Capturing that Idea

The other day, I was chatting with a friend and colleague whom I respect and he mentioned that his idea well was dry.  That he's had lots of ideas in the past but didn't have any at the moment.  It got me wondering on something:

Why do I always have notes and ideas on another idea?

I didn't always have that.  I didn't always write down ideas, make some notes, and note questions and first impressions.  When did I start doing that?  What changed?  What made it so that I have a notebook of random ideas – don't worry, most are bad – laying about just waiting to be browsed?

And then I realize what the change was.  About 9 years ago, I worked for a complete nut.  No, I'm not exaggerating, the guy was committed both before and after I worked for him… and I finally had to file suit to get my last paychecks, but that's another story.

The point is that regardless of his crazy – like any stopped clock – he was right on one thing:

Always have a pen and paper nearby.

I can't begin to count the number of times I've been riding the Metro, waiting on a conference call, or even standing in the shower and an idea strikes.  The ability to flip out a piece of paper and write it down along with some first impressions is powerful.  It doesn't matter if it's a notebook, index card, or even just a napkin… some of the best ideas have been sketched out on a napkin.

The point is to capture the idea.  Not only can you use it to express the idea to someone else, but it can also serve to shift the consideration of the idea to another time.  When you have time to consider, when [choose some: business, financial,
time, contacts, market] are better, are when the ideas are just flowing
more smoothly is important.  But if you lose the idea, you can't even get that far.

The thing to consider and ask yourself is: How many of my good ideas are lost – even temporarily – due to the chaos of everyday life, bad ideas, other priorities, etc?  If that number is greater than zero, you have an easily solved problem.

A bit about my solution: Coming from an engineering background, I used to use engineering notebooks.  They're simple graph paper, bound together – useful for dating my notes – and I would use a paperclip to mark the current page.  At present, I'm using a little circuit board notebook filled with graph paper.