How I capture things on my mind
My most valuable insight often happens when I’m not at my desk. Normally it’s when I’m out on a walk that I get lots of interesting ideas, or that I suddenly start remembering things I need to do. It’s something about getting away from the default environment I guess. And being in motion may also help with thinking more freely. But because of all this, it’s essential for me to have a system where I can capture those insights when I have them.
Even though many people promote using analog tools for this kind of capturing, it hasn’t really worked for me. I forget to bring my notebook, or I don’t have a pencil around to write with...and like that, the insight is gone.
No, I find it easiest to capture with my phone. The key point is to have it set up in a way so I don’t get distracted by other things. For me it means removing email and most other social media channels, and putting only the most essential tools on the home screen.
One place for everything
Drafts is the tool where almost all of my note taking starts out. It’s my thinking inbox for capturing fleeting notes on the go. The good thing with Drafts is that any time I open it, it gives me a blank slate. So I can note down what I’m thinking, close the app, and get on with what I’m doing. There is no friction about where things need to go. And that makes it very efficient.
The only exception I have are time-sensitive tasks. If I need to pick up the laundry in an hour, or take out the trash when I get home. Then it’s much simpler to ask Siri to remind me about it at that certain time.
There are a couple of ways I’ve set up Drafts in order to keep it from turning into a space filled with meaningless information that never gets looked at again.
Capture with prefixes. I have defined three prefixes that helps me to quickly sort my thoughts on the go. I came up with these three after experimenting for a little while and wanted to keep the setup really simple:
- Whenever I learn something new from an external source I put a 🟢 dot in front of the note. It could be a quote from a book or something I heard on a podcast.
- When I have an idea, or when there’s something I want to explore by writing about it I mark it with a 🔴 dot.
- And when I come to think of a highlight that I want to log in my bullet journal the note gets a 🔵 dot.
Use workspaces. The way I leverage those prefixes later is that I have dedicated workspaces that shows me only notes with a certain prefix. For instance I can quickly see all my notes that I need to log in the bullet journal by opening that workspace in the evening. It filters out everything else. So I have a corresponding workspace for each of my prefixes so that I can quickly get a glance of all notes from one specific bucket.
Reviewing the thinking inbox
So my phone is my capture device on the go. All the fleeting notes goes into Drafts as my one stop shop. that later needs to be transferred to their proper place.
But this is what I do when I get back to my desk.
When I sit down at my computer I fire up a “Review” setup through Keyboard Maestro (I’ll write about this in a separate post). The setup opens up my thinking inbox, my reference bucket, and my todo list. Side by side.
Then I quickly go through the open notes and transfer them accordingly. My reference bucket is a folder of markdown files where I keep nearly all of my writing and permanent notes. Most of my fleeting notes ends up there after a little fleshing out. Or they will end up in my todo system to be done at a later time.
That’s it. This is my current system for capturing things on my mind and for how I deal with them later.