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Getting It Done

Save Random Sparks of Genius

By Daniel Gold

I’ve talked about how to become a more productive and successful lawyer (and person) by leveraging David Allen’s time management system, Getting Things Done, and either Evernote or Springpad. In this post I am going to home in on the first stage of the GTD workflow: collection—or, in particular, capturing what I like to call “random sparks of genius.”

Random sparks of genius come to each of us, all of the time, and they need to be remembered. They need to be captured in some physical or digital way. For instance, last night I was ready to doze off when I thought of a great introduction to a new blog post I’m working on. The challenge, though, was that I was in bed and not at my desk. If I didn’t have my iPhone close by, or a small notebook on my nightstand, I would have easily forgotten something I thought was wonderful.

The Art of the Capture

Finding a way to capture information anytime and anywhere—and then do something with that information—is critical to our success. It allows us to snare random sparks of genius like a hunter gets his prey.

Think of all the places you might come up with these sparks of genius: in the shower, laying in bed, in your car, while daydreaming, in an empty elevator, or while in line at Starbucks waiting for your triple-venti-soy-upside-down-no-whip latte. Have you ever wondered why those great thoughts occur at these particular moments? It’s really not too surprising. Your mind is relaxed and at ease. It is silent. It is not being bombarded by texts, emails, social messages, ringing phones or people randomly entering your office to chat. When we are alone with our thoughts, our minds kick into high gear. It’s almost as if the creative part of our brain can’t wait for these moments—it becomes illuminated like fireworks on the 4th of July.

Wait for these moments, and get those thoughts down before they are lost, because this is when you are most passionate. To accomplish this, of course, you must have a ubiquitous capture device—the same trusted one you will always go to. You want to avoid the fumbling and questioning about which app to use—it should be instinctual and easy. I’ve written productivity ebooks on Evernote and Springpad, and I’m a big proponent of leveraging either of these tools to quickly capture your thoughts. But you don’t need to keep your smartphone or tablet with you everywhere you go. You can also leverage “analog” tools—notebooks, dictation and even random scraps of paper—and then get them into either app as well. There are even third-party apps that integrate with Evernote to help you capture information.

Next time, I’ll talk about three ways to capture your random sparks of genius and how to get them right into Evernote.

Next Actions

Let us know in the comments below about a situation where having your ubiquitous capture device helped you collect a random spark of genius!

Daniel Gold is a productivity author, podcaster, keynote speaker and consultant. He is the moderator of the GTD Virtual Study Group podcast, co-host of The Productive Life Show podcast, author of  author of Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done and Official Springpad eBook. In addition to his column at Attorney at Work, you can read Daniel’s posts on the official DEG Consulting website, or join him on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

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Daniel Gold

Daniel Gold is a lawyer, consultant, technologist, speaker and author. Dan’s mission is to make a difference in the lives of professionals both at work and in life. He is known for his productivity e-books such as “Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done” and “Make It Happen: How to Write, Publish, and Sell Your eBook.” He is also regarded as an expert in e-discovery and IT managed services. Follow him on Twitter at @DanielGoldEsq and @DEGConsulting.

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