As a productivity expert, I have a lot of tips for how to become more productive. But without a doubt, my #1 tip is to help your brain by capturing everything you need to remember to do someplace…immediately.
Why is it so important to capture thoughts immediately?
You’ve probably heard of Murphy’s Law: whatever can go wrong, will. But my productivity version of this is: that which you need to remember the most is the first thing you’ll forget.
Am I saying that you’ll always forget these important things? Of course not. But what I am saying is that the risk is there. Why take a chance?
Here are four ideas for helping your brain out so that your productivity doesn’t suffer.
USE ONLY A NOTEBOOK/PLANNER OR AN APP ON YOUR PHONE
Whenever any idea pops into your brain, I want you to capture it either in a dedicated notebook or a planner immediately. I can’t say this strongly enough: don’t wait to do this. The longer you wait, the likelihood that you’ll forget increases.
Grab your notebook/planner or open the app you use to capture thoughts on your phone and add it.
Do not use the back of an envelope, receipt or a piece of scrap paper (unless this is your only option). And do not tear off the corner of a piece of paper (we’ve all done this). If you can even find this teeny piece of paper later, you probably won’t be able to read your hieroglyphic writing!
IF YOU’RE DRIVING, DO THIS
First of all, never attempt to capture a thought into your cell phone while driving unless you can do so handsfree without taking your eyes off of the road. And just so I cover all my bases here: don’t try to write in your notebook/planner either.
If you’re traveling with someone, ask them to text/email you the thought. Like…as soon as it pops into your brain. Don’t wait. They can also write it down though I recommend texting/emailing you.
If you’re traveling alone, either pull over or pull into a parking lot (permitted everywhere), put your vehicle in park, and then capture the thought.
IF YOU’RE AT A MEETING WITH SOMEONE
Let’s say you’re at a meeting with someone and an idea pops into your head, what do you do?
Don’t just grab your phone or notebook and start typing. That’s rude.
Instead, tell the person that something they said reminded you of something that you need to take care of later and ask if they would mind if you captured the thought before you forget it. This is a win/win situation. You get to capture the thought and you also get to educate them about how you’re being more productive. How cool is that? Note: this is NOT the time to sneak a peak at your email or social media.
WHAT IF YOU CAN’T USE YOUR PHONE OR HAVE YOUR NOTEBOOK
The above three ideas cover the vast majority of situations you’ll find yourself in when you have a thought you need to capture. But what about those times when you can’t use your cell phone (ever been to traffic court?) or have your notebook handy?
Create a memory device. That’s probably not the correct name for it but it’s the one I’m using here. In your head, because you probably are someplace where you can’t talk out loud, create a way for you to remember what you need to…remember.
- If you need to remember to call Matt Key (a lame example, I know), perhaps you think about how the key to your sister’s house is under the mat at the back door.
- Create a poem or a song (remember, in your head)
Then, as soon as you are able to, grab your phone or notebook and capture the thought.
HELP YOUR BRAIN AND IT WILL SERVE YOU WELL
So, give your brain a helping hand. Whenever a thought pops into your head, don’t hope you’ll remember it (hope is not a strategy), instead capture it in an app on your phone or in a dedicated notebook or planner.