The Simple Practice That Can Make You Smarter
By Brian Lee
An adult has an average of 50,000 thoughts every day. Now try to recall 100 of those thoughts from earlier today. Pretty hard, right?
It’s normal to forget most of them as our brains have to filter out unnecessary information so that we don’t go insane. 1 The problem is that we forget a lot of great ideas along the way.
Great ideas often come when a person is unprepared
Most of the time great ideas come when your brain is in “diffused mode”: Thoughts come to you in this state when you’re not intently focused, like when you’re daydreaming or zoning out in the shower. Creative ideas come to us during this state of mind because this is when our minds are the most relaxed. This is when our brains connect different neural pathways to come up with brand new ideas (the same as how creativity allows us to connect the dots, our brains do this naturally in this state). The problem is that because our brains are so relaxed, there’s no intention to mark down ideas that come along.
Never trust your brain: it’s bad at memory
Very often the ideas that come to us during diffuse mode can be a bit abstract. Out of the box thinking, if you will. This is your best content. The high level, creative, new ideas that are going to take the world by storm.
Remember the genius, ground-breaking idea you came up with in the shower? The one that was going to revolutionize the world as we know it? Of course you can’t remember. Your monumental idea slipped through the cracks of your memory, never to be heard from again because you didn’t take the time to write it down.
In today’s race against time, we just can’t spare an extra moment to jot down the ideas that constantly pass through our heads. Some people may think that it’s even a waste of time. We think that if the thought is that important, we will remember it later and put it into action. But we don’t. And we’re just left with that empty vagueness- “I know I was on to something, what was it again?”
Don’t be lazy, jot down the great idea no matter how confident you are that you’ll remember it
Keep recording tools within reach, but not directly in sight. If you set out a notebook and pen directly in front of you, you are no longer in diffuse mode and thoughts are not free flowing. But you want the notebook to be close enough, so that when the thoughts do come to you, it takes very little mental and physical effort to quickly jot them down.
Smartphone apps such as Evernote are a great option for this. Some others are recording apps, a waterproof notebook for the shower, your laptop, or simply a notebook and pen (this is my personal favorite, more authentic.)
Resist the urge to organize
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of immediately organizing your thoughts as they come to you. Don’t do it. Organizing is a separate task for later, when you switch into focus mode (the opposite of diffuse mode).
Stick to the process of free thinking and writing down ideas and leaving them alone until later. If you try to organize them as they come, you’ll lose many ideas because you are too focused on a single idea. You’ll also lose motivation because you’re loading yourself up with work and complicating the process.
Review your ideas from time to time
Now that you have the ideas written down, you need to reinforce the ideas to turn them into something bigger. You should review your ideas around 3 times a week.
While reviewing you can filter out some of the less useful ideas, organize them, and start developing the potentially successful ones.
Remember, most people have plenty of great ideas, just very few of them bother to jot them down. And those who do are the ones who succeed.
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