physics experts, your role at your workplace brings incredible value to many many people all over the world. You will have, without a doubt, helped bring a new idea into existence. Several new ideas to be precise.

So, think about what you’re doing now. Is it something that allows you to embrace your passion?

Or perhaps you might not even know what it is that you love or enjoy doing. Why not explore and reflect on what gives you joy and contentment? Is there an area or industry that you could see yourself exploring to experience that fulfillment?

Can you find a deeper purpose in what you’re already doing?

When you’re able to find meaning in your work, you’re that much closer to achieving work life harmony.

Don’t Be Intimidated By Obstacles and Limitations

Creating work life harmony is also about understanding yourself–which includes your limitations and past obstacles–as this allows you to become more resilient.

If you never had to experience struggles, challenges or setbacks, then you would never be forced to adapt and mature. So in theory, having to face obstacles in life is actually quite necessary.

Most of us think of setbacks and obstacles as negative. Though, if you’re able to maintain an optimistic attitude, you’ll almost always have a higher chance of success of overcoming those obstacles to reach your eventual goal.

Your attitude towards setbacks will define the outcome of whether you rise from the challenge or remain stuck in it. So, in order to achieve work life harmony, it’s important to have a resilient attitude as challenges will always come your way–especially when you strive to integrate work into your life, and not a separate or dominant part of life.

Delegate When You Need To

Of course, when you want to increase productivity and minimize the time or effort spent, a great way to do so is to delegate!

If you spend a lot of time doing tasks on your own that could be delegated to others (whether at work or at home) you’re losing a lot of precious free time that could otherwise be spent elsewhere.

At the end of the day, we all have a limited amount of time. So we should all be striving to create a harmonious work and living situation where we can find meaning in all that we do.

While an overall goal may be meaningful, not all of the milestones or tasks needed to get there may be meaningful. That’s because we have our strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Not every task is going to be enjoyable or easy to complete. That’s where delegation comes in.

Delegation simply allows you to leverage time from an external source, thus giving you opportunities to increase your own quality of time. Keep in mind that delegation should be done with deliberate attention, otherwise you may end up over relying on others.

If you find that you’re running into the problem of over delegating, then it may be time to re-evaluate your motivation for doing whatever it is that you’re doing.

Embrace the Circle and Become Happier and More Productive

Living in harmony is about feeling good about the ways in which you spend your time, despite how busy you may be. Your switch from work mode to a more personal mode should be effortless. It’s about integrating your personal life and the things you love into your busy work life!

It all begins with the shift in perspective. Understanding what your passions are, and learning to be resilient, before taking a different approach to the way you manage your time and everyday tasks.

These are steps that you can start taking to move away from balance to harmony. 

Featured photo credit: Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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