Information is becoming a huge part of my world.  All day it comes at me like a stream through a growing number of channels.  Scraps, stories, bits of language, quotes, weird angles, pictures, unique human tensions, links and concepts.  These can be virtual, IRL, or in my mind.

Perhaps the most important things are the ideas that come to me by way of the things I see.

But untouched, all of these things pass by me only to be replaced by something different.  So capture has become one of the most important parts of what I do.  Capture is the intentional retention, storage and indexing of the things that I find.

I collect things all day long.  I begin grabbing things before I ever get out of bed.  Sometimes I wake up at 4 am and capture things.  Hundreds of web pages and conversations every day contain critical bits of stuff that I collect and use.  There’s always something worth keeping.  Every patient encounter is a gold mine of lessons and illustrations about how the world of medicine is changing.  You have to look at it the right way and, most importantly, remember what you see at that moment.

Twyla Tharp described this idea of mental readiness in her brilliant book, The Creative Habit:

“My daily routines are transactional.  Everything that happens in my day is a transaction between the external world and my internal world.  Everything is raw material.  Everything is relevant.  Everything is useable.  Everything feeds my creativity.”

Capture is integrated with my processes, my workflow, the way I think and the way I see the world.  The workflow part is critical.  If I don’t have the ability to grab whatever it is right then and there, it doesn’t work.  While putting ideas into a plush Moleskine notebook is romantic, I never seem to have have a Molekine notebook with me when the ideas come.  I always have my iPhone with me, however.

So I capture everything in Evernote.  In centuries past gentlemen kept a commonplace book, a book for snippets, quotes and ephemera.  I have a big digital commonplace book.  It holds the ideas that I’ll use to build and start things.  I live and die by Evernote.

More later on process but leave with the idea that what you see and how you retain it may represent the most important element of what you use to build and create.

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