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Last Updated on July 19, 2018

Secrets to Organizing Thoughts and Ideas (So You’ll Never Lose Ideas!)

Secrets to Organizing Thoughts and Ideas (So You’ll Never Lose Ideas!)

Have you ever become aware of your thoughts? I mean truly aware. If so, you’ll probably have noticed that they’re disordered, disorganized and racing rapidly around your mind. Imagine if you could harness this and control it for your benefit!

This article aims to give you advice on organizing thoughts and ideas, providing you seven tools to help you decrease the chances of losing your ideas and make the most of them.

It’s helpful to think of each point as successive steps along the way. Here’re 7 simple steps you should start trying on how to organize your thoughts:

1. Keep a notebook in your car

Ideas seem to be able to come at any time. You need to be ready for this. As such it can be a great idea to keep notebooks in places where inspiration may appear.

It’s as the film maker Noah Baumbach once said

“I find a lot of writing happens when you’re not actually at the computer. So I carry a notebook”

Your car is a prime location to keep one.

Suddenly grabbing a notebook when driving can be extremely dangerous however. So if you have a method to record your voice while driving this is a great and safe substitute.

Alternatively, just keep driving until you find a safe place to pull over and write your idea down.

2. Keep a pen and paper on your bedside table

You probably know that your dreams aren’t just randomly occurring, each dream we have can tell us something about our subconsciousness, the meanings behind our thoughts and feelings.

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Therefore it can be a good idea to be aware of your dreams, and with it, write down anything significant about them that springs to mind.

Our dreams are easily forgot, therefore keeping a notebook can be a great way to harness your mind when it’s at this extremely creative period.

Even when you’re not dreaming, lying down trying to sleep can often let your mind wander freely bringing your ideas to focus.[1] This can be quite annoying if you’re actually trying to sleep.

Keeping a notebook beside your bed can both help you note down your ideas ensuring you won’t forget them. As you’ve written you idea down, you don’t need to waste your energy trying to ensure you remember them. This might help you get to sleep faster.

3. Don’t organize the ideas as you jot them down at first

When you’re writing down your ideas, it can be tempting to ensure they’re written in an organized, ordered fashion. Fight this urge.

When you’re noting your ideas, you might find more and more ideas come at you. Taking time to ensure they’re immediately well organized can slow you down.

Look at the following picture:

    It’s a mess of hastily written thoughts and crossed out ideas. The notebook above belonged to Mark Twain, one of the most important American writers of all time.

    Take a look at the following too:

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      This one seems to have no control or order at all. It belonged to Kurt Cobain.

      Both of the above messy notebooks belonged to some truly visionary and brilliant creatives. Looking at their notebooks, it is clear that their focus was on the ideas themselves and not how they appeared on the page.

      I’m not saying that they should always be disorganized. You might find this will be unhelpful in the long run.

      By all means, come back to your notes and organize them. But this shouldn’t be your priority at first.

      4. Compile your ideas in one place (e.g. use apps like Evernote)

      All of the points above are about the vital moments to catch and keep an idea before it goes. However, that isn’t enough. Your ideas need to be easily accessible.

      As such, it is a great idea to keep your notes and ideas in a single place.

      It’s great having all of your ideas down. But having them written in different places or formats can become a hindrance.

      Copy your notes and have them in a single location. This can be a separate notebook but there are a number of great Apps which allow you to keep and store your notes right on your computer or smartphone. I recommend Evernote.

      You might find ideas written in one place relate to another one written. Plus revisiting your notes can be a great way to bring them back to your mind, perhaps inspiring more and better ideas.

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      5. Organize your ideas

      Now that your ideas are compiled, it’s time to organize them in a way that is helpful and easy to understand.

      One quick and easy way to organize your ideas is to categorize them.

      You might have noticed some of your ideas are linked or related thematically. Consider what links them them note them under this idea. If you have many ideas, you could even make subcategories.

      For example, if you’re a fiction writer, you could group some of your ideas under “Stories” and the form you think the story should be told: a drama script, a novel, or short story etc. Then with separate subgroups for genre such as historical fiction or sci-fi.

      With this, you can develop on ideas in a way that is quick and efficient.

      6. Kill your darlings

      Once you’ve got all your ideas written down and organized. It’s time for the real work to begin — to figure out what ideas to keep and what ideas to get rid of.

      “Kill your darlings” is an important advice for writers. It means that you have to get rid of your most “precious” ideas and words.

      Not all ideas are equal. In your notes, there could be a truly brilliant original idea but the chances of them all being like this are unfortunately slim. There is no point wasting your time on an idea that will never work.

      Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell which of your ideas are great and which are not. Trusting your gut can be a good way, talking to people about your ideas and seeing how they react can also be a good idea.

      If you aren’t sure how to decide if an idea is good enough, take a look at this guide:

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      5 Ways To Find Out If Your Idea Is Worth Pursuing

      Remember to get rid of your emotions surrounding your ideas and approach them in an honest and objective way.

      Once you’ve trimmed your ideas down to the very best, you can work on making them a reality.

      7. Make your ideas actionable

      You could have an amazing idea for something but if you don’t work on your ideas, nothing happens.

      You need to start making your ideas a reality. Make them actionable.

      A great way to do this is to approach each idea in turn and ask yourself the following questions:

      • How can I make this relevant to my everyday life?
      • Which ideas would be most beneficial to act on today and why?
      • Is there a common theme emerging here? If so, how could I combine these ideas together to make them more powerful?

      These questions enable you to work out which idea is most actionable and what idea you should first start working on.

      With the above seven steps in mind, you’ll be able to master your ideas making potential.

      With them, your thoughts and feelings can be utilized to boost your productivity.

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

      Reference

      More by this author

      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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      Last Updated on February 18, 2019

      How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

      How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

      These days, in a world with cognitive, AI, and extraordinary advances, we have failed at the most basic stimulus: motivation. Why do I say so? Just take a look at these statistics:

      58 percent of managers said they didn’t receive any management training as per a CareerBuilder.com survey. Only 12% of employees leave their jobs because of more money. Research indicates that around 80% of employees leave their jobs due to “lack of appreciation”. Due to fear of failing, more than half of American workers don’t take their paid vacations. 53% of Americans are unhappy at work (not engaged). And 1 in 3 are working in a field they don’t like.[1]

      Archaic people management and HR structures are the root cause.

      “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

      So how to motivate employees and boost team productivity?

      Here are 3 key things that you can do to motivate your employees and boost team productivity:

      1. Run Your Team/Group/Company like a Lean Startup

      The Lean Startup phenomena by Eric Ries has been socialized across millions all over the globe. In a nutshell, it is a methodology for developing businesses and products, which aims to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable; this is achieved by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning.[2]

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      Encourage Your Employees

      When you empower your employees (or family members) to do what they deem to be best for a particular roadblock, idea, or improvement, you create magic. You create genuine trust. You enable innovation. The result is happy, inspired employees who feel they have a say in the grand cosmic stage at work.

      Note that increasing the competency level of employees and coaching and mentoring them along the way is key. You yourself, need to do the same. Nourish your brain – and get a mentor that will keep you at the edge of your game.

      Offer Rewards

      Motivation is also intrinsic. The startups I have worked at offered instant rewards — not just fat checks or equity increments, but Oscar-style nominations.

      The non-monetary rewards were actually more coveted, and grandiose: lunch with the CEO, tickets to an Obama fund-raiser, horse-back riding with a world-class equestrian.

      Compare this to a dodgy, corporate, white-cubicle dinosaur that had a “yearly performance review” where both parties dread the conversation. In a world of instant WhatsApp messages, having a conversation about performance, likes and dislikes cannot just happen annually in 60 minutes. Employees need to be rooted in the belief that their manager genuinely cares about them.

      Give Autonomy

      Another key attribute is autonomy. Most employees start brushing their resumes and cruising LinkedIn when their hands are tied in their current positions: approval forms, long meetings, escalations, and more meetings. In the world of agile and scrum masters, deliberating for the sake of deliberating is poison. You will choke the very employees that giddily accepted the job initially to “change the world”.

      Within a reasonable realm of assessment and deep-dives, trust your employees to do the heavy lifting. Give them access to the knowledge, people and resources that help them directly make the choices that will shape the future of your team, and your company.

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      Eliminate yourself as the bottleneck – and interject yourself as a benevolent, servant leader that is the symbol of high-performing organizations.

      2. Apply the 90/90/1 Rule

      I recently saw a video by Deepak Sharma (a leadership adviser) about productivity and this principle stuck with me. Here’s what it’s about:

      Devote the First 90 Minutes of Your Day to Important Project

      For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your day to your most important project—nothing else. Do this for yourself and your employees.

      We usually get sucked into the most wasteful, operational activities in the morning which robs our focus, and steers us into an unwanted rabbit hole. So mute your notifications, avoid the temptation to check your exploding inbox, and scroll your Instagram feed later. Instead, focus on that ONE thing that will provide real value to you, your team, or your business/company/home.

      Apply this rule to yourself – and your team. Your team will thank you. Note: If you’re feeling really stretched for time, you can always hack the rule by testing out a “45/45/1” version.

      A To Do Scheduling System

      Another version of this is to use the Kanban concept, developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota. Kanban is a scheduling system employing boards and cards.

      The most basic version is a canvas with “To-do”, “Doing”, and “Done” boards (or columns). Each activity or task is a “card” that moves from one column to the other. I use Trello (a Kanban-inspired app) that is a key system for my personal and professional life. It allows me to understand my workload, their priority, and due dates.

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      I use importance and effort metrics (scores) for each task to understand what is truly necessary in my life to work on. It negates the FIFO (first-in, first out) paradox that has plagued millions of people. Instead, it allows me to take stock of what is on my plate, and then bite on what truly will move the needle for me, my team, my life, and my company.

      With a limited appetite (at least for some), would you eat the veggies, fries, mashed potatoes and leave the sizzling steak? No, you wouldn’t (unless you are a vegan and ended up in the wrong restaurant).

      Approach your work with a weighted vengeance – and encourage your team to do the same.

      3. Align Passion and Skills to Purpose

      The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning, joy and passion.

      “The most fortunate people on earth are those who have found a calling that’s bigger than they are—that moves them and fills their lives with constant passion, aliveness, and growth.” — Richard Leider

      An ace team-member once told me that while she enjoys working for the company we both used to work at, she really hated anything to do with technology. She was more of a “people” person, and did not want to sit behind a desk sifting through lines of code.

      What struck me was that she was in that role for more than a decade and had just spoken up. The good thing is she spoke up. She expressed her desire and interests. And it allowed her to get into a role of her liking within 30 days.

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      Ask If They like What They’re Doing

      If you, or a team member is frustrated, demotivated, or not performing at their best – one of the questions you should ask is whether they like what they are doing. Then genuinely try to help them get to the role they should be in (whether in the same team/company or not).

      There’s a reason why 53% of Americans (and perhaps more or same across the globe) are unhappy at work. A butcher cannot be an ace salad maker. Pursue your passion – and help pave the way for your team. Unlock your potential and theirs. You will command and lead a supercharged team.

      “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

      The Bottom Line

      Sometimes, passion has to be ignited. It is dormant, clouded by busy-ness, buried by wrong career choices, and plagued by non-supportive eco-systems. Some will climb out of it, but we as society — and in the case of business teams — incumbent upon the manager/CEO/leader to foster, grow, and nurture the employee.

      Teach her the ropes. Show her the path. Advise him as you would yourself. Let them lead, and make mistakes. Do not fear them, rather make them the leader you would want to become.

      For your not-so-great team members, understand that it is not personal, it is just not a good fit. Help them move on to the pastures they would be fit to graze on. Hence, hire slow (and fire fast).

      Your team is a reflection of you. Boosting their confidence and helping them achieve the impossible is motivation. Focus on that, and you will have a productive team that you and your company will be proud of.

      More Resources About Team Management

      Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

      Reference

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