Gotta Catch ‘Em All

As with Pokémon, it’s important to capture all your ideas as you have them. They are wily and fleeting and if you don’t wrangle them as they crop up, you run the risk of losing them forever. Some ideas will keep returning to you, but there are some that may have been triggered by something very specific or cropped up suddenly in the midst of other thoughts and if you miss them, they’re just gone.

To avoid those ideas sneaking off, it’s best to make sure you have a bag of tricks to snare them and keep them around for when they’ll be useful to you. Some of these items are pretty standard. But a few are more gadget-based ideas that you may want to consider. Here’s a good run-down of things you’ll want to have.

Pen and Paper – A notebook and something to write in it with. Ubiquitous. Just something you need to have. Take it with you to work. Keep it in your glove compartment. Carry if with you in your bag. A small notepad is a good idea for times when you won’t have something like a larger back to carry around. This way you can fit it in your pocket and not worry about needing to tote something everywhere.

Smartphones are doing a solid job at being excellent overall capture devices, but I still find them too cumbersome to really use for an extended period of time. The speed I can write far outstrips the pace at which I can thumb-type.

Voice Recorder – This is something I consider a must-have for the car. Long car rides are often where I do my best thinking. I make the trip up into the Los Angeles area from San Diego quite a bit. It’s a straight shot up the freeway and can take anywhere from two to three hours. I know the drive well, so my mind can wander quite a bit. The time to sit and think (see Colin Wright’s 20 Minutes of Awesome) and listen to some thought-provoking music can lead to some great ideas. However, you can’t write them down and because you’re stuck in a car (and just pulling off to the side of the road to jot something down is not a great idea), you’re apt to lose great ideas before you reach your destination.

A voice-recorder here is the perfect save. Just grab the recorder, hit the record button and start talking. You’ll be able to get every little nuance just as you want it. MP3 recorders can store a ridiculous amount of audio content as well. For about $40, you can get a Sony digital voice recorder that will record 280 hours of audio. That’s over 11 straight days of audio. So, if you really needed to, you could narrate yourself a few novels.

Again, smartphones will perform this function as well, but not as cleanly. It can be dangerous, while driving, to snag your phone and navigate your way through its menus to find the right function and then queue up a recording. With the digital recorder, you just hit the red button on the front and you’re good to go. However, applications like Evernote will not only record voice (among other things), they will also upload them to a central web location that can then be synced down to any other machine you have Evernote set up on. Pretty useful.

Part of the problem with voice notes, however, is transcription. It can be a hassle to rattle of twenty minutes of chatter and then have to head home and spend twice that time trying to write it all down. I haven’t found a great capture device/solution that will go speech-to-text in an all-in-one solution (let me know if you have one!), but you can always just snag something like Dragon NaturallySpeaking and have it do the heavy lifting for you. Fire up the application, open your word processor, hit play on  your recorder and then go make a sandwich.

Digital Camera – This is something that I will say you can probably get away with having your smartphone for, if you have one. Many ideas are prompted by something visual. A place or building or tree, anything. You might not need 10 megapixel clarity, but just something to trigger your memory, or allow you to get the general details of the scene that you can flesh out more on your own later. Digital cameras run pretty cheap these days (a decent Powershot will run you about $100) and are great and ever increasingly compact, but they can be tricky to juggle all the time unless you always have something to carry one in.

With these three items in your possession, you should be able to keep track of all those brilliant ideas. Write them, speak them, photograph the inspirations.

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