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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 August 7, 2018

      14 Powerful Leadership Traits That All Great Leaders Have

      14 Powerful Leadership Traits That All Great Leaders Have

      Being a leader of a company or organization is certainly a difficult and often frustrating position – but it can also be tremendously rewarding.

      Whether you’re just starting out as a leader, or have been leading for a while, you’ll be sure to benefit from knowing the essential traits that all great leaders possess.

      Effective and successful leaders transcend the title of ‘manager’ or ‘boss’. They’ve found a way to achieve the perfect combination of charisma, enthusiasm and self-assurance (with a healthy dose of luck and timing probably added to the mix).

      It may seem like some people are gifted with leadership skills, but the truth is most leadership traits can be learned, adopted, and strengthened with time and practice.

      As we delve into the list of effective leadership traits, you will learn the behaviors and attitudes of a good leader.

      The 14 most important leadership traits

      Please read through the list of leadership qualities carefully. Take note of which of the traits you excel at – and which ones you need to work at.

      Traits for better self-development

      1. Vision and mission

      Having a clear picture of what needs to be achieved is a crucial quality of good leadership.

      This vision is often communicated in a mission statement, such as this one from Starbucks:

        How to develop vision? Spend time pinpointing what you need to achieve, and then plan the steps to get there. Here’s a complete guide on creating your own vision.

        2. Self-motivated

        It’s no coincidence that successful leaders have an abundance of self-motivation.

        Without a decent level of self-motivation, you’ll struggle to become a strong and respected leader. However, if you don’t have a lot of self-motivation right now, don’t despair.

        One of the secrets is to have definite goals to keep you motivated at all times. Some people also choose to reward themselves every time they achieve a goal, and this is certainly a good way to keep yourself enthused and motivated. Learn how to set an ambitious yet achievable goal here.

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        3. Optimism and positivity

        Positive energy is contagious. Great leaders are overflowing with this type of energy.

        Not only does a positive mindset make leaders easy to work with, but it also gives them a constant source of inspiration and ideas.

        Tap into this energy by aligning yourself with positive people and positive goals. Find out more about the habits of positive people here.

        4. Emotional stability

        In leadership positions, frustration and stress are daily occurrences. This is why leaders need to have strong and stable emotions. They can’t allow themselves to be easily knocked off track.

        If you’re prone to losing your emotional stability when stressed or frustrated, try some of these techniques: breath deeply and slowly for 30 seconds, go for a walk, drink some water (instead of tea or coffee), turn your focus onto something you can resolve. Here’re some effective ways to control your emotions.

        5. Self-confidence

        Watch a presentation by any CEO and you’ll see that even if they’re not natural presenters – they make up for this by having powerful self-confidence.

        It’s not just CEOs who have self-confidence, any successful leader will have this trait in abundance. One reason for this, is that only a confident person can persuade others and gain their respect.

        Worried that you have low self-confidence? Try faking it. Psychologists often recommend that if you ‘act’ at being confident, you’ll start to look, sound and feel like you ARE confident. And in time… you will be.

        If you look for more ways to boost your self-confidence, this confidence coach has got you some nice advice:

        How to Be Confident: 62 Proven Ways to Build Self-Confidence

        6. Decisiveness

        Leaders are frequently called upon to make decisions (some leaders may have to make dozens of decisions every day). In fact, you could say that making decisions is one of the key things a leader must do.

        Spend some time observing highly-successful leaders and you’ll see that they are quick to make decisions. They also enjoy making decisions, rather than stressing out like many non-leaders do when they’re asked to decide on something.

        Put yourself in the leadership bracket by developing your decision-making skills. Start with small decisions – and then work your way up to bigger and more difficult decisions. Once other people notice your decision-making prowess, they’ll automatically see you as leadership material.

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        I know it’s really quite difficult to make the right decisions sometimes, but don’t worry, here’s a guide for you:

        How To Make Good Decisions All The Time

        7. Passion and enthusiasm

        Expressive. Active. Energetic. These are words best describe a passionate leader.

        Great leaders are lively, driven and are possessed with zeal and purpose. It’s this passion that helps them achieve big results. If you want to emulate their success, then you need to develop passion and enthusiasm for the work at hand, and the end goals.

        Take a look at this Passion Pyramid to find out how importance a leader’s passion is to the team:

          One way to do this is to find what motivates you, and keep your focus firmly on that. For example, i f you’re motivated by helping others, then make sure your role and company are both suited to realizing this. If you’re motivated by money, then put your focus on achieving bonuses and pay rises.

          Take a look at Leo Babauta’s guide on how to find your passion.

          8. Accountability and responsibility

          Exceptional leaders know that at all times they’ll need to take responsibility for tasks and their results. This includes things likes individual and team performance, as well as being accountable for when things go wrong.

          When negative things occur (and you can guarantee they will from time-to-time), a great leader will immediately step in and take responsibility. Initially, they’ll try to resolve the problem in as quick and smooth a way as possible. But if this is not feasible, they’ll be sure to say that the buck stops with them – and they take full responsibility for what has happened.

          To develop your leadership skills, you must never shy away from responsibility or accountability. If you prefer to sweep mistakes under the carpet, then you’re demonstrating non-leadership traits. Try owning up to issues and finding solutions to them. By doing this, you’ll immediately gain people’s respect.

          Find out some tips on how to be a more responsible person here.

          9. Focus

          Distractions are everywhere. And it takes major focus to stay committed to tasks and goals. The best leaders understand this, and therefore, they’re always looking at ways to boost their team’s focus.

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          One way leaders do this, is to keep their team intensely focused on the bigger picture. This might entail allocating specific time for tasks and eliminating any non-essential work.

          If you’re easily knocked off track, you’ll need to spend some time boosting your focus. Try planning your day, week, month and year to help ensure that you don’t fall behind with achieving your goals. Check out the 7 strategies of staying super focus recommended by a productivity coach.

          10. Ever-learning

          Leaders know that to be successful they need to continually update their skills and knowledge. They deliberately learn all they can about their profession and industry, so they’ll able to make confident and assured decisions.

          Why is ever learning so important? I’ll leave it to you to find out the reason here:

          If I Am Living a Good Life, Why Should I Bother Learning New Stuff?

          Imagine a CEO of a solar power company. His company may have amazing solar panels, but when it comes to discussing business with potential buyers, if the CEO or his sales team show a lack of understanding about the solar industry and future trends, etc., they’ll be unlikely to win any business.

          It’s exactly the same for you. If you’re a team leader at an electronics store, you should make sure you fully understand all the products that you offer. But go beyond just that, and read about upcoming products and trends that might change what customers are interesting in buying in the future.

          Traits for effective communication

          11. Empathy

          The best leaders understand the feeling of their team members, customers and associates. They know when to praise, and when to discuss problems (usually in private).

          Without empathy, leaders will be seen as cold, harsh and lacking understanding. They’re also likely to be regarded as untrustworthy.

          One way to ‘put yourself in someone else’s shoes’ is to have regular informal discussions with your colleagues. When you do this, you’ll quickly learn their fears and desires. And when you understand why they have these – you’ll be in a position to express empathy. You can also learn to be more sensitive to others’ needs by taking up these communication skills.

          12. Persuasive and influential

          Communications are at the heart of all transactions. Whether it’s pitching for a sale or resolving a customer complaint, how you communicate will determine the outcome.

          Charismatic leaders such as Richard Branson (Virgin) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) are confident and persuasive communicators. They know how to win over audiences and leave a lasting impressing in people’s minds.

          There’re some common barriers that you’ll have to overcome in order to communicate effectively:

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          How to learn effective communication? You could join the world-renowned U.S. nonprofit Toastmasters International. They’ve been training people in the art of public speaking since 1924, and members have included Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, and Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy.

          If you don’t have time to join a club, then practice your communications skills at home. You can do this in front of a mirror, or even better, video yourself presenting, and then ask some friends and family members for feedback. You’ll be amazed at what they pick up on.

          Traits for ensuring an engaging team

          13. Team building

          If you put a bunch of random people together, you may have a loose definition of a team. In reality, a real team has purpose, drive – and a leader lighting the way.

          If you’ve worked in different teams and with different managers, you’ll no doubt have come to this conclusion:

          Managers who treat their team members like children are unpopular with the team. Conversely, managers who treat their team members like adults, are respected and well-liked by the team.

          The days of disciplinarian managers are passed. Nowadays, successful team leaders know how to inspire and motivate their team, while keeping a harmonious atmosphere between all team members.

          14. Fostering creativity

          Solutions to problems are rarely black and white. Often it takes a leader who can ‘think outside the box’ to come up with answers. In other words, a leader must be creative, and also help to foster creativity and innovation throughout their team.

          Creativity is not only associated with pursuits such as arts, literature and music, running a team can be just as creative. There will be times every day when you need to come up with ideas and give guidelines for your team to come up with theirs to solve problems.

          Leadership is a journey of continuous learning

          Leadership is an amazing experience that will take you on roads you’ve never traveled before.

          Begin now to build your skills and experience, pick out the traits that you currently lack – and then work on developing those.

          It will take tons of practice and time before becoming an effective leader but eventually you will join the ranks of great leaders.

          Featured photo credit: unsplash via unsplash.com

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