In case you aren’t familiar with the term “pockets,” this is the term I use to name the protected places where you keep a space, a reserve, a possibility. We need pockets in many areas of our life (e.g., money, time), but have you considered that you also need pockets of (and for) ideas? We need to make sure to capture ideas as they are occurring, because sometimes when you need a good idea, one doesn’t come. (Darn it!)
At any given moment (some of which are more convenient than others), ideas will come to you. Some of these ideas are major, some are minor, but when you don’t capture the ideas, they whirl around in your head. This not only diverts your attention away from the other work or pleasure on which you need to be focusing but it’s also risky to ignore them because they might not come back! The following are possible means for capturing your ideas as they’re occurring, so you have them for later consideration.
- When you’re at your desk, write down ideas on a piece of paper and drop them into your inbox (assuming you’re a David Allen person who knows to process your inbox)!
- Have an “idea” tab in your planner (either paper or digital). Write down incoming ideas in those designated spots. Cal Newport (author of Deep Work and other helpful books) keeps a text file on his computers named ‘Working Memory’ and he makes note of any and all thoughts that come to him other than what he’s directly focused on — and then he clears that out each evening during his workday shutdown).
- Call and leave yourself voicemail messages. I used to do this all the time when I was driving the long distances around Nevada (which was a prime time for ideas to arrive, unbidden!)
- Record ideas on your phone. Essentially all smart phones offer this feature.
- Send yourself email (or a text). If the idea pops into your head when you are working on email, just send one to yourself with the idea. Note: If you never actually process your emails or texts, then please don’t use this idea!
- Keep a pad nearby that you love to write on and delight in jotting down thoughts and ideas as they come to you.
- Snag one of the omnipresent Post-it® notes that are around–or keep a small packet of them in a pocket or pouch. Later, you can flesh out the idea but for now, you just need to get it written down (and put into a system that gets processed!)
- Invest in the perfect pen so you’ll have a positive feeling about the idea as you write it down.
- When you need generate an abundance of ideas, this works: Get out a fresh pad or open up a new document on your computer. Write a question at the top of the page and then number from 1–30. Start writing possible solutions or ideas that will address the question you started with. Don’t edit, don’t censor, don’t worry about plausibility. Just write. The first 15 are likely to be fairly run-of-the-mill ideas. You have to clear those out first. Somewhere along idea #15 or 16, new and different ideas will emerge — and you couldn’t have gotten to those until you cleared out the old ideas. Feel free to blast right past #30, but at least get to 30. You will surprise yourself.
- Another essential idea for prompting ideas: Mind map by putting an issue, question, or word prompt in the middle of a large (at least 11 x 17″) piece of paper. Then draw spokes out from the center node and start writing (or drawing) what comes to you. Keep going. You will surprise yourself, I promise. If you’re not sure what mindmapping is, do a search and you’ll find MANY resources.
Whew! You are chock-full of ideas! And you’ve captured them so they are ready for you when you need them. You have pockets of ideas! Hooray!
Keep your focus on pockets as you move forward. Feel free to access one of the booklets I’ve published on the topic of pockets — with my compliments.