The limits of the human mind stretch only as far as we can imagine them. Or this is what I thought when I was younger. Before I got my first regular job, it seemed like I could process an endless amount of information. As the 9-5 wore on me, my energy started disappearing and I’ve found myself with a mind full of ideas that I don’t have the energy to process.
The image above is of my work area in my room, which isn’t that big. I’ve always been a believer that your mind is infinitely larger than any area you could work in. To make my space fits this idea, I have 6 white boards which are constantly changing. Although they’re small, they are great scratch-pads that I constantly have access to.
The two that are on the left are my most used, they face me when I get out of bed. These are erased almost daily and consist of extremely short-term goals. If I’m having a rough day and can’t organize my thoughts, I’ll write out what I need to get done. Some days this may be: “eat, do laundry, write email to ____, go to bed at 8”. Ideas for my daily blog posts appear here as well and can last for a few days.
The one on the bottom right is called my “If I could do it, it’s here” board. It’s a place where I write all my crazy dreams: the famous people I want to interview, the shots that require traveling to the other side of Earth, and all the locations I want to go. Many of these dreams need a lot of money (walking across northern Spain), fame (interviewing Emily Haines of Metric), or otherwise seem impossible. At the end of the week I erase it and start a new dream list. I know which dreams are valuable because they show up continuously for months.
The two on the top right continually change and are just used as blank space where I can write concepts out. The board on the right has bands that I want to explore. You know that feeling when you’re hungry, so you go to the fridge and find that you don’t have anything you want to eat? The names written here are to feed me when I feel particularly bored with the music I have.
In this image you can’t see the calendar/whiteboard to the left of my desk. This is where I write out ideas that need planning. To be honest I haven’t used it as much as I should but I’m reassured that I could organize my time if I had more of a need to.
Finally, I have a large whiteboard that sits next to my bed. It’s the master whiteboard where I directly organize my thoughts. When I’m reading a book that had too much information or I want to digest the content more effectively, I write out the ideas here. Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek has many complex ideas that I understand better when I’ve written it down. This board also is used when I’m creating an interview and I want to do research about the person I’m interviewing. I can digest information better from a distance – that’s why these boards do.
Now that I’ve explained my space and process, why do I need to organize my thoughts? Am I some sort of crazy person? Well, I’ve found that my ideas are much more complex and multifaceted than I can process. Think about all the projects an artist has done and how much information it is. By writing it down in front of you, it becomes easier to digest. You can see that two projects overlaps or that a person took a hiatus.
Furthermore, I’ve found that I use my time more efficiently. In the past, especially during this 365-project, I’ve made the silly decision to write late at night. This is a bad idea because I am horrible at coming up with ideas at night. If I have a whiteboard of ideas in front of me, I find that I can write about any subject.
Even today is an example of this: it’s currently 11pm and I just started writing. By putting down these ideas, I have been able to write on a subject and create better content. While it isn’t the best idea to procrastinate writing, I find that recording notes throughout the day helps me write later at night.
What are your techniques for retaining inspiration and ideas? What does your work space look like? I find that I use post-it-notes often and write on many notebooks. Do you do the same? Let me know in the comments below!