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I Wish I'd Thought of That: 5 Cool Ways to Capture Ideas On the Go

Ever get a feeling halfway through the day that your mind is... heavy. Like one of those giant women's handbags that seems to magically fill up with stuff to the point where finding anything in it is almost impossible.

As someone who was born to innovate, I often find myself distracted and irritable when I don't schedule time to do a brain dump and get my ideas out of my head and onto paper. Or my phone.

But, like Archimedes, some of my best ideas come to me when I'm... unplugged.

After years of almost slipping and breaking my neck galloping out of the shower to write something down or leaving myself voicemails (that I never go back and listen to), I decided to get serious about collecting my thoughts.

Partly as a form of hygiene to keep my mind running smoothly for productivity.

Partly because I hate losing so many ideas that I know were brilliant or could have been developed into something brilliant.


 

1. The virtual to-do list.

Applications like WunderlistTodoist, and Remember the Milk all accomplish the same thing. They provide a sleek, minimalist way to create everything from grocery lists to reminders. Simply create a category for ideas and jot them down as you go. Everything syncs in the cloud, so you can access it from your computer or smartphone. With a few taps, you can add, edit, delete or mark it as read.

2. For the notebook lovers (and those of us who like to brainstorm in the shower)

Why? Because science!

There are a surprising number of weatherproof notepads. They're specially designed for people like marine biologists, adventurous sailors, and field workers. Also be used by people who spill their drinks, forget their umbrellas, or do their best thinking while singing off-key and shampooing their hair into an Elvis puff.

Perhaps the oldest in the market Rite in the Rain has been around since 1916. (Quite literally.) A special coating protects each sheet of archival paper. With normal use, this means it will last for hundreds of years.

If you want something a little fancier, Hustle is a premium planner made with stone paper. Instead of pulp, each sheet of paper is made from calcium carbonate. It is durable, recyclable, acid-free and waterproof. Plus, it saves trees.

But before you get too excited... It's not available yet -- at least not to most people. They're successfully funded on Kickstarter, and they have already shipped some of the planners to the backers. So this might be the time to become an early adopter.

AquaNotes, my personal fave (the idea of my bath-time musings sticking around for centuries gives me performance anxiety and eco-guilt) produces waterproof paper that is recyclable, non-toxic and safe for the environment. Instead of soaking through, water beads up and rolls off the surface. Their special incense cedar wood pencils also won't get moldy in the shower.

3. Look ma, no hands!

What do you do when a brilliant idea hits you, but you can't use your hands to write or type?

Jott is a messenger app with automatic voice-to-text transcription. Once you sign-up, they provide a toll-free number you can dial. It records up to 30 seconds of your message then sends you an email. Unfortunately the app is only available in certain locations.

Dial2Do also offers hands-free note taking. By converting audio notes to text, you're able to take notes even while driving. This would be wicked for those of us who prefer dictating instead of typing longer form blog content or emails.

For those of us with less-than-typical accents, the Dragon Dictation app can be a real godsend. It's a little time consuming to set up, but then your notes actually make sense later.

4. Remember everything

Of course, the big daddy of idea-dump technology remains Evernote. With syncing enabled across devices, it remains one of my favorite ways to save ideas, images, memories and more. And because their search function even picks up text from within images, you can get away with a certain... ahem... lack of system.

5. Capturing collaboration

Now that we're working as a team at my company and co-creating a lot of our products and content, we've been enjoying Asana's board view which allows various team members to create a whole bunch of virtual sticky notes that act as a central idea file. Tasks can then be assigned and collaborators can be added on at the appropriate time (eg: we tag our graphics person once we're done brainstorming, writing and editing a piece).

With the insane creativity that app developers display these days, I'm sure this is a rather incomplete list, so I can't wait to hear your own list of apps, processes or tools you use to tame the idea machine in your head. Suggestions?

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