David Strittmatter

Why I always write down ideas immediately & how it’s changed my life


  • Free your mind and become more productive
  • Keep track of great ideas
  • Use your thoughts to define clear and tangible next actions regularly

Your brain is made to generate ideas not to store them

I’m pretty sure you know this feeling: you drank a cup of coffee and, suddenly, you’re constantly distracted by a flow of ideas coming to your mind. Similar occurrences happen when you’re doing mundane tasks and become bored. Our brain is a master of procrastination and loves variety in life. Other major distractions include your environment: family members, flatmates, or colleagues – from silly noises to thought-provoking questions – people surrounding you can disturb your concentration, too.

Those distractions, though, severely hurt our productivity. Once distracted, we need a good amount of time until we’re focused again. And the more energy and time we allocate to them, the more difficult to return to a state of “flow”. Moreover, most of the time all energy spent on these random thoughts is wasted as we lose track of them. So, …

How can we stay concentrated despite these distractions and how can we harness our brain as an “idea generation machine”?

What helped me a lot to keep track of all of the ideas that randomly came to my mind, and what worked marvelously against these interruptions was writing down my thoughts. For many years, I’ve been doing this: as soon as I have an idea or am distracted by the input of another person, I create a note. I just pick up my cell phone, use the most simple note-taking app available, write down as little as possible, and then I am good to go on again. At the end of the day or week, I take the collected thoughts and notes, structure them, and define clear and tangible next actions.

Free your mind – productivity

Once your thoughts are written down, your mind is free. You can tell yourself that you’ll think about this notion at a later point in time, but now it’s time to focus on your task at hand. Moreover, you can release the burden and free capacity which would be used to store your thoughts otherwise. Your brain is an awesome tool to come up with new ideas, but it’s very bad in keeping them. Unless you write them down, storing them is difficult and drains a lot of energy.

Since you want to increase your productivity, you should choose the media for keeping track of your thoughts wisely. If you cannot discipline yourself and become distracted even more when you write a note on your smartphone, you should think about other possibilities to store your thoughts.

For instance, when I need to study, I ban my smartphone completely. I use an app that allows me to deactivate my smartphone for a certain period of time (even if I restart it, I cannot use it then) because I hate being distracted and cannot control myself. To be able to keep an overview of my ideas nevertheless, I have paper and pencil always within reach.

Keep track of great ideas

Since I’ve developed this habit, I could retain plenty of great ideas. So many marvelous achievements started with a simple random thought that was written down and executed. For instance, Apple was founded because Jobs and Wozniak wanted to make computers small enough for people to have them in their homes or offices after they wondered why such an amazing invention like the computers didn’t reach the mass-market.

Create a habit to write your thoughts down. You’ll be surprised how many ideas are trash, but also how many great ideas you’ll come up with.

Define clear and tangible next actions

Storing your thoughts will help you to stay productive and focused. Yet, if you want to capitalize on your creativity, you also need to take action. “An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied”, Arnold Glasow once said.

I strongly believe that the path to success is to take massive, determined actions. When your colleague asks you to send them a report or your family members want you to do something for him/her, we tend to do it without keeping track of these requests.

But when you’re distracted by your mind and note down these random ideas, they become less attractive and are perceived as a lower priority.

In order to make the most out of my notes, at least once a week, I sit down, look through my idea storage, structure and reformulate ideas, and define clear and time-bound actions. This website/blog, my weekly newsletter, my YouTube channel, etc are results of these sessions. Whenever I look through my notes, I have to write down the next steps for each and every idea. I cannot let them sit for any longer once I look at them again. At least I have to think about, how I can explore the idea further (e. g. through further research on the internet or asking someone) and when I’ll do that.

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