This is a guest contribution by Charles Cuninghame is a freelance content writer.
Have you ever experienced the terrible frustration of remembering you’ve had a great idea for a blog post or e-book you’re writing, but not being able to remember exactly what the actual thought or idea was? ‘
Don’t you hate that!
Every blogger knows that ideas are the lifeblood of a successful blog. But ideas rarely come all in one magnificent burst of inspiration.
They’re usually drip fed by your unconscious, one here, one there. And often at the most inopportune times: in the middle of a conversation, riding public transport, walking your dog, and, frequently, when you’re taking a shower.
So if you’re going to trap all those flashes of genius and store them for later use, you need to create a simple idea capture system.
Here are four of the most useful idea capture tools I’ve used, from low-fi pen and paper to cutting edge apps:
3 X 5 inch index cards
Cheap, convenient and effective, the “hipster PDA” is the simplest but possibly the most useful idea capture tool. To make one you just clip a bunch of 3 X 5 inch index cards together with a bulldog clip.
Whenever you have a great idea, jot it down on a card.
Restrict yourself to one idea or topic per card. That way it’s much easier to file your ideas, notes, and to-dos in the right spot when you’re back at your desk.
It’s also a good practice to create multiple hipster PDAs and put them in different places e.g. in your backpack or purse, your jacket pocket, your car, and one on the hall table next to where you leave your keys, so you can pick it up when you leave the house.
This way you’re more likely to always have an index card at hand when inspiration strikes.
Nowadays almost every mobile phone has a voice recording feature. Which means most of us have an idea capture tool close at hand every waking minute.
The beauty of “talking” your ideas instead of writing them down is you can capture a lot of material very quickly. You can also use a voice recorder in situations where you can’t write e.g. while you’re driving your car or going for a walk. It’s also easy to record a brainstorming session with multiple people – even over the phone.
If you record a lot of ideas (or hate typing!) it may be economical to get your recordings transcribed. This is one of the easiest ways to go from idea to rough draft.
The beauty of the Postie plugin is that it allows you to capture all your ideas in the same place as you’re going to use them: your blog.
Once you set it up, Postie allows you post to your blog via email. Given how easy it is to compose and send email from your mobile devices these days, posting to your blog via email is often easier than logging in your dashboard.
When you use Posite to capture random ideas and links to research material you find on the web, and draft outlines and posts, you build a repository of raw material for your blog. When you next log in to WordPress, you can cut ‘n’ paste your snippets and polish up your rough drafts into finished posts.
Just make sure you set Postie’s “post status” setting to “draft” so you don’t inadvertently publish your brainstorming.
Evernote is the Swiss Army Knife of idea capture tools. It allows you to write notes, snap photos or record audio and store it all in one place. You can even forward emails and save PDFs (e-books for example) into Evernote.
Because it’s a cross-platform app, all your notes are synced and accessible across all your touch points: your computer, smart phone, tablet and on the web.
The Web Clipper browser extension allows you to clip snippets of text, images or even whole web pages as you browse the web. These clips are permanent snapshots of the page that preserve navigation, text, images and links. You can then write you own notes right into the clips.
Evernote’s excellent search function means you’re always able to find your notes and ideas when you need them. With its OCR technology you can even search text contained in images.
You can also organise your related notes and clips into notebooks.
The “best” idea capture system
Ultimately the best idea capture system is the one you use.
So don’t get too hung up on finding the “perfect” tool – just start with something simple. Because the most important thing is to always have something handy to record your ideas when they arrive.
If there are any idea capture tools that you’ve found particularly useful, please tell us about them in the comments.