Build Your System to Capture Ideas

Capture your ideas

Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference.” – Nolan Bushnell

If you’re like me, you’re never short on ideas. As a matter of fact, I often times have more ideas than I can execute. That doesn’t mean I don’t capture every idea and place it in my secure vault at my international headquarters for future recall… Now until I get that vault, I need to have another system in place that works.

I’ve noticed that ideas come in the most inopportune times. While I’m in the shower, driving, engaged in client work and meetings, out with family and even at sporting events. To be truthful, ideas are everywhere. Sometimes I see them and other times they’re unrecognizable.

The secret is that every idea you see make sure you have a system in place to capture the idea for future reference.

For me, productivity systems are always evolving, but here’s what I’m currently using to capture ideas.

Build Your Own Idea Capturing System


I’m still a pen a paper kind of guy. Sometimes it’s the quickest way to get an idea captured. Here’s what’s in kit:

  1. 3×5 Cards – You can never have enough 3×5 cards. Any time I have an idea, I write it down on a card and throw it in my inbox. When I’m away from my desk, I use a Levenger international wallet that holds 5-7 3×5 cards.
  2. Notebook – I always keep a notebook in my bag and usually flip back and forth between a Moleskine Journal and a Field Notes Notebook. I have a tendency to use these for capturing ideas that are more detailed than a blog post idea or a person I need to contact. My notebooks are used for more business planning and process development.


In addition to my analog setup, I always have a iPhone and iPad with me. I don’t have a preference what tool I use to capture the idea as long as I can make sure it gets recorded. I find myself using digital solutions while I’m in meetings, networking events and during family activities.

Here’s the apps that are currently working for me:

  1. Simplenote or PlainText – I use these apps to capture a quick idea on the run. This is my digital 3×5 card. Anything with a sentence or two, I use one of these apps.
  2. Evernote – Evernote is on all my digital devices. I use Evernote as my digital filing system. This is where I input all the information from Simplenote and my 3×5 cards. Business ideas and content ideas are filed in specific notebooks for future reference.
  3. Wunderlist – This is my task management tool that I use to plan and execute my ideas.

At the end of the day, ideas are just ideas. The key factor is that you execute them. However, having a system in place to capture ideas puts a little organization to the constant fire house.

Here’s what is working for me. I would love to hear what you’re doing.

Share your system in the comments section.

image credit: cybershotking


  • Wendy McCaig

    I use Evernote if I don’t have much time.  I also have an email file folder called “good ideas” which is a very full of things people have sent me over the years. 

    I use my blog to flesh ideas out.  I have found writing for an audience makes me really think deeply about an idea.  I have started numerous blogs thinking they would go in one direction that end up going off in an unexpected direction as ideas swirl together.  I also like the blog format because they are archived and searchable.

    I also use PowerPoint. I am very visual so I spend lost of time just dreaming…trying to take my ideas and draw pictures of what they would look like if they came into being.  I have powerpoint files with over 100 slides of various ideas.  Every year I start a new one called Vision 20–.  I drive my staff crazy with all my pictures but it really helps me to have a visual representation of an idea.

  • David Finch

    Wendy, I think you bring up a great point… Ideas seem to have a mind of their own. I notice that by the time I execute the idea it has a slight resemblance of its orignal form.

    In addition to Powerpoint, if you’re using an iPad give Ghostwriter ( a shot. I’ve been giving it a test drive over the past few weeks and it could make its way into my daily system.

  • Wendy

    Thanks-I will give it a try. I love new toys!