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Time management - Capturing ideas

Capturing ideas


Most of your information for processing will arrive via your normal channels, that is, in-trays, e-mail, voice mail etc.

But what about ideas? Without these many tasks and projects will just stagnate.
How can we create the right environment to generate these and how do we capture them?

Some of your ideas may be quite vague and very personal.

  • I must spend more time with my children?
  • I want to have more free time?
  • I want to read more books?

The key is to record the thought and then ask you self, ‘what do you need to do next?’
Keep saying this until you have a series of steps to achieve your goal.


If you want to generate an idea and have any chance of developing it you must capture it.
So, you must have the necessary materials to hand, for example.

  • Pencils, pens and notepads.
  • Computer software.
  • Dictaphone.
  • White boards and markers.
  • Message board etc.

When taking down notes and ideas record the date and topic. Try not to use abbreviations and write clearly as time can dull your interpretation of them.


Many ideas will just come to you which you capture with the appropriate materials to hand.
Others you will generate by positive action using say a ‘brain storm’ or ‘mind mapping’ methods.
Both of which are discussed in more detail elsewhere, see ‘brain storm’ and ‘mind mapping’.

Once these ideas have been captured they become part of your input of information.
These must be added to your ‘day files’ under the appropriate category of ‘project’, ‘delayed tasks’ or ‘delegated tasks’.

What ever your ideas may be make sure you date them.

Computer folders

There is little point in capturing ideas to a computer if you can’t find them again easily.

The organisation of folders on computers for many people is very poor.
How many people save items to their computer desktop only to leave them there for ages.

Many folders are randomly named as they are generated with very little consideration of retrieval.
If you lose a file it is often easy to find it by using a file search but is not the most efficient way to open your files.

Try to get into the habit of naming files correctly (and date if necessary) from the start. Don’t give them a temporary name on your desktop with the aim of changing it later when you move it to the ‘correct folder’ at another time.

Make sure you back up all of your files as we have mentioned before elsewhere, see ‘desktop management’.


Many ideas require additional consideration and a need to capture them in a subset of notes.
Microsoft Word is easy to use for capturing idea ‘outlines’ in this way.

See the Word file ‘outline’ for an example in the product package.
Just choose view/outline and use the arrow keys to generate your outline.

Many software packages have the ability to add notes. Get familiar with this useful tool and use it but remember to look at them during review processes.
For example, Microsoft Excel has the ability to add ‘comment’ in a cell which are easily visible by passing the mouse over the cell.

Non - PRINCE2 information