4 Tools for Never Losing Your Best Ideas

Being part of the pavement maintenance industry ensures that you spend a lot of time on the road.

Whether you’re an asphalt contractor, concrete truck driver, or a street sweeper operator, you probably spend more time behind a steering wheel than a desk.

The upside of being on the road all the time is that it gives you time to think.

To think about ideas of how to improve your business, be more efficient, provide better service to your customers, or figuring out ways to hire somebody to take your place in the truck so you can focus on the “big picture”.

Inevitably, just as you start to wrap your head around a train of thought, the job gets busy, the dispatchers starts squawking through the radio, or the foreman has some emergency he needs solved asap, and that great idea is long gone.

Below are 4 of my favorite tools for capturing my thoughts and keep all that brainpower from just evaporating.


Remember your Best Ideas with a MoleskineMoleskine Notebook

Even if you never write a single word in it, carrying around a Moleskine notebook just makes you feel more creative (read: cool).  Something about a leather bound notebook makes me feel like I’m arming myself with the same tools as  likes of Mark Twain, General George Patton, or John D. Rockafeller.

I just recently started carrying a notebook around with me.  The first week I had the notebook I decided that I needed to write at least one idea about something every  day.  At first I didn’t feel like I had anything worthy of taking up space on the page.  I would just write something I was vaguely curious about and not give it a second thought.

But after about a week of this exercise I noticed a shift in my thinking.  I would catch myself with an idea and think “I need to write that down.”

That’s exactly how the idea for this post originated.

Putting the idea down on paper allowed me to clear up what David Allen of “Getting Things Done” coins as “open loops.” Open loops are anything that pulls your attention away from where it should be.

I don’t want to be putting all my mental energy into remembering a great idea.  I want to channel that energy into expanding the idea, implementing it in my business, and seeing where I can apply it into other facets of my life.

Forcing myself to jot down ideas every day had one unforeseen by product that has made the exercise worth its weight a thousand times over.  That’s that I’ve been more creative.

Wringing your brain for creativity is like getting milk from a diary cow.  As long as there’s a consistent demand, and the cow is regularly milked, she’ll keep producing.  Cut the demand and the milk dries up.

Set a goal to fill up the first 3 pages of your notebook and see that the next 30 don’t convince you its a worthy exercise.


Remember Everything with EvernoteEvernote

Evernote is my online version of the “moleskine” notebook.  It allows you to clip articles, tag them in different categories, and easily search from them later.

My favorite feature of evernote: OCR (Optical Character Recognition)

In plain speak, evernote can recognize the text in a picture and allow you to search for that text at a later date.

Its probably easier to understand that with an example.  Lets say you’re eating at your favorite lunch spot and want to remember whats on the menu but they don’t have a menu you can take with you.  Evernote allows you to take a picture of the menu and upload it to your account and it will scan the picture and recognize all the text.

Without OCR, you would never be able to search for text inside that picture you took of the menu.

I also like to use it to clip articles I like from the web, take pictures of recipes I see in magazines, and scan documents to pdf’s that I don’t want cluttering my desk.


iPhone voice memo for remembering ideasVoice Memos

My iPhone never ceases to amaze me even with its built in features, one of them being “Voice Memos”.  (But even if you don’t have an iphone, most smart phones have this functionality.)

With two clicks (one click to launch the application and one click to start recording) I can record audio messages in seconds.

This is a great hands (almost) free way to take notes.  This is my preferred method when I’m out sweeping so that I can record an idea and be back to work in seconds.

Play back the audio when you’re in the office and jot down any notes you might need.

I’ve also used this for recording entire hour long lectures and stories from my grandparents that I’ll have transcribed into word documents.

The playback audio is surprisingly clear.


Voice Regonition for Remembering Your Best IdeasAdvanced Tool: Dragon Dictation

Disclaimer: I have not used this product yet but its in my tools queue.  It has 4+ stars in the app store so it looks promising.)

Dragon dictation is an app for your iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, email, etc. that will type whatever you say ie. voice recognition.

The way they put it:

"With Dragon Dictation, you can text or email your friends,
update your Facebook status, send notes and reminders to
yourself, or tweet to the world… all using your voice."

Voice recognition software can take some calibrating so the software understands your voice correctly but it is well worth the effort.  I’ll keep you up to date when I experiment with this in more depth.

But enough about me, what are you favorite tools for remember ideas? Post it notes all over the office walls? Dry erase marker on the bathroom mirrors? (I may have been guilty of this in college…)

Post a comment below and let me know how its working out.

Get after it!



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