“Great idea. I must remember that.”
I’ve thought those words more times in my life than I could possibly count. Almost inevitably, I forget the bright idea and am left wondering what on earth it could have been. There are exceptions, but they don’t occur very often, and they aren’t necessarily the best of my ideas anway.
I’ve kept notebooks before, and used them almost obsessively for very short periods of time before more or less forgetting about them. The trouble is I have to have access to a notebook at any time, which is not all that practical for me. I don’t like to carry much around with me, and a notebook and pen therefore become an irritation more than anything else.
During 2014 I bought a tablet, and it’s proven to be one of the most useful possessions I have. I use it for, among other things, reading, web browsing, watching streaming video, reading and annotating sheet music, and, of course, note-taking.
I started to use the built-in note-taking software almost immediately, but didn’t really warm to it much. It was only when I installed Evernote that I started to experience the power of note-taking.
I mentioned that carrying a notebook and pen around is a bit of a problem for me. The same problem exists with the tablet. I carry it with me sometimes, like when I go to work, but a lot of the time it sits at home.
The beauty of an app like Evernote (I’m aware that this is not a unique feature – many other apps do this too) is that I can use it on any device. I can access my notes on my laptop, tablet and smartphone. If I feel like it, I can use someone else’s computer too. My notes are accessible anywhere, anytime, without restriction.
That really makes note-taking useful. If I have an idea for a book while I’m having lunch, I just pull out my phone and make a note of it. If I think up a theme for a piece of music I want to write, I’ll sing it to my phone or my tablet. If I see something that inspires me in some way, I just take a photo of it and it’s there in my notes to look at later.
While taking notes is useful when it happens, there’s another benefit that I didn’t quite appreciate in advance. When I look through my notes, occasionally I come across an idea I’d completely forgotten.
More unusually, I look at a note I don’t remember creating. That’s where I see the true value of taking notes in the first place. I can’t possibly remember all of my ideas. Yet there is value in those ideas that I would have forgotten if I hadn’t made a note of them.
Note-taking is now a habit. I’ve done it for long enough that I almost reflexively reach for my phone or tablet when I have an idea worth noting.