Write It Down!

It’s said that Einstein didn’t know his own phone number. Why not? Because it was written down in a book that everyone had handy. He could look it up himself if he ever needed to. He knew he had better things to do with his brain than remember information that was easily located elsewhere.

Harvard psychologist Shelley Carson has just written a book called Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life. Your brain uses deliberate and spontaneous pathways. The deliberate pathway is when you’re planning and reasoning and the spontaneous one is about getting ideas out of the blue. You need both.

A lot of productivity advice is geared optimizing your environment for deliberate thinking, and that’s good and necessary. It’s equally important to set the stage for spontaneous thinking and to capture the results of it. Don’t overlook the importance of that capturing! How many times have you gotten out of the shower and almost immediately forgotten that fantastic idea that came to you while the water was running?

Paper and pen is the easiest capture method, but it doesn’t matter what you use. What matters is to honor that fleeting thought. It doesn’t evaporate because you’re becoming forgetful; it’s because the deliberate part of your brain is the one in charge of working memory. You’re just going to forget. Accept that and write it down!!