Thursday, February 23, 2017

Organizing Ideas

*Warning: I really love organizing stuff, not even making this up. Cleaning? Okay, it's part of life, I do it, but organizing is sooooo. much. fun.

For some reason, the subject or organization seems to be popping up a lot around me. Several friends have ventured into different techniques and types of organizing routines, and I think it is wonderful that there's so many sources for this. Yet it is often much harder in practice than in thought. It's easy for me to do it because I love to do it, but that doesn't mean all of my stuff is perfectly arranged (oh, I do so wish it was).

I'm one of those artistic people who has tabs upon tabs open in their brain constantly. The weird thing about it, though, is that I don't see myself as ADD, or at least, not very much. I know what ADD is, and ADD people describe what it's like to me, yet I do not fully comprehend it. If there are too many people and too much noise I notice everything and nothing at the same time, and just panic, but it's not ADD. Usually, I end up hyper-focusing because there's too much going on, and then I don't notice everything I'm supposed to while all that's unimportant is suddenly taking up 100% of my brain power. (Yes I realize that sentence was a bit needlessly lengthy.) It is completely normal for me, when I begin a task, to not be able to focus on anything else. I don't see anything else in the room but that task, and depending on it's level of intensity, I often cannot even verbalize anything beyond what I am accomplishing. This is nice for writing, it makes thinking creatively come as naturally as breathing, but it is not okay when you have several tasks to complete. Therefore, I've had to find ways to scratch down ideas to at least get them off my mind without worrying about forgetting them. Once they are scratched out on numerous pieces of paper or notebooks, I have to decide what to do with them.

What didn't work
College-age me had a basket that I dumped random scraps of paper into. Maybe twice a year I would go through this basket and read all the notes, trying to decide if I could remember why I wrote weird things like colors + made-up names + words like "furling" and "clandestine". Pieces of poetry that was awful, a half a Bible verse, dates, and Sindarin words all littered the basket. If I could remember what it was for, I would keep it. If I couldn't, I threw it, unless I liked how it sounded (even if I didn't know why). This got to be a problem, because by the end of the day I might have thrown out only three pieces of paper. I didn't know what to do with this stuff except organize it by little piles by associations I might understand, but no one else would. Slowly, over time, I've learned better ways to keep these things a bit more organized (though not perfectly so). I thought I would share, because many of my ideas came from others who also were searching for ways to organize creativity or even just tasks in life.

The Everything Notebook
The Everything Notebook is something I came up with on my own. Into it goes notes from articles I read, mythology I find intriguing, things I want to do or see, ideas to write about, characters I may want to explore today. I keep it readily available to jotting down anything I want, because it is exactly what it is called. It is for everything, in no particular order. I do date the pages and cite information when I copy it. My favorite type of notebook for this is a spiral-bound one, with the perforated edges. This way pages can be easily and neatly torn out and clamped into three-ring binders or stashed neatly in folders if I need to organize them further. I might keep a three-ring binder for story ideas, another three-ring binder for recipes, and still another for magazine articles. The beauty of this is that it eliminated a lot of scraps in a basket, and made it easy to organize later.

How I journal has changed tremendously in the last few years. In my youth, it was only a journal. More recently I've found that by journaling my devotions side-by-side with my life it becomes easier to think of these two things as one. I used to write in my journal here or there when time allowed or when important things happened. My devotional notebook was kept just to answer questions from books or study-guides; sometimes I copied down a verse I really loved. Then one day I recognized that while one held my beliefs, the other showed my practices. I needed to practice what I believed, but instead I used to journal to vent where I thought it was safe to vent. It wasn't gossip, and it wasn't complaining to anyone, but it was still complaining. It occurred to me that that if I wrote out my prayers my mind wouldn't wander as much praying silently. I'd be able to use the small snatches of time I had instead of complaining about how I let things distract me. The "journaling" has become more prayer-like because instead of venting, I'm thanking and then petitioning God. It also focuses me to think of Him first before I start journaling.
I've also combined into this journal some to-do lists. This was because a friend shared with me her Bullet Journaling (which is brilliant, and for ADD people it is probably a life-saver). It have found it's sort of nice to be able to look back on a to-do list I had from a few weeks ago and see all I've accomplished. Sometimes it's just a nice sense of accomplishment, or to remind me of something else I need to do. I had tried adding a calendar to mine (most Bullet Journaling suggestions include one) but I've found that I like having my calendar separate. I myself do not use a bullet journal, but I encourage you to look it up and check out the different kinds there are if you're looking for ways to organize or keep track of things.
I usually purchase notebooks that I really like for this, or save the prettiest ones that people gift to me for this. The pens I use for it are also important to my organization. Organizationally, I think in color [or even alphabetically, or associations only my brain connects but that I can't explain- never numbers] (does that sound weird?) so I purchased pens I really love in different colors, and assigned the colors to specific types of notes in my journal. (Ex: black are my daily notes, blue is for to-do lists, purple is for literature I'm reading, red for ideas that pop up as I'm journaling. I jot it down and go back to what I was doing before.) Using colors helps me when I'm flipping through the journal trying to recall something or find a note I made to myself.

Sticky Notes (or mini pocket notebooks)
A must-have, for those creatively-manic people like myself. they are great because they are small and sticky. I can jot stuff down while I'm on the move and slap it on a coffee mug until I get back a chance to shove it into my journal. When I get home I can stick them elsewhere, or just throw them away when I can't remember what "Favorite pens" was for (why did I feel the need to list favorite brand names of pens?). This is nice for on-the-go but it a pain to organize later sometimes, so I use it only at work now since I don't have the option to drag a notebook around with me while cleaning.

*As a side note, I do prefer sticky notes to scrap paper because, well, they are sticky and can't be lost as easily. They can also be attached in some kind of order to notebook pages so I can pretend they're in order instead of stuffed in a pocket or folder somewhere.

Sermon Notes
I use notebooks that fit into my purse for this, and I also use the same notebook for lectures at theological events (like the Philadelphia Theological Reformed Conference or Logos). These I do not typically save once they are full. I confess, I only take notes in order to pay attention. I cannot pay attention unless my fingers are moving or I'm holding onto a pen. So if you catch me drawing in church, I'm not distracted, I'm trying to pay attention.

I learned also about a technique which I have yet to try, but would like to, called Pomodoro Technique. It's meant to help people who have trouble focusing; I wondered if it might help me focus better when writing because it teaches you to focus fast. (Most of my trouble with focusing on writing is simply because I have no where distraction-free to write, so I'm trying to learn to write with it.) Supposedly this technique works by setting a timer for yourself, and working without stopping for an allotted time. (I had initially read 25 minutes, but I've also heard variations since then). You can take a 3-5 minute break with the timer goes off, and jot down one tally mark. This is repeated until you have four tally-marks, and then you take a longer break and start over. If anyone has ever used this, let me know how it worked for you. Was it helpful? Did you finish your tasks better with it?

Do you have any other thoughts on organizing your ideas? What do you do with them? Are you a paper-saver like me and are you still trying to find the "perfect" solution to organizing and storing them? I'd love to hear all your thoughts on this!

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