Capturing ideas before you lose them

I get most of my ideas while I’m driving or in the shower. This seems to be the case for most people. The thinking is that when you’re engaged in such mindless activities your brain drops down into low gear and starts exhibiting a recognizable theta wave pattern. In this mental state, you’re relaxed and engaged in activity that allows your mind to wander. This is when connections are made and it is rather mysterious. I mean, when we are engaged in mindless activity, why do our brains keep connecting? Are creative ideas simply the result of filtering out flotsam in the free flow of thought?

Individuals who do a lot of freeway driving often get good ideas during those periods when they are in theta. Individuals who run outdoors often are in the state of mental relaxation that is slower than alpha and when in theta, they are prone to a flow of ideas. This can also occur in the shower or tub or even while shaving or brushing your hair. It is a state where tasks become so automatic that you can mentally disengage from them. The ideation that can take place during the theta state is often free flow and occurs without censorship or guilt. It is typically a very positive mental state.#

Back in college when I was a courier for Fedex, I used to carry around a little black notebook in the pocket of my shorts and when an idea would occur to me I would write it down or sketch it out at the next stop. Packed away somewhere are several such notebooks. I usually filled in the first half and then left it at home and had to pick up another, so most are unfinished. When I first saw Se7en, part of me admired the Kevin Spacey character’s ability to actually fill an entire notebook from cover to cover, albeit in his case, with lunatic ravings in a microscopic scrawl. Apparently, according to the Hollywood stereotype of serial murderers, they’re just not big on brevity.

Now when I get ideas for things, I usually just create a draft email on my Blackberry or I use Jott, which is this cool voice-to-text transcription service. To use it, just create a account, then call (866) JOTT-123 (I recommend setting this to a speed dial key) and leave a message. The message is then transcribed and emailed back to you or is set up as a todo item, depending on how you do it.

Jott also integrates with my favorite task app, Remember the Milk, as well as with Google Calendar, so I can create appointments and tasks over the telephone. Jott also ties into several other services. Apparently, you can even blog over the phone, which sounds like a recipe for disaster: “Uhm…today I uh…”

[On a semi-related note, you should also add 1-800-GOOG-411 to your speed dial list to replace 411 on your phone. In my case with T-mobile, it costs $1 per 411 call, which is free through GOOG 411. It works very well.]

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  1. I make a lot of connections while running, yogaing, or meditating; 'tis true. Unfortunately those generally all happen sans cell phone – alas!

  2. I guess it defeats the purpose of meditation if you're constantly making notes and checking your phone.

  3. I look forward to the technology that will allow me to think something on to my to-do list.

    I should probably explore that.

    • I know you're joking, but they are able to tell when people are thinking certain words now via brain scan and they have that monkey that can control a robotic arm with his brain, so this is probably in the realm of possibility.

  4. Productivity: +1
    Transcendental enlightenment: -7

  5. Productivity: +1
    Transcendental enlightenment: -7