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Capturing unimportant ideas

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  • Capturing unimportant ideas

    I get things out of my head as much as possible and it has helped me significantly. However, I tend to always have ideas that, at the time, don't seem that important to me and I immediately dismiss them. I do not capture them because I believe they are simply not related to anything that I am doing at the moment.

    Does anyone else have these ideas and think the same way I do or is there some advantage of capturing these ideas even though you think they might not be that important? They are taking up psychic RAM, but is it really advantageous to capture them?

  • #2
    Capture them all. That's collecting.

    Don't judge them. That would be processing, and you can do it later.

    Get them out of your psychic RAM. That's GTD.

    Unimportant ideas can turn out to be of supreme importance. Time will tell, and so will attention.

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    • #3
      I think it's valuable to capture them IF they are taking up psychic RAM. An idea that seems like a good one at the time will usually take up psychic RAM as you try to prevent yourself from forgetting it. It's possible for an idea that seems useless to take up psychic ram because it just keeps nagging at you-- in this case, I think it's good to write it down and re-evaluate later whether it's a good idea or a bad one, to get it off your mind.

      But if it seems like a non-useful idea, and it's not nagging at you, I think it's good to just let it go away. If you try to record every stray thought that crosses your mind, then you'll spend too much time recording and evaluating uninteresting ideas, which takes psychic CPU cycles away from coming up with new ones. If it turns out to have been a good idea after all, it (or something very similar) will probably come back when the situation triggers it.


      EDIT: heh, we posted them at the same time. I used to try to capture all the ideas that went through my head, but a few years ago I realized that I was spending way to much time capturing and it was cluttering up my brain too much to try to record everything. I suppose the answer depends on what is meant by "every idea"-- if recording them all becomes a barrier to doing much else, then it's time to start letting them go and trust that more will come. I still record a LOT of ideas, most of which will never see the light of day-- but I've felt a great sense of freedom once I realized I didn't need to catch them all.
      Last edited by LJM; 05-10-2007, 09:53 AM.

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      • #4
        As I've posted elsewhere, I keep an idea file with just this kind of thing. I write ideas down, but don't pull them into my GTD lists until they've incubated long enough to become projects (if only Someday/Maybe projects) rather than vague musings.

        I think capturing such ideas is valuable. Ideas that come up again and again might be worth pursuing, or might be a sign that my subsconscious is working on something that deserves more focused attention.

        Katherine

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        • #5
          Whether to capture random ideas...

          In my view, it all depends on what type of work you do and what type of personal goals you have.

          If you're a writer, capturing random ideas is essential. Having a collection of jottings--organized by subject/theme--can be an invaluable resource in the midst of future, yet unknown, writing projects. It can also help to generate ideas for new writing projects.

          If you are interested in pyschological/spiritual development, it can also be quite helpful to jot down feelings, insights, etc. for review at a later date.

          Or if you're a coder, you'll want a means of collecting those ideas for projects, hacks, etc. that pop into your head at random moments.

          In short, one's attention to all the flotsam floating through the brain will depend on interests and goals.

          Index cards are a good way to capture ideas, since you can organize them by subject/theme. Capture the random thought, file it, and forget about it until the day comes when you need a jump-start in some area of your life or work.

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          • #6
            I think it also depends on what you mean by "random" ideas. I capture a lot of ideas each day, without evaluating at the time whether they are "worthwhile" or not. But back when I tried to capture every thought-- it was like trying to build a sandcastle to hold back a tide. And the ideas that turned out to be most worthwhile usually either 1. took up "psychic RAM" by nagging at me or 2. returned later in a more coherent form that was easier to write down.

            I'll collect other stray thoughts if it's convenient, but otherwise I let the "stray thoughts" (that don't either strike a chord or else stubbornly buzz around my ears) fade back into the organic soup of ideas. Even so, I have an entire file-box (my "idea cauldron") to keep and bring some order to scraps of ideas, my interests run in so many directions at once.

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            • #7
              Capture them for later!!

              By all means, capture those ideas. I keep a stack of 3x5 cards next to my bed because sometimes, just before I fall asleep, I get little brainstorms. I look them over in the morning, and if they are not worth pursuing today they get Deferred. I usually file them in my Tickler File for my next Monthly Review (if not for sooner).

              This way these (frequently hare-brained) ideas get captured, do not cause stress by idling on the back burner, and they get reviewed and processed in one to four weeks. Sometimes they go into the Archives, sometimes they go in @Someday/Maybe, sometimes they become blog posts.

              In any case, capturing your random ideas is an excellent way to spur your creativity when you are not feeling motivated. Good luck!

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              • #8
                Capture everything. The capture stage is to get the idea down in concrete form so that (a) you can evaluate it at a later date, and (b) to save you having the same idea over and over. Once you've got a written copy of it, whether it's tossed in an ideas file, processed into your system, or evaluated then binned, then provided you trust your system, your mind will know that you've dealt with that idea and it can move on to other ideas.

                Think of your mind as a conveyor belt carrying ideas at random intervals: if you stop to evaluate each one, the rest will either pass you by or pile up at your feet. If you toss those ideas into your system funnel, you can evaluate later and do with as you wish.

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                • #9
                  No one has mentioned the most important reason to capture ideas: to help you have more of them.

                  Or at least to capture more of them.

                  The idea is that the subconscious is always burbling along below the surface, simmering whatever inputs you give it. Every so often, an idea floats to the surface, to the interface with your conscious mind.

                  The idea might be a Eureka! moment, but more likely it's just a dim glow, a new way of looking at something, a new angle on an old problem. If you aren't paying attention, you might miss it.

                  Losing that one idea is probably not a big deal. The problem is that you can lose the habit of paying attention. If you stop watching for them, more and more ideas slip through unnoticed, until eventually you either miss the Eureka! moments or don't have them at all because you've starved your mental pipeline.

                  Various spiritual traditions and many creativity professionals talk about this process of paying attention in metaphysical terms. Those metaphors can be helpful, but I don't think they're essential to the underlying idea. Capturing ideas puts you in the habit of looking for them. If you look, you'll find that there are zillions of them right under your nose.

                  (See also the notebooks of Edison, or Da Vinci, or any prolific creative type.)

                  Katherine

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                  • #10
                    Convinced

                    I sincerely appreciate all of the insight everyone is given. This has been a topic I have been off and on thinking about for awhile. In fact, this topic was one that came and went! I thought about posting this topic on the board, but it kept coming up and I eventually gave in and captured it into my Treo and played it back the next day and I posted it!

                    I think I'm going to capture any idea that comes up and stays there for a bit. I can differentiate between an idea that is "ringing my bell" and one that will come and go. That's a little hard to explain, but you would not understand how many flailing ideas and thoughts I have during the day (especially in the car on my 45 minutes commute).

                    Thanks for the encouragement!

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by AdamB View Post
                      That's a little hard to explain, but you would not understand how many flailing ideas and thoughts I have during the day
                      I think everyone has those ideas that randomly come and go at a speed too fast to even think about them. Trying to capture all of them is absolutely impossible. What about those 10 ideas that come up while you write the first word of the idea that you had 1.000 ideas past? The brain is too fast to capture!

                      If something keeps nagging: Write it down. If it's things that come and go: try if you manage to think about it for longer than a second to see if it's worth dealing with.

                      Jochen

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by AdamB View Post
                        I can differentiate between an idea that is "ringing my bell" and one that will come and go. That's a little hard to explain, but you would not understand how many flailing ideas and thoughts I have during the day (especially in the car on my 45 minutes commute).
                        Ah, so you (and Jochen) know what I'm talking about, then .
                        I was beginning to wonder if I was alone.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by AdamB View Post
                          I can differentiate between an idea that is "ringing my bell" and one that will come and go. That's a little hard to explain, but you would not understand how many flailing ideas and thoughts I have during the day (especially in the car on my 45 minutes commute).
                          My graduate school advisor was a brilliant man, who had more ideas per day than anybody else I'd ever been around. I worked with him for thirteen years during and after graduate school, and learned to triage his idea stream:
                          • First time he mentioned it: Could be absolutely anything, I don't have time to chance every one of those.
                          • Second time he mentioned it: Hmm, maybe that wasn't a random wacky thought after all. If it's in my area of responsibility, I'd better look into it.
                          • Third time he mentioned it: Ok, this is going to be a good one, get on/ahead of it so you can add it to your responsibilities once we figure it out further.

                          If something on your Someday/Maybe or Random Thoughts list keeps on popping up in your mind at various intervals even after you've written it down... I'd argue that it needs to become a project, because it's going to be something useful. That's true even if it is a negative idea... the project is then probably a "how/why to turn that around" type of project.

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                          • #14
                            "The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out. Every mind is a building filled with archaic furniture. Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it." -- Dee Hock

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                            • #15
                              If there is any sense in tension I write it down. If I find myself worrying that I'm not going to remember it, if I wish I'd thought of that earlier, if there's a connection to another idea I had. Any of those things or even a little twinge in the stomach leads me to writing it down.

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