Trying to remember your writing ideas, but aren’t sure where to capture them?
After suggesting ways to come up with more article ideas, I realized I didn’t go into detail about the best tools and workflows for this.
What I’m going to suggest to you is what I personally do for capturing and keeping article ideas…it’s not what I do to generate ideas or what I do after I have settled on an idea.
(i.e. the writing or production process — but if you are interested in that, please let me know).
I think Idea Capture is the right term for this. I’m borrowing from the Getting Things Done method, which is a very useful process for organizing all of the information in your life, though I don’t follow it by the letter.
Match Your Notes App With a Specific Purpose
This may surprise you but I use 3 different tools for 3 different purposes.
That may get confusing, but it focuses my brain on where to look. One mistake a lot of people make is they try to use one notebook, app, or piece of paper for everything.
My brain doesn’t work that way…and yours may not either.
Instead, here’s why I use multiple tools and apps…
Having information in multiple tools actually helps me focus on different writing projects. Granted, this may not be good for reminding myself what to open or where to look, but I’m not talking about to-do lists here.
If you don’t quite follow, hopefully the examples below will add clarity.
With that huge caveat out of the way, let’s go:
1. Use Google Keep for When Ideas Hit On The Go
Google Keep works extremely well for a few sentences or to save a URL, or even to take high-level notes during a lecture. Often my Google Keep note is only a few words that I can return back to to flesh out the idea.
I use Gmail, I used to have an Android, and I like Google Keep because it syncs really well with those products. It is free and its post-it notes interface is also very simple for mobile.
What else? It works well with desktop too, which means I can quickly move it to one of my other tools…
2. Apple Notes for Random Work Ideas
When I’m taking notes or scrolling through the Internet for work, the easiest program for me to open and capture idea is the Apples Notes feature.
Usually, I add a header, a date, and then the relevant notes and links. This works great, because I’m on my computer most of the day but between several tabs and software programs.
I do not use Apple Notes for any personal writing projects (usually). Instead, I reserve that for the next tool and try to open it right away. But honestly, this doesn’t happen that often because when I’m working, I’m trying to, well, work.
If I’m context switching then I’ll open Notion, which is the next tool I use.
3. A (Messy) Notion for Personal Writing Projects
About a year or two ago, I switched to Notion from Google Docs to do most of my writing. I don’t love their copy and paste functionality, and I’m not a Notion geek. I don’t understand all of the interlinking and embeds.
But it’s super simple to create a folder, and then embed pages and folders within folders. The interface reminds me of Medium and I often copy over my writing from Notion into Medium.
Notion also has a lot of templates that I don’t usually use — for to-do lists, trip planning, recipes, and more.
Here’s an example of my current Notion with an Idea List (some of these I’ve worked on, some of them I haven’t!)
As you can see above, I list ideas in Notion. And then what’s great is that you can turn one of those ideas into a page, and then start writing directly about it. That’s a great way to stay organized, even though I’m not always the best.
I’d say my Notion is definitely messy — I spend more time writing than organizing.
Returning to the Ideas List, here’s what I do:
- Generate 10 or so ideas in Notion
- Begin writing on one idea.
- Bring it over to Medium, Substack, publish it elsewhere, or save it for a longer-term project.
You obviously don’t have to use Notion for this. There are tons of note-taking programs out there, including something like Google Drive. I’ll let you make your own decision.
Want to make sure you always have a place for notes…
Then it may help you to have multiple places. This isn’t as confusing as it may seem initially, especially as you link the different tools to different projects. You don’t try to put everything you own on one shelf in your house; it’s the same idea for your writing projects and capturing ideas.
- I personally like having different software programs or places to take notes for different stages or projects.
- My top tools for capturing ideas are Google Keep, Apple Notes, and Notion. These aren’t to-do lists or tasks, I keep those in a different place.
- Have a place to generate your ideas, and then a simple place to begin writing about them.