The best idea book ever.

The best idea book ever.

For Christmas this past year, my oldest son gave me the best book of ideas I’ve ever owned.

In this book, I have encountered ideas for blog posts, headlines, TV commercials, business development, health improvement and things that are just fun to do. Its pages have been responsible for tens of thousands of dollars in revenue this past year.

And the weirdest thing about this book? Its pages were all blank when I got it.

This book is a simple Moleskin notebook, about 3” by 5”, and a half-inch thick. I keep it by me pretty much all day long—to put ideas into it. And to get ideas out.

Disappointed that I didn’t reveal some book that’s already chock full of ideas, ready to use?

Don’t be. Because I’m going to tell you how to stuff your own book full of ideas—ones that are perfectly suited for whatever you’re trying to do.

Step 1: Go old tech.

I’m sure there’s some iPhone app for keeping track of your ideas. And it would be easy to open a Word document and put them there.

Don’t do it. I don’t have research to back it up, but there’s something about technology that saps the stuffing out of great ideas.

So go old tech. Get yourself a cheap little notebook that will be convenient to put next to your bedside and on top of your desk. I love the Moleskin notebook I’ve used for the last year. So maybe try one of them.

Also, don’t buy anything too precious. You know what I’m talking about—those leather bound journals that make you feel like you can’t jot anything down unless it’s incredibly profound.

Get a simple, little notebook. Stick your favorite pen in it. Now, you’re ready to start stuffing it with ideas.

Step 2: Got a problem?

Ever sit around and wait for great ideas to come to you? Here’s what usually happens:

They don’t come.

Because you need to have a problem, a question, or an issue. And you’ve got to state it loud and clear to yourself.

“I need to figure out a promotion that will keep people coming to our Facebook site week after week.” Okay, that’s good. Or, “I need to figure out how to use Twitter to promote my blog, without having Twitter take over my life.”

Now we’re talking. You’ve got a problem. And your brain’s already on it.

Let that problem bug you a little. Let it fester. Think about it when you’re going to bed at night. Ponder it in the shower.

Until you start to get bothered by a problem, the ideas aren’t likely to come.

Step 3: Be ready at all times.

Let’s make this simple: where you are, your idea book needs to be, too.

If you’re in bed, it’s on your night stand. If you’re at work, it’s on your desk. If you’re driving to a meeting, it’s on the seat right next to you.

This isn’t just about being ready. It’s about changing your mindset to one that is stoked for idea generation.

Having your idea book nearby functions as a reminder to think about your problem. (Remember your problem from Step 2? Still eating at you? Good.)

So keep your idea book nearby. Pretty soon, you won’t want to go anywhere without it.

Step 4: Jot ideas down immediately.

When an idea occurs to you, write it down that instant.

Don’t wonder if it’s good enough. Don’t plan to write it down after lunch. Don’t say, “Oh, I won’t forget that.”

Write it down. Right now.

Having an idea is a little like having a dream. Ever have a crazy dream, and then forget it in a matter of minutes? Ideas are like that, too. And I’ve forgotten way to many of them to skip this important step.

Write it down—even if you think your idea might be terrible. Because even the mediocre ideas may turn into something when we get to our final step.

Step 5: Follow your excitement.

Remember when you first encountered smart phones? Twitter? Facebook? How about Post-Its, Dippin’ Dots and HDTV? Or Starbucks, Anthropologie and the Apple Store?

When you encounter a cool idea, there’s always one telltale emotion:


So the primary way to judge the ideas in your book is by the excitement they create in you. Because if you’re not excited, the idea probably isn’t good enough. And you won’t have the energy to follow through and bring your idea to fruition.

Most ideas fall into one of these three categories:

  • Some ideas keep building. The more you think about it, the better it gets. You keep thinking of ways to extend it and make it better. The excitement is high. Go after these bad boys immediately.
  • Some ideas burn out. You think about these ideas a day or so later and wonder, “Why was I so excited about that?” Don’t worry—and don’t try to rekindle your initial excitement. This idea might be a loser. Or it may have utility some time in the future.
  • Some ideas are stepping stones. These ideas don’t get you excited. But they may get you thinking, “You know, if I changed this around just a little. . .” See where it gets you. If you find yourself getting excited about the possibilities, you may be on to something.

Your most valuable book.

Keep your idea book on hand—and right down every idea, right away. Pretty soon, it’s going to be the most valuable book you ever owned.

Let’s see what I’ve got written in mine:

“Write an article about my idea book.”

Yeah, I’ve got to admit, I was pretty excited about that.

Do you use an idea book? Leave a comment and tell me what works best for you.

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