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9 Places to Always Keep Pen and Paper Handy

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9 Places to Always Keep Pen and Paper Handy

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    Wouldn’t it be nice if ideas came to you when they were supposed to? You sit down, decide to be creative, and boom: you’re creative. The juices flow, the ideas are endless, and your brilliance just runneth over onto the page.

    Unfortunately, that’s not the case. For most of us, our creative and inspirational moments come at random, unpredictable, and often totally inconvenient times. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, and that great idea could strike at any moment.

    That said, the best thing we can do is be prepared at all times for that game-changing idea. I recently decided to take stock of where I am when ideas hit me, and what I’m doing; this has allowed me to figure out where I need to have ways to record ideas, thoughts, and other general moments of brilliance that come when I least expect them.

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    At the end of my search I found nine places, where I had no easy way of recording ideas, where I often have good ideas. I put a pad of paper and a pen in each one, and it’s made my ability to quickly and easily record ideas much higher. Here they are, nine places to make sure you’ve got pen and paper (or index cards, or Moleskine notebook) ready for your next great idea:

    The Bathroom

    We spend a lot of time in the bathroom. Sometimes, when you’re doing something mindless like brushing your teeth, your brain can wander onto great ideas. Other times, staring at yourself in the mirror, saying “think, man, THINK” can spark good ideas. Maybe. Regardless of what it is, we seem to have a disproportionately large number of ideas in the bathroom, so keep a pad of paper and a pen waiting to record them.

    The Car

    Maybe you’re stuck in traffic – do some brainstorming. Maybe you see a funny bumper sticker, or witness an incident you want to remember – keep a piece of paper within arm’s reach of your seat in the car, and record all your great ideas. While I don’t recommend writing while you drive, it’s a great thing to have for the momentary stop, or when you first arrive at your destination, to dump all the great ideas you might forget about later.

    The Shower

    For whatever reason, I think better in the shower than anywhere else. I think 90% of the good ideas I’ve ever had (including the idea for this post) came while I was taking a shower, and singing some fantastic 90’s song. But I digress. The solution here? Cover an index card, or piece of paper, in scotch tape. Poof! You’ve got a dry-erase board that can stand up to the water much better than paper. Keep it just outside the shower, and you’re set to write down all the brilliance that results from your showers.

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    By Your Bed

    Every once in a while, I’ll be laying in bed and have a great idea for a blog post, or business, or something else; usually, I just think “I’m already in bed. I’ll remember tomorrow.” I never remember tomorrow, so I’ve started writing it down. Some mornings, I’ll wake up with a whole list of ideas to run with that day, all brainstormed as my mind wound down as I went to sleep.

    By the Phone

    Phone calls tend to inspire thought, new things to do, numbers to remember, and the like – keep a pad of paper ready. If you use a cell phone, keep a pad next to your phone charger, and carry it with you when you get on the phone. Write down anything you could possibly need to remember, and trust that you’ll actually hang onto things this way.

    By the TV

    Watching TV creates total sensory-overload. You’ll see images, hear sounds, and watch shows designed to elicit a reaction from you. If something you watch gives you an idea, you might be too lazy to get up and write it down. So don’t get up – keep a pen and paper next to you, and capture anything that captures you.

    In the Kitchen

    Like the bathroom, the kitchen is a place we spend a lot of time doing mindless tasks. It’s the perfect venue to brainstorm or mind-map, to come up with new ideas while you’re waiting for water to boil. Paper here also comes in handy for remembering recipes that worked well (or those that didn’t).

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    In Your Carry-On

    Traveling is a huge boon to your idea-generation. You’ll be exposed to new things, forced to see and think about things differently, which can open your brain and bring out new ideas and new perspective. Keep a pen or notebook handy to jot down thoughts, ideas, reactions, and the like from your travels – I find that I think more, and have more ideas when I’m in a new setting than at any other time.

    By the Front Door

    Had a great idea on the bus, but couldn’t write it down? Have a pad of paper right inside your front door to capture it as soon as you walk in. Don’t leave space for you to get distracted by anything else – TV, computers, family, etc. Write down what you were thinking, and then fully head inside.

    If there’s a trend to all this, it’s that some of the best ideas come out when we’re doing something mindless (brushing teeth, watching TV, etc.). Your brain, not being used fully, gets to wander and be creative, and out come vast numbers of great ideas.

    Take note of where you are next time you have a great thought or idea, and make sure you’ve got an easy way to record it and remember it.

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    Where do you have great ideas? How do you record them?

    Photo: cbowns

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    Last Updated on October 21, 2021

    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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