Having an idea is one thing; executing on it is another entirely.
Ideas come to us in all shapes and sizes, in all levels of importance, and at all different times of day. Sometimes, we get inspired by something we read online and want to capture it and comment on it. Other times, we come up with an idea out of nowhere and want to jot it down, or say it out loud into our phones before we forget it.
When we have these ideas, it’s far too easy to forget them or let them slip through the cracks — especially if we don’t have a system for organizing them. Thankfully, there are some amazing tools out there that can help us track and organize ideas in all different situations.
Here are the best tools out there for organizing your ideas — including note-taking tools, visual organization tools, collaboration tools, and general organization tools.
The Best Note-Taking Tools
Price: Free for Basic, $24.99/yr. for Plus, or $49.99/yr. for Premium
Evernote is one of the better-known apps for note-taking and organizing information. I most often use it for organizing research and interview notes, drafting blog posts and ebooks, saving articles to read later, and storing important information — like my favorite code snippets — for easy access.
The best part about it is that it syncs across all your devices. So if you think of your next big campaign idea when you’re out with friends, all you have to do is whip out your smartphone, open Evernote, and either jot down your idea, record your idea with its audio recording feature, or even take a picture.
It also has a number of free add-on products that make saving stuff to Evernote easier, like their Chrome extension Evernote Web Clipper that lets you save texts, links, and images you see online into your Evernote account with one click.
Image Credit: Focusalot
Like what you see? Here’s another blog post we wrote on how using Evernote can simplify a marketer’s life.
Similar to Evernote, Microsoft Onenote lets you take notes and share them across all your devices. The kicker is that you need to be a Microsoft user: In order to access OneNote, your device has to have Microsoft Office installed or have access to the OneNote website. Also, unlike Evernote, it doesn’t have an audio recording capability.
If that’s not a problem for you, OneNote can be a powerful tool. It lets you take and organize notes and import documents and images, including PDFs. Another cool feature? If you send or forward emails to firstname.lastname@example.org from your account, they’ll go straight into your notebook.
There are a number of apps that connect directly with OneNote, too. One of my favorites is their integration with Feedly, which is a news aggregator app: You can save articles to OneNote directly from Feedly with one click.
Image Credit: SnapFiles
The Best Visual Organization Tools
Price: Free for Basic, $8.33/user/mo. for Business Class, or $20.83/user/yr. for Enterprise
Trello is a well-known app that’s especially good for tracking and visualizing the progress of your ideas. Using their card-based layout, you can create a card for every idea and then jot notes in there, organize these ideas into categories or lists, create task lists and checklists within cards, color-code them, attach files, and so on. To track the progress of that idea, simply drag and drop the card into a new location.
For example, I used to drag and drop blog post ideas among columns, which I named “Idea Backlog,” “In Queue,” “Research/Interview Stage,” “Draft in Progress,” “In Editorial,” “Scheduled,” and “Published.” Okay fine, the last one was called “DUNZO.” To each her own.
Image Credit: Cloud Coach
If you’re looking for more of a mind mapping tool for brainstorming and planning, MindMeister is a great choice. It has plenty of diagram templates to choose from, along with a built-in icon library to make organizing easier (and more fun). It is entirely web-based, though, so the interface isn’t quite as flexible as an app, and you’ll need working internet to access your mind maps.
If you want to share your mind maps with others, you can share them publicly and/or collaborate with colleagues on them in real time. In the screenshot below, you’ll notice the chat feature open at the bottom.
Image Credit: MindMeister
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Credit to Lindsay Kolowich