How to Tame Those Gazillion Ideas

idea capture

Summertime can present an interesting tension for many of us.

On the one hand, we spend more time enjoying the world and the people we love, away from screens. On the other hand, those screens are how we often capture the gazillion ideas running through our heads.

For what it’s worth, many clients and readers have told me that part of their anxiety about going without a device for a few days (or longer) is they don’t know where they’re going to capture ideas and to-dos. Even when I remind them about notecards and little notebooks, they feel overwhelmed at the prospect of getting all of those ideas and to-dos from analog into whatever digital tool they use to capture and track them.

In a post for another day, I’ll tackle what’s really going on with this “capture everything” anxiety, but, for today, I’m going to focus on toolsets rather than mindsets.

What you’ve probably experienced is that the problem with loose tasks and ideas isn’t how much time they’re going to take to do, but that a) they don’t have a default home and b) they keep nagging you to remember them. By “default home,” I don’t mean the 82 sticky notes all over the place. Those sometimes cause more swirl because you have to remember which ideas are on what stickies and where those stickies are.

Being away from your default home (and toolsets) is what makes the summertime especially spacy and ball-droppy for so many people. Per the usual, whenever you have a major change in context, you probably need to update your habits and tools to compensate.

Here are some tools that will help you find a home for those loose tasks and ideas:

  1. The Action Item Catcher worksheet – This free download tells you exactly what it does. Consider printing a few extra to have in your car, purse, bike bags, or wherever’s handy outside of your office. Keep them in a default place, so you know exactly where to go when that idea hits you.
  2. Momentum – A few weeks ago, we released Momentum’s Action Item Catcher feature, just in time for the summer. While many people love using Momentum on the desktop, remember it’s also built to be used on the go. When you’re out and about, this handy feature is another great place to jot down those ideas you don’t know what to do with (just yet), and then when you’re ready, you can “promote” those ideas to tasks and projects and schedule them.
  3. A “new task” bookmark on your phone’s home screen – Most work management tools have a web link that goes right to creating a new task, but their mobile apps often require too many steps to get there. Rather than fighting with their apps, you can bookmark that new task link to your phone’s home screen. (We recommend the same thing for Momentum, and have how-tos to make those home screen shortcuts for Apple and Android.) The major upshot of doing this is it helps avoid getting sucked in when you just need to drop something off, for yourself or your team.

When in doubt, go with the simpler option.

Printing out the Action Item Catcher so that you have a default home for those loose ideas and tasks may be more inefficient than 2 and 3 above, but it’s far more effective at making time and space than opening your phone, in most cases. Opening our devices is far more likely to lead to  being sucked into work when you’re out or accidentally falling into social media scrolling when you just meant to drop off a task or deliverable.

Whichever tools or methods you choose, focus on the capture aspect and save the sifting and sorting of those ideas for when you’re really back at work. The purpose here is to ease that “capture everything” anxiety in the moment, and get back to enjoying your time away.

PS: If some of those gazillion ideas are about leveling up your business or leadership this year, we have a few spots remaining for our September Level Up Your Life and Leadership Retreat. This Thursday, May 25, is the last day of early registration. Make your deposit by Thursday and lock in the best rate. Learn more and sign up here.

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