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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 September 28, 2020

    How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

    How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

    There’s no denying that goals are necessary. After all, they give life meaning and purpose. However, goals don’t simply achieve themselves—you need to write an action plan to help you reach your goals.

    With an action plan, you’ll have a clear idea of how to get where you want to go, what it will take to get there, and how you’ll find the motivation to keep driving forward. Without creating a plan, things have a way of not working out as you waver and get distracted.

    With that in mind, here’s how you can set goals and action plans that will help you achieve any personal goal you’ve set.

    1. Determine Your “Why”

    Here’s a quick experiment for you to try right now: Reflect on the goals you’ve set before. Now, think about the goals you reached and those you didn’t. Hopefully, you’ll notice a common theme here.

    The goals you were successful in achieving had a purpose. Those goals you failed to accomplish did not. In other words, you knew why you put these goals in place, which motivated you to follow through.

    Simon Sinek, author of Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Finding Purpose for You and Your Team, explains:

    “Once you understand your WHY, you’ll be able to clearly articulate what makes you feel fulfilled and to better understand what drives your behavior when you’re at your natural best. When you can do that, you’ll have a point of reference for everything you do going forward.”

    That, in turn, enables better decision-making and clearer choices.

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    I’ll share with you a recent example of this in my life. Earlier this year, I decided to make my health a bigger priority, specifically losing weight. I set this goal because it gave me more energy at work, improved my sleep, and helped me be a better father—I really didn’t care for all that wheezing every time I played with my kids.

    Those factors all gave me a long-term purpose, not a superficial short-term goal like wanting to look good for an event.

    Before you start creating an action plan, think about why you’re setting a new goal. Doing so will guide you forward on this journey and give you a North Star to point to when things get hard (and they inevitably will).

    2. Write Down Your Goal

    If you really want to know how to create an action plan for goals, it’s time to get your goals out of your head and onto a piece of paper. While you can also do this electronically through an app, research has found that you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goal if it’s written down[1].

    This is especially true for business owners. If they don’t schedule their time, it’ll be scheduled for them.[2]

    When you physically write down a goal, you’re accessing the left side of the brain, which is the literal, logical side. As a result, this communicates to your brain that this is something you seriously want to do.

    3. Set a SMART Goal

    A SMART goal pulls on a popular system in business management[3]. That’s because it ensures the goal you’ve set is both realistic and achievable. It can also be used as a reference to guide you through your action plan.

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    Use SMART goals to create a goal action plan.

       

      By establishing a SMART goal, you can begin to brainstorm the steps, tasks, and tools you’ll need to make your actions effective.

      • Specific: You need to have specific ideas about what you want to accomplish. To get started, answer the “W” questions: who, what, where, when, and why.
      • Measurable: To make sure you’re meeting the goal, establish tangible metrics to measure your progress. Identify how you’ll collect the data.
      • Attainable: Think about the tools or skills needed to reach your goal. If you don’t possess them, figure out how you can attain them.
      • Relevant: Why does the goal matter to you? Does it align with other goals? These types of questions can help you determine the goal’s true objective — and whether it’s worth pursuing.
      • Time-bound: Whether it’s a daily, weekly, or monthly target, deadlines can motivate us to take action sooner than later.

      Learn more about setting a SMRT goal here: How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life

      4. Take One Step at a Time

      Have you ever taken a road trip? You most likely had to use a map to navigate from Point A to Point B. The same idea can be applied to an action plan.

      Like a map, your action plan needs to include step-by-step instructions on how you’ll reach your goal. In other words, these are mini goals that help you get where you need to go.

      For example, if you wanted to lose weight, you’d consider smaller factors like calories consumed and burned, minutes exercised, number of steps walked, and quality of sleep. Each plays a role in weight loss.

      This may seem like a lot of work upfront, but it makes your action plan seem less overwhelming and more manageable. Most importantly, it helps you determine the specific actions you need to take at each stage.

      5. Order Your Tasks by Priority

      With your action steps figured out, you’ll next want to review your list and place your tasks in the order that makes the most sense. This way, you’re kicking things off with the most important step to make the biggest impact, which will ultimately save time.

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      For example, if you have a sedentary job and want to lose weight, the first step should be becoming even a little more active. From there, you can add more time to your workout plan.

      The next step could be changing your diet, like having a salad before dinner to avoid overeating, or replacing soda with sparkling water.

      Learn these tips to prioritize better: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

      6. Schedule Your Tasks

      Setting a deadline for your goal is a must; it prevents you from delaying the start of your action plan. The key, however, is to be realistic. It’s highly unlikely, for example, that you’ll lose 20 pounds within two weeks. It’s even less likely that you’ll keep it off.

      What’s more, you should also assign tasks a start and end date for each action step you’ve created, as well as a timeline for when you’ll complete specific tasks. Adding them to your schedule ensures that you stay focused on these tasks when they need to happen, not letting anything else distract you.

      For example, if you schedule gym time, you won’t plan anything else during that time frame.

      Beware the temptation to double-book yourself—some activities truly can be combined, like a run while talking to a friend, but some can’t. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you can both write and catch up on Netflix simultaneously.

      While you can use a paper calendar or planner, an online calendar may be a better option. You can use it to set deadlines or reminders for when each step needs to be taken, and it can be shared with other people who need to be in the know (like your running buddy or your mentor).

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      7. Stay on Track With Healthy Habits

      Without healthy habits, it’s going to be even more challenging to reach your goal. You could hit the gym five days a week, but if you’re grabbing burgers for lunch every day, you’re undoing all your hard work.

      Let’s say your goal is more career-oriented, like becoming a better public speaker. If you practice your speeches at Toastmasters meetings but avoid situations where you’ll need to be unrehearsed—like networking gatherings or community meetings—you’re not helping yourself.

      You have to think about what will help transform you into the person you want to be, not just what’s easiest or most comfortable.

      8. Check off Items as You Go

      You may think you’ve spent a lot of time creating lists. Not only do they help make your goals a reality, but lists also keep your action plan organized, create urgency, and help track your progress. Because lists provide structure, they reduce anxiety.

      There’s something else special about lists of tasks completed. When you cross off a task in your action plan, your brain releases dopamine[4]. This reward makes you feel good, and you’ll want to repeat this feeling.

      If you crossed out on your calendar the days you went to the gym, you’d want to keep experiencing the satisfaction of each bold “X.” That means more motivation to go the gym consistently.

      9. Review and Reset as Necessary

      Achieving any personal goal is a process. Although it would be great if you could reach a goal overnight, it takes time. Along the way, you may experience setbacks. Instead of getting frustrated and giving up, schedule frequent reviews—daily, weekly, or monthly—to see how you’re progressing.

      If you aren’t where you’d hoped to be, you may need to alter your action plan. Rework it so you’re able to reach the goal you’ve set.

      The Bottom Line

      When you want to learn how to set goals and action plans—whether you want to lose weight, learn a new skill, or make more money—you need to create a realistic plan to get you there. It will guide you in establishing realistic steps and time frames to achieve your goal. Best of all, it will keep you on track when you stumble, and we all do.

      More on Goal Action Plans

      Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

      Reference

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