a comic strip with a cat in the hat

#7: Capture your ideas

Bob Ewing
March 12, 2021
a comic strip with a cat in the hat

Talking Big Ideas.

“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”
~ David Allen, Getting Things Done

How well do you listen to yourself?

My good friend Scott asked me this. We were sitting next to a waterfall along the Potomac River near DC, shortly before the plague hit.

I told him I wanted to start a writing habit. Scott has written several books, as well as regular content for social media that reaches millions of people. When he asked how well I listen to myself, I wasn’t sure.

“Well, how do you collect your thoughts?” he added.

I admitted I wasn’t particularly organized, and he suggested I try Otter. I never heard of it. He said it’s an app that records and transcribes speech. Many successful authors, Scott included, use it to write a good chunk of their first drafts.

“Just test it out and let me know how it goes.”

I promised I would.


How do you capture your ideas?

Leonardo Da Vinci carried a little notepad around with him. He made sure he didn’t lose any insights. Many of history’s great thinkers did this. (Google Keep is a fantastic digital notepad.)

Every day we have more than 6,000 thoughts. At least a few should be worth saving! Yet how many slip away?

Ideas emerge when we least expect them. We go for a walk, we take a shower. Little snippets appear inside our heads. New ways of seeing things. We mull them over, tweak and connect them.

These are the building blocks of our conversations. Our writings and speeches. Our insights into the world. And most disappear before we put them to use.

All we have to do is pay attention. And whenever we come across an idea that may be worthwhile, we take a moment to capture it. The tools we use to do this are irrelevant. Physical notepads, digital apps, and recording devices all work fine. What matters is building the habit.

Orphe, an economist I work with who regularly appears on TV, says using Otter has been a game changer. He regularly talks through ways to better explain his research.

He says it’s been even more useful at home. He now pays closer attention to the ideas his wife and kids share. And saves them. By building a simple habit of capturing ideas, he also builds his relationships with the people who matter most.



Capturing our ideas allows us to put them to use.

Test one new collection tool this weekend. Consider Otter if you haven’t used it yet. Be liberal in capturing whatever weird and intriguing thoughts show up inside your head.


Take a moment to ping me. Tell me how you capture your ideas. What tools and practices work best for you? Is there anything specific you recommend?


After Scott encouraged me to try Otter, I used it while walking my dog. A few days later, I had written the first draft of an essay that had been rattling around my head for months. I was delighted by how much it helped.

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