How I Live: Track Ideas with a “Dump Doc”

This post is part of a larger attempt to share my personal “systems” that help me organize my life. By sharing my system, I hope to get feedback and inspire others to share as well.

Stop Losing Your Ideas

We’ve all been there. You’re driving along the freeway in morning rush hour traffic, staring at the bumpers of the vehicle in front of you when… you’ve got it! The next brilliant idea for that startup you and your roommate want to found!

Or, on your walk back home, you see something striking — a swaying tree that dances just like your spouse. You’re inspired to create art from the beautiful image.

Yet, most often, these ideas fade into oblivion. Why? People lose these brilliant or beautiful ideas because they don’t have the proper system to keep them.

The Key: Low Filter

The key principle to encouraging your creativity and continuing to refine your ideas and thoughts is having a low-filter dump document.

For most people, when they think of a brilliant idea, like a book topic, they either don’t write down the idea at all, or they feel like in order to write down the idea, they have to do it complete justice. Both of these systems inhibit free flowing creativity. Here’s the system I propose.

The System

  1. First, obviously, you need to have ideas. But luckily, everyone does! Be mindful and paying attention to these ideas.
  2. Next, create a document that is your “scratch work” document. Every time you have an idea or a beautiful thought, write it down in that document, but don’t worry about formatting it, making it perfect, etc. Just write your thoughts.
  3. Now, schedule some time every month, or even every year, to go through these ideas and filter them. When you do this, you’ll realize that most of them are either complete garbage or you forgot why you wrote them down. But, some will stick. And those are ideas worth keeping.

What I do

I personally have three documents:

  • Inspiration: If I see a quote, poem, picture, or anything that really speaks to me, I’ll throw it into this document. I have about 20 pages of content in this document; it’s my favorite file to look at when I need some inspiration.
  • Diary: I have a Google Doc where I write down thoughts as I have them. Completely unfiltered and I don’t commit to writing once a day.
  • Ideas: If I have an idea for a project or an app, I’ll write it down on my Trello Board for ideas. I prefer Trello for ideas, since you can easily move them around and organize them kanban-style.

Remember: the key is to have a low filter document —doesn’t matter what you name it or what platform you use. Just start now!

I hope this article was helpful — to show your appreciation, please 👏 below, or check out my other system articles:

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