Voice Recorder — My invisible secretary

“Nikita, I can’t think of anything to write about.”
That’s because you come up with gold nuggets and you forget them. Your brain rocks, but your system sucks.

God talks to you when don’t expect him to. You can call it intuition. As I’m driving to work, ideas enter my head. These are some damn good ideas.

Kiss of the Muse by Alex Grey

As I’m singing while showering, an idea pops up and I start to explore it mentally.

I don’t have a pencil nor a piece of paper. I lie to myself and say that I’ll remember it. I don’t remember it the next day.

That’s how ideas flew away from me.

I saw “Papa” Neal with a voice recorder during my graduate studies at Mines.

“That’s a voice recorder?”
“Yep. I use it for lectures and to go back to ideas that I won’t remember.”

I was sold. Since then, I’ve been using a voice recorder and I sleep like a baby. It’s my personal secretary. He doesn’t forget.

When do ideas rush in?

WHERE do ideas come from? Jack says your brain, Fred says God, and Bill says he’s not sure. Nobody knows.

The better question is WHEN do they come in? Everyday. Here’s when I get them:

  • Talking to a friend and she mentions a movie, book, or person…
  • Stepping out of the shower and recording an idea into my phone
  • While driving
  • Listening to a podcast
  • Listening to a lecture
  • Walking through a store
  • When I’m too tired to write, but the idea that comes in is juicy

When an idea comes in, I pull out my phone and voice record it.

Voice Recording Dropbox Integration

The app I use for recording is Hi-Q Mp3 Voice Recorder.

It creates mp3 files in a folder. I can then go through these files every couple of days.

I sync that folder up with my dropbox account. This is optional. I use Autosync Dropbox and it automatically syncs the recordings to my computer. It’s easier for me to deal with them on the PC.

List of Ideas (Google Docs)

I now transcribe recordings to words.

I have a google doc where I list out my ideas. It doesn’t matter whether I’ll use the idea or not. One document is now 50 pages and the other is over 120 pages full of writing. Both documents starting with single bullet points. It adds up over time.

I’ll glance through these documents and soak ideas up. I’ll get insight and start to mix ideas together to come up with a unique angle. James Altucher calls this “Idea Sex”. It’s taking non-original ideas, mixing them, and coming out with a unique twist.

I didn’t invent the voice recorder. I didn’t invent dropbox. I did, however, discover that putting those two together makes a good system for jotting down random ideas and accessing them easily.

Your head isn’t a filing cabinet

You’re stressed because you keep appointments, reminders, ideas, and life in your head. You’re forcing yourself to remember everything.

Thanks Ahmed. No, I wouldn’t mind more boxes to carry.

You begin replaying ideas in your head so that you don’t forget them. Your brain is never empty. It’s running like an overheated engine. That’s where stress comes from.

A creative mind is empty. Magic happens when you have space to play with ideas in your head.

I look like I’m zoned out. Friends have asked:

“Nikita, what’s on your mind?”.
“Nothing”.

Nothing. I’m thinking of nothing at the moment and it’s everything I thought it could be.

Don’t take my word for it. Do this right now:

Open up a document (Word or Google docs) and start putting in thoughts that you don’t want to forget from your head into the document. Pile them in. Especially the stupid ones, write them down.

Put down appointments, birthday reminders, and anything else you can think of. Do it until you feel that you can’t list anything else.

How do you feel now?

It feels like a relief!

It feels like a dumbbell is lifted from my head. I don’t have to juggle 12 pins in the air. Let the digital document / calendar be my filing cabinet.

Digital Calendar — Google Calendar

I use google calendar to put jot down reminders and appointments. There’s a good app called Business Calendar 2 that syncs the calendar to my phone and back.

Why not a paper calendar? I tried it. I can’t go back and search through it without manually scanning each piece of paper. With a digital calendar, it’s a snap. What works for me might not work for you. That’s okay. See what works and do it.

Because I always have my phone on me, it made sense to use a digital calendar app. It’s searchable and syncs on multiple devices, unlike a paper calendar.

Organize your ideas by mind mapping

You dumped ideas on paper/google docs. Some ideas connect and others don’t. I use mind mapping to connect ideas together visually before a natural flow of words comes out.

Mind mapping is just one tool out of many tools.

Why mind mapping? Because humans are visual and we understand our surroundings by natural hierarchies. You’re forming hierarchies between ideas by mind mapping.

Your brain will better understand connections between ideas.

Example of Mind Mapping.

I tried different applications for mind mapping and found Scapple to be the most flexible. That’s what I currently use.

In a Nutshell

Take advantage of technology. Your head isn’t a filing cabinet. It’s a biological computer made for problem solving.

Juggling ideas in your head is overbearing. There’s no room for thinking. No room for creativity. Dump them on a recorder and make room for creative work.

Transfer ideas from the recordings into a document. Use a digital calendar for reminders and scheduled events. Sync it to your phone.

I use mind mapping to further organize my ideas before I have enough to write about.

You can now start CREATING from ideas you have consumed.