What happens when you have a lightning strike of inspiration? What are some possible ways to capture that inspiration before it escapes us? It’s an important concept, because as we all know … lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice.
In this episode, we explain how to not only capture your inspiration but also provide some tips on how to keep those ideas organized.
You will notice that both of us offer our own unique advice, because what works for some, doesn’t work for others. It’s up to you to find the best way to catalogue your show ideas.
- How websites like Trello and Evernote can help you stay organized
- The importance of finding what works best for you
- The distinction between idea organization and idea capture
- Why it’s okay to let go of some ideas
Plus, we offer up a joint podcast recommendation for your listening pleasure:
- Jerod (and Jonny) The Writer Files
The Show Notes
How to Never (Ever) Forget an Important Idea Again
Jerod Morris: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free, 14-day trial at RainmakerPlatform.com.
Welcome to The Showrunner, where we have one goal: teach you how to develop, launch, and run a remarkable show. Ready?
You know what we could do? We could just do an episode where we prepare nothing. We’ll just title it “The Episode Where We Prepared Nothing” and just see what happens. Could we just see what comes up about podcasting, or is that the worst idea ever?
Jonny Nastor: No. It has potential to be a terrible idea, but I’ve heard worse ideas.
Jerod Morris: Have you really heard worse ideas than that? I find that hard to believe, actually.
Jonny Nastor: I think you overestimate it.
Jerod Morris: Overestimate just how poor the ideas are that are out there?
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, it’s not to enhance the value of your idea at all. It’s just I’ve heard some doozies.
Jerod Morris: Thank you, I appreciate that. Okay, we’re doing this because you’re going to be out of town. It’s not like you’re not going to be working, but we’re going to be in different time zones and you’re going to be traveling, so we want to record some episodes ahead of time that we can then play at a later date. Evergreen content that we know will be good in a couple of weeks when we need an episode. That’s why we’re doing this. You have gone into our treasure trove of ideas and just pulled out some for episodes out of Trello. That’s where we keep — What do you think? Forget this, I started recording.
Jonny Nastor: You were doing real good.
Jerod Morris: I was trying to turn this into an episode. I lost my train of thought, though.
Jonny Nastor: That’s all right. I did that yesterday while we were recording an episode. You said that was fine.
Jerod Morris: That’s right. Okay, somehow it seems better as comforting words to another person than to yourself.
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, it didn’t feel very good to me at the time, but …
Jerod Morris: See, that’s why we’re a good team, because we comfort each other in our down moments.
Jonny Nastor: Keep going. Roll with it.
How Websites like Trello and Evernote Can Help You Stay Organized
Jerod Morris: That’s what happens. Here’s the thing, earlier today — the day that we are recording this — we did a Showrunner Huddle. We were talking about this idea of ideas, and capturing ideas, which makes this a really ironic topic to talk about for the show where we planned nothing and didn’t have any ideas. It might be worthwhile to talk with folks about how you capture ideas. How do you catalog ideas for future episodes?
I don’t know about you, but I will have ideas all the time for future episodes. A lot of times when I’m listening to other podcasts, sometimes when I’m showering. Shoot, I just saw an email come in from a Showrunner listener that had the subject line, “Possible Showrunner Episode.” I haven’t even looked at it yet, but here’s another idea that we’re going to have to catalog. Maybe we should just share with folks our process for doing that, because it’s important to have something systematic.
What I find that happens a lot of times, is I’ll be listening to a podcast — and I do get a lot of my ideas for new podcast episodes or new articles from listening to other podcasts — and then I’ll be like, “Okay, that was a good idea. Now what do I do? Do I stop this podcast? Do I try and remember it? What do I do?” I’ve started to institute a system where I will stop it and I will share that podcast link with myself via an email so it’s in my inbox. Then I see it in my inbox and I have to process it, which means it goes on a Trello board. It goes on a to-do list for whatever project it is. How I organize my ideas.
I do think it’s important that when we have these lightning strikes of inspiration we don’t just let them go, because that is gold for content creators, and especially for podcasters. Especially when you’re on a weekly-type schedule and you have to put stuff out there. Those really great moments of inspiration — there’s probably an episode there that you can share with your audience, and you don’t want to lose it.
That’s why this is urgent. That’s why this is important to do. That’s why, for these couple of episodes that we have to record right now, it’s not like we’re scrambling for ideas. We have that Trello board where you said earlier, “Hey, I’ll go pick out one of our ideas. We’ll do this.” That’s how we’ve come up with that. Maybe we should just talk a little bit about how we do this and try and give folks some best practices for capturing their ideas even when they happen in the most random of times. What do you say?
The Importance of Finding What Works Best for You
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, I like it. I think it’s essential to figure out this about yourself, how best works for you. Because when you need the ideas they’re not there, but when you don’t need them they’re there. You need to just write them down and then they’re always there when you need them.
Jerod Morris: That’s important, what works for you. I’ve had this odd thing happen. I try and use Evernote, I really do. I think Evernote’s phenomenal. I see how wonderful it is, and yet, for whatever reason, I just can’t get it to work for me. I don’t know why. I have this weird mental block.
I’ll be listening to a podcast and I’ll be out on a walk, and I’ll think, “Ooh, that was a great. I want to remember that nugget, that idea, or that quote.” Then I have this moment of trepidation, “Yeah, but is that really Evernote-worthy? Is that really worth pausing the episode to go in and make a note in Evernote?” Then, “What do I say and how do I tag it? Am I doing this right? What was my process last time?”
I get inundated with this maelstrom of thoughts that prevent me from acting. I’ve tried to get past them, but I’m starting to think that maybe it doesn’t work for me. Because when I do this other thing, which is, “Let me just send a quick email to myself,” it always works. I always end up doing something with that idea, even though I know it goes against all of these rules about getting things out of your inbox. “Don’t use your inbox as a to-do list,” and all this stuff I’ve heard from productive people. Yet, I find that I’m more productive when I do it that way.
I think, rather than fight that — it’s not like there is a rule of thumb or a way that it works better — it’s what works better for you. I wonder how many other showrunners are out there that have lost ideas, brilliant ideas, great ideas because they’ve been trying to shoehorn their process into somebody else’s tool, or what works best for them into somebody else’s process instead of trying to figure out what works best for them.
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, that’s like me trying to get you to use Trello all the time. I feel like I’m struggling with that.
Jerod Morris: The irony of that is we use Trello for The Assembly Call, and I have struggled to get the other guys in The Assembly Call to use Trello. I use it more over there, it’s weird. It can sometimes be on a project basis for me, what’s natural. You’re right, though, I do need to use Trello more.
Jonny Nastor: Trello — I’m going to just suggest all showrunners at least check it out, because lots of times I find our ideas do come when we are on a computer already. Trello is 100% free and it follows the kanban philosophy, which is basically Post-It notes that you can move around. You can set up different boards on Trello for all your different projects if you want. We have brainstorm ideas. We have sales funnel ideas, course ideas, newsletter ideas, and a Johnny and a Jerod to-do on The Showrunner one.
You can just go in there and add things. I added the newsletter ideas, because throughout the week I come across an article or a video and it’s like, “Wow, this would be great for the newsletter that I have to write in two weeks,” which I’ll never remember. I know myself well enough to know that I won’t remember this in half an hour, never mind in two weeks.
Jerod Morris: Right.
Jonny Nastor: I just add them there. It feels so good to just get to that part of the newsletter and go through. “Here’s four different ones I can choose from, which one fits what I’m talking about in the newsletter?” It does help. Other than that, I’d have to say, Jerod, the email thing … I don’t do email anymore. I don’t do much better — I text things to myself now.
Jerod Morris: Really?
Jonny Nastor: The fact that I can literally just text it to my phone number and it just comes back up to me … I really try to get things out of my inbox. Because it’ll get lost, and it’s too much already. I get overwhelmed by my inbox already. So I literally just text it to myself. Only friends and people I know text me, so I don’t get a ton of texts anyways. Then I can just go back. It’s a link. I can read it. I can click on it and end up at the article if I want. It’s not much better. But it’s the slight tweak that I put on that. Because I agree with you that Evernote — all these different things and tools — it just doesn’t work for me.
Rather than just being like, “Well, it doesn’t work and I’m just not going to do it,” I need to collect these ideas somewhere, so I’ll text things to myself. Then I use the basic — I think it’s just called Notes on an iPhone, it’s basically a text editor. I just write things in there for ideas that I need for stuff. I’ll just scan through once in a while and see what I’ve written. “When did I write this?” It might spark something else.
Trello — I would super-suggest people at least trying it online, because it is free and because it has worked really well for me and for a lot of people. You can use it for so many different — big projects, even. You can break it down into smaller little pieces and get your head around accomplishing something, even launching a new podcast. All the different tasks that have to be done, you can kind of use it as a to-do list. So it does work really well. Other than that, just confidently find what works for you and try and optimize it a bit if you can as you go. Just know that what I use, what Jerod uses, what anybody else uses is irrelevant if it doesn’t work for you.
The Distinction Between Idea Organization and Idea Capture
Jerod Morris: There’s an important distinction between idea organization and idea capture. I think Trello is great for idea organization and for processing. You have to have these two different things. You have to have a way to capture ideas and then you have to have a way to process them.
Like you’re talking about with text … See, text wouldn’t work for me because I hate text. It would probably just sit there and I would never go in and look at it. The reason why email works for me is that I know I will go in and process email because I’m more disciplined with my email. So I will get it out of there. I use it to capture the idea for those 15 or 30 seconds when I’ve got that moment of inspiration. I don’t lose it.
I get into my email and then I feel safe knowing, “It’s in there. I will get to this at some point and I will process it.” At that point, now I’ve got to process and organize it. For The Showrunner, that should mean taking this over to Trello. If I have a different organization process — let’s say with Primility when I’m doing my blog posts over there, I’ll still use email, but when it’s time to process that idea — now I actually will take the next step of going in and I will create a draft in Rainmaker either of a post or a podcast episode. Jot down the quick notes and put whatever that link was that I saved.
It’s there. So now when I’m going in to create that content — like you were talking about with the email newsletter, same thing. Now I just go in and it’s there instead of having to sit there and stare at the white screen or stare at the microphone and be like, “What am I going to write about now?” Or, “What am I going to talk about today?” That idea is there and I can jump right into it.
It’s really a two-step process of capture the idea and organize the idea, because if you don’t have both in place then you’re going to lose your ideas. If you’re not capturing them then it’s going to be out there on the street where you’re walking. It’s going to go down the drain in the shower where you were showering. You’re going to lose it and you can never do anything with it.
But if all you do is capture the idea but you don’t do anything with it after that, it will never actually be turned into content. You’ll just have this string of emails or this whole notebook in Evernote where you’ve been capturing all these ideas, but nothing happens with it. Right? It’s eventually got to get out of the capture spot and into someplace actionable where it’s organized and its ready for you to actually use. That’s important.
I think we can run into this problem with things like Evernote and these tools that we see all these productive people use. It’s like, “Well, maybe there’s something wrong with me if I can’t get that to work.” No, there is nothing wrong with you. We’re all just a little bit different in how we think, in how we work. It’s really about finding out what works for us.
If there is one big takeaway from this episode when it comes to ideas, that is it: find the process that works for you to both capture and organize your ideas so that you don’t lose them, and that when you have them they actually end up turning into content.
Why It’s Okay to Let Go of Some Ideas
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, it is totally what works for you. Also, I think having the confidence to — I talk to a ton of people about this sort of thing. I really like the mentality — and I’m trying to adopt it myself — of, if you had an idea or something came to you wherever you happened to be and you didn’t document it and you forgot about it, it just wasn’t meant to be. It’s not a big deal. Move on. There’s lot more. It’s not the end of your career as a showrunner.
Some things are meant to be remembered in those ways. We try and help ourselves the way we can. But the rest of it, just let it go. It doesn’t matter. You’re going to come up with new stuff. This is to make the process easier for you, not to put this weight on you that you have to now — everything that comes to you in every aspect of life — you’re jumping out of the shower and trying to do stuff or writing things on the walls in the shower. That’s not really what it’s about.
Jerod Morris: Jon, that’s a good point. I need to email myself real quick. Good point. Good point. Let me stop you right there.
Jonny Nastor: You know what I mean? It’s about making your life easier and making you — when you sit down to create something, that the ideas are there if you need to. But you don’t need a massive backlog. We might need one idea in Trello for a Showrunner episode, that’s all. We don’t need 50 of them, because we’re not going to sit down and need to record 50 episodes ever.
I feel like I feel better and I feel easier in my creation process when I know those ideas are there. When I have to sit down to write a newsletter, if I have even two ideas to get me sparked, it’s a weight off my shoulders, that’s it. And it makes the creation easier. It’s not a competition to catalog more ideas and to collect more ideas and to remember more than anyone else. It’s really just to make the creation process easier and better. Those ideas might spark another idea that actually becomes what you create. They might not ever even become something that you create directly from that. It’s just when you sit down to record or to write, or whatever it is that you’re creating — it makes that easier.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, it’s to give you peace of mind, in a way. It’s to fight the resistance that Steven Pressfield talks about. I feel like the resistance is extra strong when I know I need to write something but I haven’t had quite that perfect idea yet in my mind, or I know I need to record an episode. If I don’t have something right now — if nothing happened to me this morning that I want to write about today or if nothing happened yesterday that I want to record a podcast about — I’ve got a few ideas back here.
I haven’t gotten to them yet, but they’re all good ideas that I liked at one point. I can take one of these in a worst-case scenario and turn it into a decent episode. It makes it much more comfortable for me to sit down and get going because I know that I’ll have a place to go to without it being too difficult. I have this to fall back on. That peace of mind can be really important, especially when you’re doing weekly or you’re churning stuff out on a regular schedule. Once you get past that initial wave of ideas — and we’ve talked about this — it can get a little bit harder. Being able to capture some of those and having some of those, it can lift that weight off your shoulders. That’s a great metaphor for what it does, Johnny.
Jonny Nastor: Nice. All right, we should move on to a podcast recommendation. What do you say?
Jerod Morris: Yeah, let’s move on to a podcast recommendation. I’m down with that. Do you have one to recommend?
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, of course. Once again, I’m going to keep it within the family — Rainmaker. The Writer Files by Kelton Reid. I don’t have a specific episode. You could listen to the two episodes where I was honored to be on there a month or two ago, but that’s absolutely not necessary. He does an awesome job on every single episode. I like also the format of how he breaks longer episodes into two to keep them consumable, and I love his format for questioning.
The Writer Files is the show. You can find it on Rainmaker.FM, and Kelton Reid is the host behind that. Give it a listen. Give it a subscribe. I’m sure you will not be let down.
Jerod Morris: Actually, I’m going to double down on The Writer Files recommendation for all of the reasons that you mentioned. But also because Kelton’s voice is awesome. Imagine bathing yourself in velvet while the most attractive person that you’ve ever thought of feeds you the most delicious chocolate that you’ve ever eaten. That’s what listening to Kelton Reid is like. Get that image in your head and then listen to The Writer Files, and I think you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Plus — and here’s the real reason why I recommend this — it’s a great example of a blog series. This was a blog series on Copyblogger, a Q&A interview-style blog series turned into a podcast. It’s another way that you can take some basic questions and use them for the format for a really engaging interview and discussion with a guest. If you’re looking for some inspiration or for some questions because you have an interview show. If you just want to see how someone else does it — that’s another reason to watch this from a showrunner’s perspective — to study the questions that Kelton asks and how he puts it together. He does a great job of it on The Writer Files.
Jonny Nastor: And that voice.
Jerod Morris: And that voice. Mmm, it is good.
Jonny Nastor: It is good.
Jerod Morris: It is good. With that said, we want to remind you, the showrunner listening to this episode right now, to go to Showrunner.FM. If you are not on the email list yet, if you haven’t joined The Showrunner, you really should. There are all kinds of goodies — not just that you get when you sign up, but that will be coming.
Right when you sign up you get our content series, “The Essential Elements of a Remarkable Podcast,” so that you can understand a little bit more when we talk about authenticity and usefulness and sustainability and profitability. What do we mean by those? Why are they important? How can you incorporate them into your showrunning career? If you are new, we have some episode recommendations so that you can go back and get even more background on those.
In addition to that, we send out a weekly newsletter that updates you on live Q&A events that we’re having, as well as our weekly “We Highly Recommend” section, which will keep you up-to-date on the latest news in podcasting, some really cool tools that are out there, or just an interesting thought that will help you along as a showrunner. You get all that plus a lot more. These mini-courses that we’re doing. There is all kinds of stuff that subscribers get, so make sure that you go to Showrunner.FM. Get on that list.
Hey, if you ever have a question about being a showrunner, guess what? If you reply to any of those emails, we’ll see it and we can reply right back. That is probably our favorite element of the email newsletter and one of the more underrated reasons why you should join that we don’t talk about enough. Go to Showrunner.FM and join the email list.
Jonny Nastor: All right, this has been a lot of fun.
Jerod Morris: We just did it. We did an entire unplanned episode
Jonny Nastor: That was good. I was like, “Is this the intro, or is this the episode?” I stopped thinking that about 10 to 15 minutes in, but I did think that from the beginning.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, no, we’ll just make that the episode. Hey, that is another lesson when it comes to ideas and coming up with shows — sometimes just hit “play” and see what happens.
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, sometimes you can really overthink it. You can also underthink it sometimes.
Jerod Morris: Right, that’s what everybody’s thinking right now.
Jonny Nastor: Yeah? Ouch.
Jerod Morris: Guess we’ll have to figure out now if we publish this. Stay tuned.
All right, everybody, we’ll talk to you next week on The Showrunner. Take care.