capture everything: the incubator

February 24, 2008 | 8 Comments

This is last post in a series on capturing everything. Previous entries:

In a time of growing self awareness a few years ago, I quietly proclaimed myself to be a content creator. I had awakened to the fact that I experience great satisfaction when generating and sharing ideas with others. When I am feeling out of sorts, I realized that it is often because I haven’t found avenues to express myself. Thankfully, between teaching opportunities at my church, maintaining multiple blogs, writing papers for grad school, and a few other writing projects, I generally can find opportunities to share the rattlings of my brain.

At the heart of creating regular content is having something to say. If I don’t think I have something worth saying, I am not creating content. It’s that simple. Much of this series on capturing everything has been about capturing ideas to share. It is not just enough to capture those ideas, but to organize them and help them evolve. I use Yojimbo as an incubator to review and develop those ideas further, but I hope the description below can be helpful to someone using any system.

When ideas are captured into Yojimbo, they end up in my collection of “Untagged Items”. This becomes a file of ideas to sort. Once or twice a week, I go through this folder and tag the notes. Possible blog entries are tagged to_blog. An idea for an upcoming teaching is tagged teaching and current. And so on. If there is an idea that I want to think about more, but that I’m not sure where to put it, it ends up with the tag incubator.

In the image to the left, you can see an example of some of the tag collections I have to help sort out some of these notes. As you might expect, most of these notes end up with tags that might put them in multiple collections.

None of this is worthwhile unless I actually give these ideas the space to incubate. I regularly take time to review these folders to keep the ideas going through my head. Sometimes, I’ll see that two or three potential blog posts might be related, and I’ll copy and paste from one to put them together. Or I might find that one thought might be the Romeo to another idea’s Juliet. Sometimes, I might see a longer series emering, like this post is a part of. I often find that the ideas just need more time. They might not be complete yet, but it is reviewing them that keeps them active in my mind.

This system of gathering and reviewing my thoughts is always changing as I find ways to streamline or improve it. In fact, it has only been as I describe it here for the past few months. I would love to hear from others about how you organize and develop some of the ideas that you capture.

  • Hi There,

    Nice post…is there a windows version of yojimbo? The capabilities of the software is quite neat!!!

  • John

    When I was on a PC, I used OneNote for this kind of thing, although it’s not necessarily structured the same way. Much of what I describe above probably wouldn’t work in OneNote, but it’s still a great way to catalog information.

  • John,
    Thanks. I currently use OneNote and it is reasonably good in allowing folders,sections and other options that can be easily moved around. So like you say, it helps.

  • I’m really digging this series of posts. I am on the brink of switching PC to Mac full time (within a week), and Yojimbo looks amazing. Thanks for taking the time to share how you use it.

    As a side note, I’m thinking about applying to Mars Hill Grad School… do you like it?

    Oh, and I subscribed to your RSS feed. 😉

  • Hi,

    thanks. I tried to create that “Untagged Items” folder – how did you do that?

  • John

    If you go to the View menu item, and then highlight Smart Collections, you will see that Untagged Items is one of the default collections you can choose to display in the sidebar.


  • Zach Phillips

    Hi John,

    I know this is all old news and I’ve probably read your posts on Yojimbo ten times in the past few years, but I am still feeling a lack for something in my workflow. I have a copy of Yojimbo and I was using it like I use Evernote now (I made the switch to Evernote entirely because of the iPhone integration), but that is really for things I need to remember, receipts, serials, etc..

    For ideas, I have been using MacJournal, but I have no process in place for incubation or review.

    I was super-inspired by your post about Daily Deeds, and getting that stuff out of my OmniFocus and into a more “rhythmic” app was PERFECT. I am very happy you had this simple, brilliant idea. I will comment on that post with how I’m using it.

    Here’s what I need: For specific jobs, I am always collecting information and having ideas. I need a good place to put all these things, pertaining to a specific job, and be able to look at them all together, and it really needs to come with me on my notebook, iPhone, and iPad.

    Yojimbo, Evernote, MacJournal don’t seem to be a good solution for this. A mindmap might be the thing, but the ones I’ve trialed aren’t fast enough like those note-taking apps are (quick keyboard entry, etc.).

    I have an idea about a website I’m doing while sitting at lunch. My client sends me an email with a design she likes. In our meeting she mentions this or that. That stuff either gets left in my email Inbox (a no-no for me), or drowned in a sea of Evernotes or Yojimbos.

    Thanks for focusing on these things that are so important to some of us (crazies?).

  • John

    I’ve been adjusting my ideas/incubators bucket(s) a bit, and I’ll work up a post or two when I have the chance. The short version:

    1) I try to limit myself to having information in as few places as possible, so I do everything I can in Yojimbo. I have smart folders set up with tags, so I can quickly sort and identify notes and/or web archives related to specific projects.

    (Though I can’t access Yojimbo on the go, I do have it setup so that I can send notes and ideas to it via an email address that automatically drops them in Yojimbo via Applescript.)

    2) Now, completely contrary to what I just said…I’ve recently been using Notaional Velocity and SimpleNote to sync text only notes between my MacBook Pro and iPad/iPhone. I don’t like having multiple places to store things, but this just works all too well for basic text notes

    I’ve been using Yojimbo for design projects and reference, since they mostly happen on my laptop, and using SimpleNote/Notational Velocity for reading notes, study notes, etc. that might be handy to have in any context.