3 Ways to Never Forget Another Business Detail

3 Ways to Never Forget Another Business DetailKirsten Simmons shares her methods of assuring that no business detail slips through the cracks.

How many times have you had an amazing idea, only to be unable to articulate it hours (or even minutes) later?

How often have you made a commitment and forgotten all about it?

Did you know that there’s a general inverse correlation between the number of things you try to remember and the quality of the ideas you come up with?

I’m sure a lot of you are scoffing at the moment, but hear me out. We all have first hand experience with just how many bits and bobs of information and action lie scattered throughout our days. How many times have you had an amazing idea, only to be unable to articulate it hours (or even minutes) later? How often have you made a commitment and forgotten all about it?

If you’ve never done anything at all like that, well congrats, superbrain, move on to the next article. The rest of you, keep reading.

Our brains are amazing organs, but there’s only so much they can handle at any one time.

Our brains are amazing organs, but there’s only so much they can handle at any one time. When you clutter your brain with little things like “Remember to pick up Myra at three,” or “Look into getting a new merchant account for the shop,” all of your mental energy goes toward remembering those little blips. You know it’s important, so you feel the need to revisit it periodically – and you don’t control when those visits happen. You could be in the middle of a client phone call when “Finish the taxes,” pops into your head!

The only solution is to get those odds and ends out of your brain.

The only solution is to get those odds and ends out of your brain. By doing so you create space for new ideas to flourish, new connections to form and new innovations to evolve. The details of your life will be at your fingertips whenever you need them, and you’ll be able to see connections that weren’t apparent when those same details were floating around between your ears. All of this leads to better daily performance on your part, and better performance leads to better business.

There are three basic techniques to empty your brain and still have an output that’s understandable.

The Notebook

This is the classic technique. Find a notebook – it can be a cheap spiral bound one if you want – and carry it with you at all times. Any idea, reminder, or interesting piece of information that crosses your path gets recorded in the book.

This method goes back centuries – in 1652 John Locke devised an elaborate indexing technique to order his commonplace book, as they were called back then. His index enabled him to immediately find any entry he could think of, while giving him the flexibility to compare notes and draw associations between disparate entries.

The Pros of a Notebook:

  • Cheap
  • Easy to start
  • Effective

The Cons of a Notebook:

  • Finding your notes on a particular subject
  • Carrying it with you all the time
  • Figuring out how to retain an indexing system across multiple notebooks over time

The Note-Taking Program

There are several variations on the note-taking program – Evernote is the most popular, but there’s any number of alternatives. I’ve heard good things about Clipmarks, Marro and Zoho Notebook. All these are basically digital notebooks – you type in thoughts, add clippings from web sites, import documents, etc, and it’s all searchable.

The Pros of Note Programs

  • Cheap or free
  • Portable via apps for phones and tablets
  • Syncable across computers

The Cons of Note Programs

  • Can be difficult to organize notes to your taste
  • What will happen to your notes if the company goes under?
  • How secure are your notes if they’re stored on someone else’s servers?
  • Creating a note on a phone can be difficult

The Database Programs

These are some of my favorite options, just because of how cool it is to look back after a year or two of using them and see how much information you’ve truly encountered. Database programs serve the same general purpose as note-taking programs, but they do so within a larger structure that’s designed to last for decades and can expand as needed.

There’s a lot of variation in how these programs structure your input, so you’ll need to choose the one that’s right for you.

If you’re looking for a free option that mimics the structure of Wikipedia, PBWorks is a great option. If you use a Mac and want an ever expanding hierarchy of knowledge that comes with artificial intelligence to connect your thoughts, check out DEVONThink. And if you think your brain is something more akin to a mind map than a library, take a look at Personal Brain.

The Pros of Database Programs

  • Make it really easy to visualize connections between your information.
  • Easily searchable and may come with artificial intelligence to suggest connections you might otherwise miss.
  • Can back up to a remote server and sync your brain, er… database across computers.

The Cons of Database Programs

  • Can be expensive.
  • May not be accessible without the proper program.
  • May not accept all the file formats you use regularly.
  • Learning curve on new software.

Go Forth and Remember!

Now that you know the basic options available to store your ideas and thoughts, you have no excuse for continuing to keep all the daily trivia up in your cranium. So go ahead and get them out of your brain and out into the open, and watch how your business benefits from all that empty space!

Kirsten SimmonsKirsten Simmons is the polymath behind Multiple Passions, a site that helps Renaissance Men and Women embrace all their passions and use them to create world-changing ideas.


  1. Hi Kirsten, interesting article, I came across this via a friend on twitter, tweeting it out.
    We had all the same issues about forgetting what jobs we had in the pipeline, who and when we were to get back to clients so that’s why we built (shameless pug coming up) http://www.teamworkpm.net We originally built the system to manage all our own projects 3 years ago but now we have a huge amount of users using TWPM each day to take notes of work they have on and to help them manage there teams and projects

    Take a look at the system and if you ever have any questions please let me know.

  2. I’m old-fashioned and still carry a pocket-sized notebook around with a Bic Clic Stic pen. But I also organize information in Excel. Pretty basic stuff but hey, it’s my routine.

    It’s not even an age thing, when you’re going about your day with today’s volume of modern distractions we NEED to jot down our ideas!

    • A notebook’s still my favorite capture device as well.

      I tried the voice recorder on a couple of my phones, but got tired of having to transcribe the whole thing later (write, rewind to what you missed, write, rewind, write…).


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