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How many “ideas” do you have each day? Business idea, new product, improvement to a process…

I personally have 4 or 5 specific ideas each week. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Its in my nature to observe things and think of ways to make them better or more efficient. When I go to a restaurant, I find myself watching the waiters and the staff and thinking of ways they could work better. I look at the layout of the tables or the menu or the receipt and notice things that can be improved. I recognize “pain points” in my life the lives of others and think of ways to solve them. I think of websites and iPhone apps to create.

But I’m struggling to find a good way to keep track of these ideas. What is your method, and even more important: is it working for you?

I asked some friends of mine what their method is for keeping track of ideas. One uses a bunch of TextEdit files organized into folders and then uses voice memos on his phone when he is on the go. Another uses Evernote. Another carries around a small notebook and writes ideas down as they come. Another uses an app called Elevatr. Its an app specifically for tracking business ideas. Another uses a task management tool called Asana and has a personal project called “Ideas”.

I have tried, or am currently using the following:

  1. The Notes app on my phone. I have a note called “ideas” and when I have an idea, I just write a short summary on a long list.
  2. A TextEdit file on my Mac. This is what I use if I’m at my computer or when I take the ideas from the Notes app and go into more detail.
  3. An idea notebook. I have one of those handy moleskin notebooks, the ones with the elastic  strap to hold it closed, and its small enough to fit in my pocket. I write one idea per page and carried that around with me in my backpack. Then I lost it and couldn’t find it for 4 months. I decided to go digital after that.

None have really worked for me. I’ve decided I need something new. Here are some of the criteria that this new method of idea tracking will need to meet:

  • It needs to be digital so it can easily be edited, saved, and backed up
  • It needs to allow me to sketch or save sketches
  • It needs to allow me to upload/link files
  • It needs to allow me to save links
  • I should be able to carry it around with me, preferably on my iPhone
  • Syncs to my Mac or backs up on the cloud

Right now I’m thinking of either using Evernote or Trello.

Evernote has always been quite solid and a ton of people use it, but when I used it for several weeks I became bothered that it seemed to do *too much*. Sounds weird right? But ultimately I just needed it for simple stuff and I had to wade through the other extra features that I didn’t need. And the second reason I didn’t like it was because of the way I had to manually click on the “sync” button each time. That was such a dumb feature in my opinion. It should sync automatically. But I’ve heard that Evernote has improved and perhaps I just wasn’t using it correctly, so I’m considering giving it another shot.

However, using Trello is much more appealing to me for a few reasons: #1 – its simple. It doesn’t have a lot of extra fluff and features. I could just create a board called “ideas” and then edit and manage those ideas from the Trello iPhone app or Mac app. #2 – I’m already using it. The idea of just creating a new board in an app that I already have on my phone and already regularly use is much more appealing than having a new app (Evernote) that takes up space on my iPhone’s homepage and I have to get in the habit of opening and using. Using a new system is just another thing to add to my list of things to regularly use, and I just don’t think I want to add to that list. I think Trello will work just fine.

So my plan is to use Trello for a while and see how it goes. If you haven’t tried Trello yet, I’d definitely recommend it. Its free. –

I’ll update this post in a few months to let you know how things are going.

One final note: for me personally, the point of writing down ideas is to actually get something done! From this post called 2 Simple Ways to Keep Your Ideas on Track, I found a list of things to do every once in a while as you review the list if ideas:

  • Why hasn’t this project launched?
  • If I launched right now, would it be useful to anyone?
  • If not, what’s the simplest thing that can be added to make it useful?
  • What can I strip out, whether it exists already or still needs to be added?
  • What’s adding the most weight to this project and why is it important?
  • What aspects am I least comfortable about? Do I know anyone skilled in those areas that can help?
  • Is there a group I can test this on before launching for real?
  • Is this worth investing another 2 weeks into?
  • If not, am I willing to move on to a project that will launch?
  • If I’m willing to scrap this project, why not just launch it and let it sink or fly as is?
  • If this succeeded, would I want the responsibility that comes with that success

**I would love to hear what you have to say in response to the question I asked above: “What is your method, and even more important: is it working for you?” Let me know in the comments below. Thanks!