Lists, notebooks, and remembering ideas

I just found this post by entrepreneur Richard Branson about using notebooks and lists to remember ideas, and it got me thinking about how well that works for me.

I used to have a much better memory than I do now. Sometimes I attribute the change to “middle-age brain” (sigh!). But when I think of how much more information resides in my head now (22 years worth of interviews and stories from my work as a reporter, for one thing), it makes sense that memory retrieval sometimes takes longer.

In August, I blogged about my little orange notebook, which has kept me on track since I was downsized last June. It’s filled with work-related ideas and thoughts that inspire me.

I like having a tangible notebook. Mine has a recycled leather cover and is small enough to slip into my purse, but large and colourful enough that it’s hard to misplace. I don’t see it as a replacement for my iPhone lists; it serves a different purpose. I use it at home all the time.

My phone is useful – and valued – for different reasons. It’s lightweight, user-friendly, and has several important ongoing lists – most importantly, my grocery list and my to-do list. Not to mention my calendar.

I still keep a paper calendar but, increasingly, I rely on the digital version. I’ve gotten used to entering information on my phone’s calendar, a task at which I’ve become more efficient. I can also program reminders for events – a feature that doesn’t exist on my paper calendar.

But my paper calendars also serve as notebooks, in a way. When I look back at old calendars, it’s easier to glean information from the paper versions. In addition to the what-happened-when entries, there are little notes-to-self that just aren’t the same when I enter them in my phone.

I wouldn’t give up my electronic lists, but I’m not phasing out paper either.

Where do ideas come from?

Since I began this blog in July, I’ve written more than 50 entries. So far, I haven’t been at a loss for ideas.

When I worked as a reporter at The Canadian Jewish News, people often asked where my stories originated.

Sometimes, they were assigned by an editor.

Also, people often called or e-mailed to let us know about a newsworthy issue or event in the community.

Other times, story ideas seemed to grow organically from a conversation or experience. A couple of years ago, I wrote an article titled “Math teaches kids more than just numeracy” for our annual education supplement. I had no clue that people were passionate about math education in elementary school until the subject came up repeatedly in conversation with a group at my synagogue.

In 2003, when I bought an Ulu knife in Alaska, and thought about using it to make gefilte fish, a food article started taking shape in my head before I even returned home.

I love when ideas evolve naturally into stories. I guess – as a reporter, and now as a blogger – my antennae have always been up. The realization that I’ve happened on a great idea to write about still gives me a bit of a rush.