Quick Capture to Maximize Actionability
Issue 42: The various ways I approach to collecting ideas and inspiration
Last Sunday, we covered the second brain and the CODE method: Capture, Organize, Distill, and Express. Today, we’ll go in-depth on Capture and cover the various methods to collect inspiration to fuel your creative projects. Before getting into the details of my three primary workflows, let’s cover the principles behind quick capturing.
Regardless of any workflow or software I use for quick capturing, these are the three principles that guide the work.
1. Capture quickly and move along
There are opportunities to capture inspiring content throughout your day. It can be disruptive and add friction to your every day life. Get the thought and idea down to save for later. If I’m going on a walk and see something interesting, I’ll take a quick photo, type some notes or annotate it. These quick captures will build up over time.
2. Make intention clear
There are so many times I collected screenshots and photos, only to forget they I found it inspiring. I do not trust my future self therefore write notes that are clear on my intention. If I like the colors that show up in the streets of Lisbon, I write a note to look back reference later.
3. Keep files raw and editable
There are heaps of software to capture ideas. The problem is many are gated by their own clouds or file infrastructure. My mindset is to keep files can be searchable and organizable in Finder on the Mac so they can be manipulated by other tools without having to bring them in. My writing files are in Markdown, images are jpg, and the majority of my annotations are PDFs.
Now that I’ve covered the principles, let’s look at the various capture methods I use: capturing visuals, notes, and ideas/tasks.
There is much that inspires and captivates you throughout the day. It could be beautiful architecture you see on a walk or an interesting texture zoomed like at 1000%. Inspiration also comes from digital experiences.
This is an interaction we do daily and take for granted. This may seem obvious but screenshots are the ultimate way to capture inspiration. Screenshots are multiplied in power when you add detailed annotations to them. This method is the most effective way to share feedback and insights. I send screenshots to founders on their pitch decks, reviewing my own slides, or giving design feedback.
I keep a screenshot folder on iCloud where I grab anything that’s interesting. When I’m on my iPad Pro, I review the images and annotate interesting ideas then move it over to a “Screenshots - Saved” folder to curate.
One of my favorite hidden features is adding a magnifier to the screenshot, where you can zoom in on a certain area of the the screenshot to zoom and enhance. If you want to learn more screenshot tips, iMore has a great article.
One of my favorite tools to use is Adobe Capture. This mobile app allows you to take a photo to extract color palletes, vector shapes, and gradients. It’s really handy to save different visual inspirations for your project.
My workflow for capturing notes is different from my structured writing. When taking notes to capture ideas, not everything needs to be remembered. I have an analog-to-digital workflow and use plain old Apple Notes to capture.
Scanning and put in Notability
Despite working digitally the majority of the day, I work primarily on paper. Nothing beats sketching on paper, though after many years of hand-written notes it’s hard to keep track of all the books I’ve filled all these years. This is where scanning comes in handy. I use a combination of Scanner Pro and a Doxie Go SE scanner to digitize my physical notes. In addition to storing it on iCloud, I upload the PDFs into Notability to add layers of annotations on it.
I don’t use anything fancy, just pre-installed Notes on my Mac and iPhone. It keeps things extremely simple. I create a “Capture” note and pin it in the app to make it simple to write down any thoughts that come to mind. You can collect images and links, but for me, I wouldn’t go over-board. I’m not trying to use Notes as Pinterest.
Ideas and Tasks
I’ve been using OmniFocus for the last ten years. One of my favorite features is the Inbox where I can capture ideas I want to explore in the future. I treat the inbox as an infinite task and idea backlog and things I need to get done. Once a week I’ll triage Inbox as I’m having my coffee. I’ve found this very helpful to capture ideas without the friction of trying to organize things.
Experiment with it
That's my capture framework. Whether you’re capturing photos or notes, keep the stream of capturing without any friction by having an inbox and a second folder to save the ones worth remembering. This will tremendously help as you organize, distill, and express. I’d love to hear any tips you have for capturing content as well!
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