What do you do when you have a great idea – but it’s the middle of the night. Or you’re in the shower. Or you’re driving your car. And you try to remember that idea by reminding yourself. And reminding yourself. But before you can take action, the idea fades away.
If you want to capture more ideas and get them closer to action, write your ideas down whenever and wherever they come to you. Put a pad of paper, a pen, and a flashlight next to the bed. Keep a pad of paper in the bathroom so as soon as you exit the shower you have a place to record your thoughts. If you’re driving, pull over. It’s better to do that and get the thought out of your head than it is to drive distracted.
So what’s the magic of writing things down?
- Writing things down clears your mind. With the thought out of your head, you can relax and stop reminding yourself. And you have room for new ideas!
- There’s an implied contract between your brain and your hand when you write something down. You own that thought. It’s yours. Now you can decide if you want to take action on it. Or ask someone to help you if it seems too big. You can delegate it. Or you can pitch it.
- Whatever your action plan is, add that to your planner on a day and time that works for you. Everything doesn’t have to get done today.
- If you’re trying to change a habit or start a new one, paying attention to what you’re doing by writing it down is a great way to track your behavior. What you write in a planner is your own business. Tracking habits shows you what you’re dealing with and helps your brain formulate a plan. It’s also fun to see a new habit take hold as you track results.
- Recent research at Princeton and UCLA found that taking notes by hand helps you listen better and retain more information. So even if what you’re writing isn’t an original thought or idea, writing is still a really important part of learning.
By the way, in that study at Princeton and UCLA, they tested the difference between taking notes by hand and taking notes by typing into a computer. They found that when students took notes by hand, they listened more actively and were able to identify important concepts. Taking notes on a laptop lead to mindless transcription, as well as an opportunity for distraction, such as email.
“In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand,” writes co-author and Princeton University psychology professor Pam Mueller. “We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.”
When you write stuff down, by hand or on a computer, you have a greater tendency to do it. You feel clearer about how you spend your time. And you may even sleep better! Though I have to say that the idea for this blog hit me at about 5:50 this morning which meant I had to get up and write it down. But then I could go back to sleep! 🙂
And now it is done.
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