Chasing tails (Capturing your thoughts)

An odd problem

Having too many thoughts floating around your head can be strange problem. Some may see it as a god sent and say you’re so creative, how can you have so many ideas.
But those that actually have so many ideas life isn’t that easy. Having a lot of them means that your brain is constantly churning something. There is relentless ticking, analyzing,  assessing  re-evaluating. In short period of time it can be great you can easily spit out dozens of ideas and dazzle people around you with your potential. Unfortunately in the long term things are much less exiting. Having a ton of ideas means that you’re constantly engaged with little to no rest for your brain. Plus there is little chance that you actually do something.

Help your brain

With hundreds ideas floating around it can be difficult to focus on something. Quite often the very moment you want to start working on that one project, a bunch of new thoughts appears in your head. The wave of thoughts sweeps you away and 2 hours later you realize you haven’t even started working on that project.

We can’t stop our brain from producing new thoughts but we can relive it from them. The easiest way to do that is to capture those ideas, images and park them until you’re ready to look at them in detail.

We can only focus on a selected number of things so if you want to focus on a project but struggle with countless thoughts stuck in your brain start off by dumping everything out.

The workflow

  1. Helping your brain to reduce the pressure of new ideas is relatively easy.
  2. First make sure you have your capture tool handy.
  3. Second get to work on something.
  4. If you are interrupted stop the work pull your capture device and jot things down.
  5. Put it or send it into your inbox.
  6. Go back to work.
  7. Repeat 1-6 as necessary


Almost any workflow will require at least one tool to support it. In this case you will need one that will help you capture the thoughts and ideas in a way and format you want whether it’s text, graphics, audio or other. Find something that works for you.

The tools you select will need to serve you in the places you are most prone to get ideas or need to capture them. I would see three such places Work, Home, On the go. When choosing your tool(s) make sure you select one that can serve you in all or most of these places. I tend to rely on combination of three tools:

*notebooks – there are countless sizes and brand of notebooks, cheap ones and expensive ones. I like to use a single notebook for everything as it lets me keep things in one place. If I need to refer to something I always know where to go. The drawback is that thing can get pushed down very quickly if you capture a lot of stuff.

*index cards – there are quite a few variations of these. They are great for quick capture of few thoughts so that you can drop them into your inbox. They are nice tangible expression of your thoughts  this works great when it comes to reviewing them later as one card equals one thought. For some interesting ideas on index sized capture note look here and here

*computer/smartphone app – a third option is using digital tools like Evernote, Onenote, Springpad, Notes, text files or any other of the hundreds of programs available  They are great for capturing not only text but also audio, images, drawings etc making them very versatile options. When considering one for your own use make sure it allows for quick capture of ideas i.e. learn a keyboard shortcut which will bring up the app and open a new note window so that you can type things with very little friction.

One inbox

Regardless of what you use to capture make sure all those items end up in one or two places that you know you will check. The point isn’t simply to write things down and forget about them. The idea is that once you’ve captured something you will come back to it and decide what to do next with it if anything.

Spreading things around in different places will mean that all those things will quickly come back to you as your brain will not trust that you can effectively deal with them.

Keep it easy and keep it simple one inbox to cover everything.

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