As someone who has more ideas, prompts and mental “huh’s” than I know what to do with, one of the struggles I’ve had over time is how to focus my thinking on a project so that I can get all of my ideas out and into useful form. I’m currently working on an idea capture/organization system (more on this in a few months…) that better serves my needs, but for now the main way I give “rails” to my creative thinking time is through the use of “project notebooks.”
I currently use Moleskine Cahiers (XLarge), one per project, and when I’m ready to do some intense thinking about the project I’ll grab it (or throw it in my bag for the day) and sit down and brain dump. Often it’s difficult to see at the time how these initial thoughts will play out or be useful, but over time I’ve seen a pattern of being in a situation and thinking, “didn’t I have some ideas about this a few months ago?” I’ll grab my project notebook and realize that most of my work has already been done, albeit a few months ago. Without the use of these project notebooks, I would be duplicating my work or sorting through tons of papers or notebooks trying to find those ideas.
Another benefit to the project notebook is that it allows me to focus on one thing at a time. When I want to think about a specific project, I’ll have all of my notes – in organized fashion – in front of me. It helps me see where my last thinking was and reminds me of the “rails” I have in place for that project.
This method has helped me greatly – until I build my own system – to stay focused and to feel freedom to go wild within the “rails.”
How do you organize your thinking for projects/creative work? Is there a method that you’ve found successful?