Get out of my head.

What do you do with your ideas?

With all the solutions to problems that come to you in the shower? With the worries that pop into your head before bed? With the things you don’t want to forget from the book you’re reading?

Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.

– David Allen, author of Getting Things Done.

I’ve read a lot on this topic. From articles, to books, to the Twitter threads where people share their own set-ups.

I’m currently in the process of adjusting the system that works well for me, and so I wanted to share with you what that looks like.

Ideas in.

  • The technical. I use the Bear Notes app for everything. It’s beautifully designed. And I can add to my notes in seconds. The search function is really handy, and it’s also ideal for building outlines for articles, projects, book notes, idea for tweets, etc.
  • The traditional. For me, nothing beats paper. It’s easy, fast, and never needs recharging. Moleskine is my notebook of choice and I have a lot of them. In all three sizes (Pocket, Large and X-Large). All with soft covers. I mostly use them for simple note taking, and also for journalling (daily and gratitude). My pen of choice is the Paper Mate Flair (medium point, 0.7mm). It’s almost like a thin felt-tip tip. And it feels great to write with.

Work out.

  • The technical. Things (from Cultured Code) is by far my favourite to-do list app. Again, it’s really well designed (they previously won an Apple Design Award). I spend as little time as possible in my inbox. By using a task manager I can decide where I want to spend my time, and what should be done next. Things is great for reminding me of tasks due further away than tomorrow.
  • The traditional. Again, paper wins for simplicity. And so I use index cards. I’ll write them the night before (usually taking tasks from Things) and cross them out as I complete them the following day. Doing this helps me structure the tasks into a logical order, and it also limits how many tasks I can add (there’s only so much space on those cards, and that’s a good thing).

Building thoughts.

This is the bit I’m adding now.

Ideas in… I’m pulling in all my ideas, my notes, my sketches.

Work out… and I’m structuring my tasks in a way that means the right work gets done.

But what about the bigger picture. How do I help my notes become solid ideas? And how do I ensure the work I’m doing is supported by those ideas?

Evernote is a popular solution to these questions. I’ve tried it a few times and never really liked it. I’ve also recently taken a look at Notion and Roam, and ended up feeling more confused than when I started.

I’m going with Paper (from WeTransfer). I recently purchased it anyway, and I’m keen to get better at using it. I’ll build scrapbooks based around ideas, with images I find, doodles I draw, and text where required.

What matters to me.

  • I try to keep the number of systems I use to a minimum. Don’t use 8 when 3 will do. Less is more (to learn, maintain, manage).
  • Where possible, I use tech that works across all my devices. Being an Apple fanboy, Bear & Things do this perfectly.
  • I use paper and pen whenever possible. Tech is great, but I already spend plenty of time staring at screens.
  • I invest in where I spend my time and where I can save time. I paid up-front for Things & Paper, and I pay monthly for Bear. The notebooks and pens I use certainly aren’t the cheapest. I use these things so much that it’s worth spending the extra.

I would love to hear what your system looks like, and any tips you have for what’s working well for you.

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