It’s quite frustrating when you have a great idea — but you don’t write it down.  Then later, when you actually have time to think about it, you can’t remember what it was.


Sometimes it’s due to laziness, and sometimes it’s busy-ness.  But whenever you don’t write down your ideas, you can just assume that you’ll forget them.


Why Can’t I Get Good Ideas At My Desk?

I don’t know when Einstein got his ideas, but I’m pretty sure he wrote them down.

Part of the problem is that ideas often come at inconvenient times: when you’re in the shower, in the middle of the night, or while you’re driving.

I’m afraid there isn’t much you can do about the randomness, since you can’t schedule your ideas.  (But if you figure out how, let me know.)

What you CAN do is a little prep so that you are ready whenever an idea strikes.  And it doesn’t take very much prep.


Where Do You Get Your Good Ideas?

If you get your ideas in bed, put a pen and paper on your bedside table.  When an idea comes, jot down the gist of it, and then roll over and go back to sleep.  This usually will give you enough to jog your memory in the morning. Although, I’ve heard of times when you wake up and there aren’t real words on the paper — just scribbles.  I’m sure that will get better with practice, though!

Aqua Notes

“No More Great Ideas Down the Drain!”  …clever

If you get your ideas in the shower, you can buy shower markers and just write your idea on the wall.  Then copy it down after you’re done!  Or if you prefer, get some Aqua Notes and write your idea down on the waterproof paper.  Pretty nifty, right?

What about while you’re driving?  You can keep a pen and pad of paper in your car, so that at the next stop light, you can write it down (or have a passenger write it down).  Simple enough!

You might be out on a hike or a walk when inspiration strikes — and while you can always carry a pen and paper in your backpack, sometimes it’s easier to use your smartphone.  Most smartphones come with a notepad app, so you can quickly write down some notes.  Many phones come with a free voice recording app as well, so if you are more of a talker than a writer, just record yourself a quick message!

That should cover most situations.  Figure out when you tend to get the most ideas, and then prepare accordingly.  Now you’ll never have to lose another idea again!


Okay, I’ve Got An Idea.  When Can I Work On It?

Another thing to be prepared for is unexpected downtime.  I’m not talking about scheduled rest; that’s important and quite different.  But it’s easy to always be ready to get stuff done!

Let’s say you volunteered to help at a charity event.  You show up at 4pm, thinking that’s when you are supposed to get there.  Turns out the place is locked — you call your contact and they say you’re supposed to be there at 5.  You just drove 30 minutes to get there, so it doesn’t make sense to go home.  There’s no retail center around, and you are too awake for a nap.  What do you do?

While Angry Birds is fun for a few minutes, an hour of it might drive you up the wall.  Now you can pull out your idea list that you keep in your car, and brainstorm some more.  Expand on your idea.  Flesh it out, write down some action steps, make a mindmap, etc.  Try to figure out if it really is a good idea, or if you hadn’t thought it through enough.  Build on your idea in your new-found downtime!


I’m Not An ‘Ideas’ Person

Reading on a Bench

Grab a book, grab a bench.

If you don’t have any ideas to work on, another thing I’d recommend is keeping a book in your car (or a Kindle / eReader app on your phone).  This way, at the very least, you can sit on a bench and get some reading in.

I know my reading list is long, and there are always more books that I’d like to read.  This can be a book about anything — investing, real estate, historical fiction, sci-fi, fantasy — whatever you like to read. is a great way to get cheap books, by the way.

Another option is to make some phone calls.  Is there a friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with?  A catering order you need to research?  A family event you need to confirm?

Even if you are stranded somewhere unexpectedly, having a book in your car will help you pass the time much more quickly.  An hour of Fruit Ninja is not recommended (for the sake of your eyes and your brain).


Take A Nap If You Need A Nap

While it’s unhealthy to always be working (don’t be a workaholic), sometimes it’s nice to have the option to be productive when you unexpectedly have some unscheduled time to do whatever you want.  Stick a book in your car (or backpack, or fanny-pack if you still wear one) and you’ll always have a backup plan.


What are some other ideas for things you can do with unexpected downtime?  What are some other tricks that you use to help you remember ideas?