How I Capture Ideas, and Why You Need to Start

Today, we live in a creative economy, and the best ideas are king. Even businesses like banks, manufacturing, and service industries are all realizing the importance of creativity. So if you desire to live out a creative career, there’s no better time to be alive than right now. But the problem is, as any veteran creative professional will tell you, ideas are fragile. They often come and go without warning, and if we don’t have a good system for capturing those ideas, then we’ll never benefit from having them in the first place.

I’ve spent a lot of time working out various systems for making sure those creative ideas in my head actually have the best chance of execution. After years of different methods, here’s the system I use now. Keep in mind that you don’t have to copy the way I do it – or the way anyone else does it. The important thing is do develop a system that works for you.

The key is the realization that our memory is far from perfect, and if you don’t get the idea down immediately (and I mean right now) chances are you’ll lose it. How many times have you birthed a great idea in the middle of the night, and assumed you’d remember it the next morning?

How’d that work for you?

So for me, I start with various methods for getting the raw idea down just to archive it in a way I can’t forget later.


I use a mobile phone app called “Captio” for IOS that is pre-programmed with my email address. All I have to do is write the idea down like a text, hit “Send” and it automatically is sent to my inbox. This is an incredibly simple and easy way to jot down an idea, and with it in my inbox, I’m sure to deal with it later.

For a little more organization, I use “Things” as my task list. It’s really a dumping ground for ideas, but it allows me to put them in categories, and convert them to action steps. It’s a fantastic app that syncs via all my devices, and it also provides an email address so I can easily turn an email into a task. There are cheaper options and here’s a good list, but I just love the design and flexibility of this app.


I designed my planner called “Unique: The Ultimate Planner for Creative Professionals” after working with more than 30 similar journals and planners. It features minimal templates so you’re not having to create lists or daily calendars, but it’s plenty open so you’re not spending all day answering stupid questions and filling out useless information. It’s greatest asset is that it helps you prioritize what’s most important. It comes with enough pages for about 6 months, so I’d encourage you to try it.

For total portability, I also carry a small “Field Notes” notebook in a leather case the size of a wallet. I have this on me pretty much all the time – especially when I’m not carrying anything else. I found the leather cover on Amazon, and it comes with a loop for a Fisher Space Pen (which I love for writing in bed or lying by the pool). This particular leather case is a bit thick, so I’m still looking. Let me know if you’ve discovered the ideal thin leather notebook cover this size.

By my bedside, I keep a stack of notepads, as well as “The Pilots Pen.” The pen features a tiny light on the tip of the pen so I can write in the dark when ideas hit in the middle of the night. With this amazing pen, I can write for hours and never wake up Kathleen, or keep from turning on the overhead light on late night flights.

When it comes to organization, that’s another blog post, so stay tuned. The important thing to remember today is that getting things done starts with getting things down.




This article was written by Phil Cooke



If you have a powerful message or story that could influence the world, media producer, consultant, and author Phil Cooke will teach you what you need to know about creativity, communication, Hollywood, media, culture, and the faith to make it happen.



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