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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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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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