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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 September 16, 2019

      How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

      How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

      You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

      We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

      The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

      Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

      1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

      Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

      For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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      • (1) Research
      • (2) Deciding the topic
      • (3) Creating the outline
      • (4) Drafting the content
      • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
      • (6) Revision
      • (7) etc.

      Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

      2. Change Your Environment

      Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

      One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

      3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

      Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

      Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

      My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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      Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

      4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

      If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

      Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

      I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

      5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

      I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

      Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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      As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

      6. Get a Buddy

      Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

      I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

      7. Tell Others About Your Goals

      This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

      For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

      8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

      What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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      9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

      If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

      Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

      10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

      Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

      Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

      11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

      At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

      Reality check:

      I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

      More About Procrastination

      Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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