I had this fantastic idea yesterday. Wait, what was it again?
You don’t ever want to be saying that, even if the idea in question might turn out to be not-so-great after all.
Ideas are notorious for being unpredictable and elusive. There’s not much you can do about the former, but you can capture your ideas in a snap before they vanish into the ether.
Setting up a central system to track your ideas is worth the time and effort it requires. Your creativity and productivity will thank you for it. Here’s one effective way to go about storing your ideas, and it involves using the simplicity of IFTTT.
Build Your Digital Idea Notebook
The benefit of a digital notebook lies in its 24/7 accessibility and its capability to sort and search for ideas. A paper notebook has its own set of advantages. This is not a contest between the two. Who says you can’t use both?
You’re free to use any number of note-taking methods. Just ensure that no matter where you jot down your ideas, they all end up in the same location. This makes it easy to retrieve the right kind of inspiration when you need it.
Begin by selecting a service to host your idea notebook. Evernote and Simplenote are two of your top options. If you prefer a visual approach to ideas, pick Google Keep or Diigo. You could save your ideas in text files on Dropbox, in email drafts, in Google Drive, or even in a dedicated Slack channel. An unusual approach is okay as long as it works for you.
Of course, if you’re planning to use IFTTT, Evernote is the most flexible option you have.
I love Evernote more and more every day (especially w/ help from IFTTT…look it up): http://t.co/wi4uYchxaA
— The Connoliath (@jdconnolly) March 29, 2014
Once you have decided which note-taking application you want to use for your primary idea book:
- Create folders to organize your existing ideas based on topic, mood, relevance, etc. (avoid deep levels of nesting)
- Tag your ideas to locate the right ones with ease
- Install the app on all your devices and keep it ready for quick, effortless access
- Follow the same organizational structure for new ideas
Psst…Worried about losing your best ideas because you often get them in the shower? Buy a waterproof notepad to write them down.
Now that you have a home for your ideas, it’s time to redirect incoming ones to this centralized location. That’s where IFTTT comes in.
Set up IFTTT
IFTTT is a brilliant web service that connects (in pairs) various digital services and products you use. It allows you to create If-Then conditional statements or recipes that work, like:
If there’s an update to app X, then update app Y.
In Feb 2015, IFTTT rebranded its mobile app to IF. It also released a set of three mobile apps that let you activate IFTTT recipes with a single tap. For example, with DO Camera, you can click a photo on your smartphone and have it sent to your Dropbox. With DO Button, you can escape from a life-sucking meeting by sending yourself a phone call. DO Note does exactly as it sounds — sends a text note to any service you set up.
The main glitch with these DO apps is that you’re restricted to three recipes per app. Choose your recipes well. For an in-depth look at the potential of IFTTT, read our guide on how to use IFTTT like a pro.
How do IFTTT and its mobile apps fit into your idea-gathering strategy? Here’s how:
- They make it easier and faster to capture ideas and…
- They help you automate the process of saving them to your digital notebook
Find The Right IFTTT Connections
You have set up an IFTTT account and understand how recipes work. Now it’s time to make the right connections to ensure that the flow of your ideas from “captured” to “saved” is smooth. Here are a few examples to help you get started. There are already pre-made recipes to make your job easier. You can customize each recipe to your need.
Record your idea as a voice memo using Siri and send it via SMS to Evernote. Here’s an IFTTT recipe you can try.
Photograph unusual patterns and color schemes and share them with your design team on Slack. Here’s an IFTTT recipe that lets you share photos on Slack.
Email yourself the location of useful shops to explore.
Star articles around a certain theme in Pocket and get them sent to your inbox weekly.
— Christine (@ChrissieMathias) March 10, 2014
Write an outline for your next blog post and send it to Dropbox. Use this Take-a-note IFTTT recipe.
Append your ideas to an email digest that’s delivered to you once a week. Get all your good ideas with this IFTTT recipe.
Scan sketchnotes or take snapshots of your paper-based ideas and send them to your email.
Create photo notes and send them to Evernote. With this IFTTT recipe.
Put Your Ideas on a Schedule
Ideas can strike any time and you must be ready for them. But it’s just as important to work on generating ideas on a schedule. Also, ideas are of no use if you save them and forget about them. You need to revisit and review them from time to time.
Use a Date & Time IFTTT recipe to schedule your brainstorming and idea review sessions. While you’re at it, set up a recurring reminder to go on an Artist Date – a weekly solo outing to spark your imagination.
Don’t Let Your Ideas Escape
Nurturing old ideas is easier than coming up with new ones, so ensure that none of your ideas get away from you. With a proper system in place to capture your brain-waves, that shouldn’t be too difficult.
As your notebook grows, your ideas will feed off each other and give rise to fresh and unusual connections. Whenever you’re stuck for ideas, just reach into your notebook like a magician reaching into a hat. Out will come an idea, or three.
Do you use IFTTT to making capturing and storing ideas simpler? Which IF and DO recipes are your favorites? Share them in the comments.