How do you capture your ideas?

Ideas are my nemesis.

Sherlock and Moriarty. Batman and the Joker. Superman and Lex Luthor.

Every hero has a nemesis that taunts them and generally tries to hinder their good work.

Ideas come to me in the dark, subconscious hours of the night, teasing me with the promise of genius only to leave me when I’m fully awake.

Instead of relying upon my memory, when I’m inspired at 4:00 a.m., I need to become more disciplined about writing them down.

I had this great idea for a video about not tweeting in the third person. But I didn’t write it down. Not one to waste an opportunity, I turned my own mistake into a lesson.

How do you conquer and capture your ideas? Once written down, that’s just the beginning.

Ideas need to be executed or they’re worthless.

So, what stops us? I see really two or three reasons.

  1. Fear
  2. Doubt (see 1)
  3. Procrastination (see 1)
  4. Pride (see 1)
  5. Poor time management (see 3)

Fear keeps us paralyzed.

What if we don’t do it perfectly? What if our friends make fun of us? What if we mispronounce someone’s name? What if?

I know this very well. I could almost say that I’m more comfortable in analyzing all of the reasons why I shouldn’t do something than the reasons why I should. It’s bad.

I repeat. It’s a bad habit to be comfortable with fear. Fear and doubt are just two sides of the same coin.

So what?

What if we’re full of doubt? What if we fail?

Will the world end? No.

No matter what we do, the world will keep on spinning.

Planning helps you combat fear.

You know those people who pack for a trip a week early? Ya. That’s me. I like to eliminate all the ways I can fail as early as possible.

If I find the suitcase now, then I don’t have to scramble at hour 11. What if my suitcase is dirty or ruined or broken?

So if I dig it out of the closet now, I not only know where it is, but I can clean it up, but a dryer sheet inside to help it smell nice, and I’m ready.

Procrastination comes from fear.

I’m an enigma. I plan and I procrastinate. It’s a weird combination. Again, I’m familiar with this emotional territory. Too familiar.

Just start. Why are you avoiding that task? Wasn’t it your great idea?

It’s terrible. Even this post, I did a bunch of work (yes, on Saturday) before I tackled this topic at 2:00 pm in the afternoon. I could probably write a longer post justifying the reasons why I needed to do those other things first, but if we just get real, it’s procrastination.

Overcome procrastination with a reward.

When I was a kid, the rule was:

“Do your homework, then go play with your friends.”

That was a good rule. I’ve carried it into my adult life and it’s affected my work-life in a good way.

I’ll tell myself, “Okay, just write this blog post, then you can go for a walk and watch the sunset.” Or maybe, “write three tweets, then you can watch a Jerry Seinfeld episode.” You get the point. Some call it gamification, but that’s just a fancy word of setting up rewards.

Be aware: planning can be a disguise for procrastination.

The trojan horse of tricks: planning.

Now, I believe in planning. Planning can also be disguised as analysis. Both can occupy your time and steal away your action. Planning without action is wasted time. The opposite could be said as well.

Are you sensing circular logic? It’s very easy to get trapped. When we feel trapped, we tend to go into justification mode.

Conquer your ideas with action.

Something imperfect but done is better than a partially executed idea. Some may argue with me but I feel like perfectionism is a thief.

If I pulled out every seam that wasn’t sewed perfectly, no one would ever have been given one of my quilts. If my song didn’t have ten verses, it never would have been recorded. If you keep proofreading your post and adding words, and never publish it, what use will it be to the world?

I learned this in dance class. If you mess up or even fall, make it look intentional. No one in the audience knows the routine. We do. But we are fallible. We will make mistakes.

Practice helps prevent mistakes. In no way am I advocating that low quality is acceptable. But at some point, you have to just send that gift, publish that post, and serve that meal.

Mistakes can be amazing.

Back in  my baking days, I was determined to make a sugar-free pumpkin spice cake for my husband who happened to be diabetic. In fact, there were a bunch of things I made because of this reason, but I digress.

So, if you don’t know, sugar helps things rise.


This is the major challenge in sugar-free baking. By the way, granulated fructose helps.

So this two-layer cake didn’t rise, but I assembled and frosted it anyway (with cream cheese frosting).

It was dense.

It was delicious.

It was better than pumpkin pie.

It wasn’t a mistake. I was a hero.

Stop limiting yourself by your own concepts.

Yes, I’m speaking to myself here. But if any of you are like me, even 10% like me, then maybe I can help you, too.

Make an action plan.

  1. Write down your ideas.
  2. Calendar time to work on your idea.
  3. Review the idea with a friend or mentor (especially if it’s a business idea).
  4. Start.

What’s stopping you?

Bonus by Derek Sivers: “Start Now. No Funding Needed.”



4 responses to “How do you capture your ideas?”

  1. Ideas are definitely so easy to be forgotten! I find that, while I’m pretty good at writing all the ideas I have down (or recording them via an audio app while driving ha), I find that so many of them end up unused.

    Making a routine to periodically skin through prior ideas is something I’ve found to be highly useful.

  2. I make sure to have a big arsenal of notes and ideas ready. I try ready a new non-fiction book each week and copy down the most interesting quotes and ideas into a Google doc.

    Then if I hit a creative rut, I’ll just go scanning through the notes I have.

    Generally, the more I explore to other topics and interests, the more varied ideas I’ll get. One week I’ll read a book on the Serengeti Lion and the next an autobiography on Clarence Darrow. So much interesting stuff out there!