Impose order to locate your ideas with ease
If You’re An Idea Machine
Creative people have lots of ideas.
Thoughts ooze out of them like they’ve been squeezed from an infinite tube of mental toothpaste. The ideas come out in the form of drawings, numbers, sketches or words. Architects, accountants, artists, and writers all have their different mediums, but many creative souls jot things down all the time.
Have you ever been frustrated when you want to follow-up on an idea and then can’t find where you recorded it?
Have you torn through stacks of notes looking for a fact you needed?
Have you ever wasted time looking for a draft or sketch that’s essential to a current project?
Yep. Me, too.
Whether you keep your ideas in a file cabinet, a computer, or a notebook, you have to be able to access those ideas when you need them.
I’m a notebook keeper. For YEARS.
I’ve always got at least one or two idea books going simultaneously. I cover both the front and back of pages with random thoughts, quotes, ideas I’ve read about, weird dreams I’ve had, freewriting, story-starts, references to articles, outlines for books.
Mind-maps, diagrams, big arrows indicating when an embryonic idea is expanded on another page. Highlighting, color-pencil shadowing for emphasis, or big, ugly, inky circles.
It doesn’t matter how the idea takes shape on the page. But once those ideas are all squashed onto the pages, closely confined and comingling, randomly written and railing against the order, chaos happens.
Chaos is not time-efficient. It’s bad for your mental health. Marie Kondo-ing caught on for a reason. Decluttering helps you focus, gives you more time for leisure activities, and decreases stress in your life.
If You’re a Notebook User (Like Me)
Banish chaos with a simple index.
I index AFTER I’ve filled a notebook because I have a better perspective of which scribbles are “worthy” after some time has passed, but you could do it when you start a new notebook if you’d rather.
Take lined sticky notes or any other paper of your choosing. (I need the lines to keep my writing from going crooked.) Adhere the paper to the front or inside of your notebook.
Jot down a quick reference to any sketch, outline, idea, or draft that you have definite plans for or that you think you’ll use in the future.
List them as they appear in the book so you have an approximate idea of where to find them.
Use packing tape to seal the edges of your index, so it doesn’t come off or tear in the future.
Label each notebook with the date you started and ended it because sometimes that helps to locate an idea even before looking at the index.
Using this system may seem a bit Obsessive-Compulsive, but it has saved me hours of time and stress by identifying the location of specific ideas.
If You Need an Extra Hour
If you follow me much, you know that I have a crush on old Ben Franklin. He was smart. He was a reader, a writer, a thinker. He was a pivotal figure of American politics. He knew how to get things done.
Ben Franklin once wrote:
“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.”
If your time is valuable, grab your sticky notes, tape, and start indexing.
You won’t waste time looking for those vagabond thoughts. Not only will you feel better knowing where your ideas are, but you’ll find thoughts you’ve forgotten. You may even find the genesis of your next great project.
Go forth and organize.