How to Capture Your Ideas (Never Forget a Great Idea!)

Do you have great ideas but can’t seem to fit them into your daily to-do list? Or maybe you’re constantly distracted by new ideas and steer away from your responsibilities?

In this article, we’ll be going step by step through how you can start to capture your ideas and safe-keep them in one area and quarantine those ideas away from your daily life.

Not a video person? No worries! We’ll cover all the main points in this article.

Shiny ideas are terrible…or are they?

“Shiny ideas” tend to get a bad reputation.

This is incomprehensible to us because people need ideas to make their life, business, or organization…better. Yet, we hear that we cannot be distracted by “shiny ideas” so we can be productive.

This doesn’t make sense to us.

To watch this explanation in video format, watch the video at the top of this article at timestamp 00:00.

How can we appreciate ideas without causing chaos?

In this article, we’ll discover how we can find a balance between “ideas are amazing” and “ideas are a recipe for disaster.” To be clear, both of these statements can be true!

Our hypothesis is ideas are wonderful.

What’s not so wonderful is how humans get infatuated with an idea and lose track of what’s important. Both ideas and humans are great. However, sometimes, the relationship between those two can be codependent.

We’ll be going step by step through how you can start to capture ideas and safe-keep them in one Brain Dump Zone and quarantine those ideas away from your daily life.

That way, you can be an idea-generating machine (yay!) who’s also super productive when the time requires. It would be best to recognize when it’s time to turn off the ideas area and focus on your daily workload so you’re neither distracted nor bored.

We’ll be going through four (quick) action items together to best explain this.

Let’s dive in!

To watch this explanation in video format, watch the video at the top of this article at timestamp 00:20.

Step 1: Create a Brain Dump Zone.

Step one in this process is to create an area you can access within 90 seconds.

Whether it’s a piece of software like ClickUp or a notebook, your goal is to have one spot where you can dump all your ideas within 90 seconds.

An exception to this rule: If you think of a great idea in the shower, maybe wait until you get out.

For most people, the easiest way would be a notebook. If you’re a fan of the digital route (like us), you’ll find a task or project management tool like ClickUp, Notion, Coda, or Airtable are great spots to dump ideas quickly and easily.

The key thing in this whole process is that it’s an easy process for anyone who will be contributing ideas to this area.

If you’re looking to capture ideas from an entire team, ensure that the notebook is accessible to everyone. On the flip side, if you want to ensure your ideas are kept private, do not make this area public.

Once we’ve picked our Brain Dump Zone, we need to decide what’s important for us to know for every idea.

To watch this explanation in video format, watch the video at the top of this article at timestamp 01:24.

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Step 2: Decide what Ideas Need to Include.

For step two, you need to figure out what’s important to you. Some people might find it important to know the date they came up with an idea. For others, knowing what the idea is for is important. For others, they might not care about any of those details.

Once you’ve determined what you need to know, you’ll want to create fields in your respective tool.

If you’re using a notebook, you might create columns on each page that represent the things we want to track. For example, you can have a column for the date and a second column for the idea.

If you’re using a digital tool, you might use the name of a task as the idea and use rows and custom fields to represent other details you’d like to see.

Whatever is important to you, make sure it’s premade.

That way, when you get an idea, you know exactly where you need to dump it and don’t risk accidentally forgetting it as you get distracted by other responsibilities.

At ProcessDriven, we utilize a shared idea brain dump area. One crucial thing for Layla to see is the business department the idea is for. Is it for Marketing? Sales? Customer Service?

This makes it easy for us to identify the idea’s relevance.

To watch this explanation in video format, watch the video at the top of this article at timestamp 02:51.

Step 3: Prioritize Tasks that need to be done right away and aren’t Ideas.

Step three in this process is deciding in which instances we dump ideas into our Brain Dump Zone.

To be clear, this is not a trick question. We know we said at the beginning, “when you have an idea, dump it.” However, we want to be clear that not everything is an idea.

We’re brain-dumping ideas to put all these shiny objects in one spot and look at them later from a place of rest (more on this in the following sections).

There will be things that pop into your head that probably deserve to skip the line and go straight to your to-do list. This is the one exception to the rule that you should decide on now.

For example, at ProcessDriven, if there’s an emergency — AKA something preventing us from fulfilling a promise to our team, clients, or those outside our organization — that’s considered an issue.

What that means for us is that issues never go on the ideas list.

These issues are so urgent that they skip the line and go right to people’s task lists (both in work and personal life). Some examples of time-sensitive scenarios include:

  • The website is down.
  • The bank is calling.
  • We received a scary letter in the mail.

These are issues and, as such, should not go in your ideas area.

Ideas should make you think, “Wouldn’t this idea be cool?” or “Wouldn’t it be nice if we did XYZ?”

Non-negotiable items like your website crashing do not go into your Brain Dump Zone. They need to be handled quickly.

As an action item for this step, we want you to determine what information you’d like to see in your Brain Dump Zone and what information should never go in this area because it’s far too important.

By defining this for yourself, you’ll clearly distinguish between, “Do I go to my Brain Dump Zone or do I put this on my to-do list?”

What’s that line in the sand for you?

To watch this explanation in video format, watch the video at the top of this article at timestamp 04:15.

Step 4: Plan your week of tasks as a regular routine.

Step four is the final stage in this process, and that’s to review!

To recap, we’ve picked a Brain Dump Zone, decided what we want to track, and what are the exceptions to the rule.

The last step in this process is deciding how you want to get ideas out of your Brain Dump Zone. The last thing you want is to collect all these great ideas and do nothing with them.

Setting aside a (recurring) time to review these ideas is essential. For example, you could review your list of ideas every Sunday night to prepare for the upcoming week.

Whatever the cadence is for you, decide it. By knowing this and making this promise to yourself, you have the peace of mind of knowing, “I’m not doing this idea right now, but I’m going to circle back to it.”

If you’re unsure what frequency is appropriate, we suggest starting with reviewing your ideas list every two weeks. This gives you a good cadence where you don’t feel like you’re ignoring your ideas but are also not overwhelmed with the question, “Should I do this idea right now?”

To watch this explanation in video format, watch the video at the top of this article at timestamp 06:09.

Why is an Idea Backlog helpful for staying organized and boosting personal productivity?

The purpose of this entire structure is to separate ideas from tasks you should be doing now.

The question, “What should I be doing?” is very stressful and uses a ton of willpower. You ensure you’re staying organized and productive by adding all your ideas to one area, checking them every one to two weeks, and turning them into tasks.

Once you’re done reviewing your ideas list, tuck the list away, forget about reviewing it, and focus on your tasks for another two weeks. Wash, rinse, repeat.

This prevents you from having wild card days where each morning you wonder, “What idea am I going to work on today?”

You’ve already decided what you’ll focus on any day, reducing stress and burnout.

This separation aims to bring calmness into your life, reduce decision fatigue, and, most importantly, ensure you’re committing to new ideas from a place of rest rather than frenzy or excitement around a shiny new idea.

Once this is set up, this will become a routine in your business, life, or organization.

If you have further questions on this concept, check out How to Make your Business a Well-Oiled Machine (It’s Not What You Think!). This article discusses additional ways to be systematic in other areas of your business or organization.

The fact is, idea management is just the beginning.

To watch this explanation in video format, watch the video at the top of this article at timestamp 07:30.

Easy way to reduce decision fatigue on YouTube. 😉

Speaking of exhausting things, isn’t it exhausting to go on YouTube and endlessly scroll trying to find the answers to your questions?

Of course it is.

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Until next time, enjoy the process.

Join our newsletter, The Workin’ Process, to get weekly process (and ClickUp) tips in your inbox! 📩

Melisa is the Marketing Coordinator on Team ProcessDriven. Melisa's focus is helping small teams learn about our training programs by connecting with leaders like you.

Layla is the Creator and CEO at ProcessDriven, where she helps small teams turn chaos into process inside our signature training programs. Since 2018, Layla has been combining software, operations, and storytelling to guide 1,200+ teams to “Enjoy the Process!” while building a scalable foundation of business systems. The rest of the time? She's focused on creating value over on our YouTube Channel and free Facebook Group.