Ideas. We all have them, right? Sometimes they're small and sometimes they're big. Whenever we have them, they always send us running into the future, grasping at all the possibilities. But that's not always a great thing. They enable critical thinking, but they also distract us from our priorities in the present moment.
On a personal level, this can hinder your productivity, stop you from developing more fresh ideas, and keep you in an endless loop of not completing anything. All because your mind is just too overloaded.
As David Allen said, “Your mind is for having ideas, not for holding them.” To allow your mind to fly to its full potential, you need to create a system that allows you to transfer ideas from your head in seconds. This’ll allow you to focus on what matters today and then go back to them later. We’ll show you how to do that in this article.
Ideas are a life form
Generally, ideas are seen as nothing but electric signals in the brain, but what if they’re much bigger and more mysterious than that? In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert describes ideas as a type of life-form! They come out from the ether and then latch onto you as a human partner for manifesting themselves.
So, what happens if you don't take action on them? At first, they try to occupy your headspace and keep bugging you. This is why you feel like your mind is always occupied. If you don’t take action soon enough, they go away and just choose another human partner!
By noting down your ideas, in a way you're assuring that idea that, ‘Yes, I will bring you to reality, but later, when my important work is done.’ Here's an excerpt from Big Magic:
I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas. Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us—albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.
This is something that can’t be proved right or wrong. It’s something that we just choose to believe, and that belief can help us be more creative in our daily lives. Yet, you’d be happy to know that there is some scientific backing to it.
According to this study by the University of Haifa, developing ideas requires the work of two different networks in the brain, the associative and the normative networks. As this article by Funderstanding says, the left hemisphere of the brain is responsible for collecting ideas, whereas the right hemisphere is responsible for putting those ideas to use. What this shows us is that the place we get our ideas from usually isn’t the same place we operate from in daily life. These ideas come from somewhere else, whether you call it the subconscious or the ether.
These facts also prove another point: if we were to always take action on whatever ideas we had without a second thought, we'd never get anything done. We'd be working on one idea to make it a reality and another one would come along. The cycle goes on and on.
So, you need a system that gives you the mental energy to focus on bringing your best ideas to fruition while also noting down other ideas you get for future reference without weighing you down cognitively. Let’s talk about how to do that!
Creating your own Idea Inbox
Now that you know the importance of collecting your ideas, it’s time to create your own Idea Inbox! You might have ideas at any time or place—when you’re taking a walk in the park, at home on your computer, or in the shower—but you need a central place to store them all.
Why is this? If you spread them across post-it notes, chat logs, and Excel sheets, it’ll be impossible to keep track of them. Organization is the name of the game. So, let’s talk about three main places where you can store ideas.
Before there was paper, people used to write on clay tablets and parchment. Now, we have the luxury of digital screens. Popular note-taking apps like Evernote, Apple Notes, Bear, and Google Keep provide a quick and simple way to capture your ideas. Plus, they’re all free.
All of these have cross-platform functionality, cloud backup, and a user-friendly interface design. They’re easy to get the hang of, secure, and reliable. With that being said, what has been working out for the last few thousand years is bound to work today as well: good ol’ pen and paper.
If you want to lower your screen time, or the act of writing itself often sparks new ideas in your mind, carrying around a notebook for writing down ideas is always a great option too! Just make sure you have it available to you at most times, like on your bedside table and your workspace.
At Bardeen, we’re all big fans of Notion. It’s an all-around great application for organizing your work and life. So, it’s no surprise that it’s also excellent for creating your Idea Inbox!
As you can see in the above video, we can make the process of logging ideas into Notion a breeze using Bardeen. We have developed an automation that will let you create a page in Notion.
If this automation impressed you and you like using Notion for managing other parts of your life too, check out the Notion Automation Hub!
Email and other tools
In addition to note-taking apps and Notion, you can also use email and project management tools like Trello, ClickUp, and Asana for storing ideas. Here are some great Bardeen automations for this purpose.
Definitely go through these automations and give them a try!
Creating an Idea Inbox for teams
Creativity is multiplied when many minds are involved, whether it be a group meeting or a Mastermind session. Steve Jobs knew this very well. Just a few months after he started NeXT in 1985, he took eleven of the top employees to a company retreat to brainstorm new ideas.
He started with, “We are in the process of architecting a new company,” and then listened closely as all of the employees contributed their unique ideas, only stepping in now and again to help keep everyone on track. Here are three main takeaways from this:
- Use one unified platform for idea collection: This applies to both individuals and teams. Your ideas won’t do you any good if they’re spread out everywhere. So, determine one unified platform which all team members can use to enter and store their ideas. Asana and Ideanote are both great for this.
- Make it accessible to every member: Nobody likes to be left out of a conversation. So, it’s important to invite every member of your team onto the platform where you collect your ideas and discuss future strategies.
- Give every member an equal voice: You never know where the next world-changing idea is going to come from! So, it’s essential that every member of the team has an opportunity to voice their own ideas and opinions. The more perspectives you bring into the mix, the better.
If you follow these tips in addition to what we said before, you’ll be able to use your team Idea Inbox to its maximum.
How often should you check your Idea Inbox?
The way you manage your Idea Inbox also makes a huge difference. It’s important to strike a delicate balance between how often you check it. Here are three things to remember to manage it well:
- Kill your darlings: Let’s be honest, most of your ideas aren’t going to be exactly groundbreaking. Not that they’re bad, but they’re useless and irrelevant to your current goals, which makes them not worth investing your energy into. So, a huge step forward by itself is just having the wherewithal to weed out the bad ideas and make space for the great ones.
- Push the good ideas further: Once you’ve taken out all the unnecessary ideas, you’ll be left with the good and high-impact ones. Now, you need to push them further. Look at them like seeds that you can plant into the ground. Depending on which goal or project they relate to, try to log them in the right places and tag them according to type. This will help you focus on them further.
- Do the work: When you finally have the time and space to focus on these new ideas, just sit down and do the work. This can mean using mind mapping software or journaling to flesh out that idea and get more out of it. Based on your thoughts, you can create an action plan and put it into motion to progress further.
You can check your Idea Inbox on a weekly basis. Say, at the end of every work week. Or, you can also check it whenever you’re not ready for high-energy work. Many times when you feel down or unenergetic, checking your ideas can perk you right up again and inspire you to push further.
If you keep the idea retrieval process under control, you can save yourself from the emotional rush that comes right after a new idea comes into your head. It’s easy to go along with the flow and keep working on that idea in excitement, and then lose touch with what you were originally doing. This can create a distance between you and the idea which can allow you to take action more decisively and squash the ‘There’s too much going on in my mind’ feeling.
Ideas aren’t predictable. They come at any time or place. That’s the beauty of them. The trick is to always note down your insightful and creative ideas, so you don’t lose them.
We know, this might seem daunting at first. Remember, the more you use this system, and keep depositing and withdrawing ideas, the more wonderful new ideas will come to you!
Now, go ahead and set up your idea inbox!
We mentioned Notion as a way of creating your Idea Inbox, but it is also capable of project management. If you want to read further about it, check out this article.