“For my stand-up, I always have my notebook with me and if something strikes me, I'll write it down.” – Janeane Garofalo, Born Sep. 28, 1964.
Some of these essays go for deep, profound quotations.
But this one is just a great, compact piece of professional advice that will have a PROFOUND impact on your work, no matter what you do to earn your keep.
Small things, done well, separate the successful from the mediocre.
And one thing most people don't do is write down their ideas. Once you write them down, it becomes a LOT easier to act on them and bring them to completion.
It gives them physical form. It frees up brain space and capacity to work on other stuff – including developing the idea you just wrote down.
Think of it as a chess game. You *could* play the entire game in your head, memorizing the positions of each piece, and updating them with each move. But it’s way easier if you take out the board and pieces and let that free up your brain to focus on strategy once you can SEE it all laid out.
Writing down your ideas and giving them substance makes it easier to create connections between ideas and make plans and set goals and choose milestones.
A simple little notebook serves as a MAJOR upgrade to your brain. It's additional memory, and processing space, and long term storage. It's like a graphical model you can then begin working on in new dimensions.
And it should ALWAYS be with you. Whether it’s an actual pad of paper, or a digital note on your phone that you save to the cloud. I use both.
You never know when the fickle muses will strike. An overheard conversation can become a whole new content piece. A sign you saw can become a swipe for a pitch six months from now.
If it grabs you, tickles you, irks you, or otherwise captures your attention – write it down.
If you have an idea that makes you smile or frown, it might well do the same for anyone you share it with. Write it down.
Develop the habit.
Do you keep a notebook with you?
What do you write inside it?
Here are a few practical things you should consider keeping separate note files on, for a huge productivity and creativity boost…
1. General ideas. Write down just enough to capture the whole thought. This is a good list to revisit when feeling blank and needing to brainstorm.
2. Specific ideas, categorized by project. Article ideas, product ideas, etc. These notes become a “to do” list that makes sure you’re never stuck for a subject.
3. Observed attention grabbers. Things you saw or overheard that triggered a reaction. Note the trigger, and your involuntary response. Sort by emotion.
4. Follow ups. Things you encountered but want to dig deeper into when you have a chance. This is a great habit for keeping focus and ditching distractions to the side (temporarily).
5. Testimonials. A lot of times, people say nice things about us and our work, and you need to develop a habit of saving these, with a note about context and attribution, so you can re-use them later.
6. Criticism and objections to you and your work. Also note the context and source of these. Surprisingly, these can be just as good as marketing hooks for future work.
BONUS. Write down desired outcomes for specific projects. Not vague far off goals or dreams. Just hoped-for short-term outcomes. This makes you more conscious of hitting those targets, and it’s also VERY encouraging to go back years and see how far you’ve come.
That’s just a few note-taking, brain-boosting ideas, and if you have others or just like these, let me know. Thanks!