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9 Places to Always Keep Pen and Paper Handy

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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    The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

    The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

    It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

    Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

    “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

    In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

    New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

    There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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    So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

    What is the productivity paradox?

    There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

    In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

    He wrote in his conclusion:

    “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

    Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

    How do we measure productivity anyway?

    And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

    In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

    But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

    In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

    But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

    Possible causes of the productivity paradox

    Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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    • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
    • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
    • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
    • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

    There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

    According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

    Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

    The paradox and the recession

    The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

    “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

    This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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    According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

    Looking forward

    A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

    “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

    Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

    “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

    On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

    Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

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