I need some ideas for my ideas
August 15, 2016 9:21 AM   Subscribe

What are some good methods of keeping track of my ideas? The "carry a notebook" thing is just not working.

I want to be able to quickly record my ideas when I am doing other things such as working, exercising, sitting in meetings, driving, etc. I often spontaneously come up with ideas for articles, art projects, work projects, personal development while busy doing something else and I need a good method of capturing them on the spot before I forget.

Carrying a notebook has not worked for various reasons, the main ones being I am disorganized at keeping track of it, I hate having a bulky notebook in my purse, and small notepads are hard to write in and tend to get torn up easily being jostled around. (Most of my clothing does not have pockets.)

I do carry my phone everywhere, and I spend a great deal of time in front of both my work and home computers. So the ideal system for capturing my ideas would be accessible by phone app and computer, and be able to input notes by voice-to-text as well as typing in on phone or keyboard, and be easy to organize using categories, folders, etc.

Google Keep seemed like it would be perfect but the voice input is bullshit. It cuts off recording after a couple of words, when it is able to record anything at all. (I'm on a Samsung Galaxy 7 if that matters.)

I'm interested in knowing whether there is a similar solution out there that actually works. Low-tech solutions are also welcome, if they don't involve carrying a notebook around.

1. How can I easily capture all my ideas in a single place no matter where I am?
2. And how can I make it easy and natural to revisit the list on a regular basis so I can follow up?
posted by Serene Empress Dork to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Evernote has been really good to me for ease of capture, especially with tagging (I no longer bother with separate notebooks except that I have one specifically for recipes and then one for all my other cruft), and searchable photos/pdfs/images.

Making it easy and natural to revisit is probably the hardest part. Put it on your home screen right next to something else you use constantly.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:23 AM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I use Evernote. Accessible from phone and computer and I can keep running lists for everything. Currently I have the following lists:

- Target Shopping
- Grocery Shopping
- Art Ideas
- Social Media Posts
- Products to photograph

And yeah, I don't bury the app in a nest of stuff, it is one of the few apps just sitting on my home screen (right next to facebook and instagram). I also use chrome and when I open chrome I have it automatically open that as a tab so it is always there.
posted by magnetsphere at 9:25 AM on August 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I use Reminders in iOS, and place deadlines to follow-up on them. I have multiple Reminder accounts. One I share with my wife, one I have for work ideas, and one I have for private things. Not necessarily private per se, but things that don't need to be shared. I put my ideas in that one.
posted by terrapin at 9:35 AM on August 15, 2016

I like Wunderlist. In addition to ideas, I also use it for packing lists, deadlines, movies I want to watch, and things I want to do every day (at the end of the day, I uncheck them and start over).
posted by FencingGal at 9:37 AM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Evernote is amazing. I'm a very disorganized person and just having a place to jot stuff down that I can't lose is really nice.

The Windows desktop client sucks
The Web-based client is not great
They charge $35 to sync to more than 2 devices
Not good for audio notes.

But I've tried some of the alternatives and it's just way better.
posted by miyabo at 9:46 AM on August 15, 2016

Before I started using a bullet journal (which I love because I NEED to write things down or they do not exist, but I totally understand not wanting to drag around a big notebook), I had some luck with the Todoist app. I'm not sure how it handles voice memos, but it's a solid, no frills to-do list app and I really liked that aspect of it.

Evernote has its strengths for sure, but the app versions always felt so cumbersome to me. And their quick notes function drove me CRAZY because it always pulled in a note title from my Google Calendar rather than just letting it be a note in and of itself. I'd end up with notes titled "Aunt Kim's Birthday" and "That Facebook Event You Said You Might Go To" when I was too much in a hurry to ALSO come up with a title for my quick note. Blergh.
posted by helloimjennsco at 10:09 AM on August 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

My sense is that these kinds of needs are highly personal. I use a combination of paper notepads, Google Keep (without voice) for little fragments, and Trello for more-involved brainstorming and prioritization, but none of it is perfect for me, so I've been writing my own that matches my personal needs for task organization, scheduling and completion. It's kind of a hard problem because I don't believe there's a one-size-fits-all out there, you just have to try all of the options and see what fits you.
posted by rhizome at 11:09 AM on August 15, 2016

The most effective thing for me is emailing myself. I am usually doing this from a tablet, but I do have a POS smartphone and could do it that way. (I bet your phone is way better than mine.) Then I move that info to more appropriate places when I am properly online/at a real computer again.

I also have apps on my tablet that I use for starting stubs or drafts of things at times. So, I do not do everything via email. But if it is a short "Oh, yeah, I should look up that thing/do that other thing/I have an idea for a thing," email is usually what works best for me to just get it written down quickly as an idea. I do more with it later, but often these emails are extremely short to just prompt my memory. Sometimes, it is one word in the subject and one word in the body just to remind me of that thing I keep saying I should do blah with and failing at.
posted by Michele in California at 11:21 AM on August 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Evernote for short thoughts and fragments, Trello for things that turn into projects I actually want to work on. For my actual job, I use a combo of Notepad and paper, but that's because I only stay in one building on me computer.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:26 AM on August 15, 2016

I text myself everything I can. Later, I can either search or scroll through to find particular ideas (or errands, whatever). Grocery lists, remembered dreams, physio exercises, Big Ideas, all of it gets dumped into texts to me. It's just easy, don't even have to open an app. (Also, it's unobtrusive on public transit, small font etc, so nosy people can stay out of my brain.)

For things relating to sound, I use an app called Easy Sound Recorder (for Android. There might be something better, I just picked this one. Saves things as mp3s.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:55 AM on August 15, 2016

I use todist for this.

I have the paid version which I've hacked to make it GTD friendly for projects in progress, but I also capture tons of ideas there too which I eventual tag and categorize (or not).

I've used evernote and wunderlist in the past. Both are solid choices but I prefer the todist UI.
posted by 26.2 at 12:30 PM on August 15, 2016

Notational Velocity + Moleskine + paper scraps + blank canvas of a bare forearm.
posted by fritillary at 3:01 PM on August 15, 2016

Response by poster: Thank you all for your suggestions. I will have to test out a few things and see what works for me.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:39 PM on August 15, 2016

I put ideas as tasks on my phone calendar. Makes it easy to scroll back in time through ideas.
posted by WeekendJen at 6:13 PM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

my friend has a cool system. or a couple of them, rather.

1. captio. this is an app that lets you simply open it up, type in your idea, and when you hit send, it delivers it to your inbox. set up an inbox filter that sends all your captio emails to one folder. boom, all your great on-the-go ideas in one archived searchable folder.

2. google form. let's say you're always coming up with titles for that novel you're working on. you can make a simple google form where all you do is go to the form, type in the title, and it then populates into a spreadsheet of all the title ideas you've ever had. you could make a google form for several different things, like, one for novel titles, one for character names, one for places you want to see before you die, etc.
posted by iahtl at 7:52 PM on August 15, 2016

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