Back of the Napkin Ideas: Why You Should Carry a Notebook

The Back of the Napkin – useful for more than wiping the crumbs off your mouth?

The best ideas often happen in the most unexpected places and inopportune times, when your mind is aimlessly engaged in a nonspecific activity.

The best thing you can do under such circumstances is capture those fleeting ideas, thoughts, and feelings before they vanish forever. Some do it on the back of the napkin.  The more traditionally organized ones do it with a notebook at hand.

Of course, today, you can document all your ideas in a smartphone. However, unlike digital notepads, old-school notebooks are hardier and can withstand incredible abuse. For non-digital natives, there is also something satisfying and cathartic about the act of putting pen to paper — just letting your thoughts wander with random musings, doodles, or sketches.

When you have all these things pinned down in ink – and aren’t using up mental space to park those thoughts – you free up your mind for things that require higher cognitivjournale processes.

Then you get the satisfaction of revisiting what you have written down. It doesn’t matter if those things are as mundane as a to-do or grocery list, as profound as your broader observations and questions about life, or as society-changing as innovative business models; it can be awesome to later expound on these ideas or use them for future reference.

By having a notebook within easy reach, your flashes of brilliance will not wither from neglect.

You will have the chance to explore your initial thoughts in greater and more colorful detail. This is often how best-selling novels, new business books, great works of art, and disruptive inventions start.  They originate from minute, seemingly-absurd, and disconnected ideas that accumulate and evolve over time.

Keeping a notebook for future reference also allows you to see certain patterns and associations that may not have been apparent when the flash of brilliance occurred. Somewhere in your archives may be a tidbit of information on how to convert an idea into a business — or a contradictory idea that will act as a catalyst for new inspiration. You will then have a chance to build on it and follow it wherever it leads.


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