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While actively browsing the internet (via phone/tablet/desktop), how can I quickly file an impromptu thought or idea into a centralized, searchable medium -- but importantly -- through a method that's as quick as possible and breaks flow as little as possible?

NOTES

Ideally, it could be initiated through universal keyboard shortcut that brings up a pop-up box where you record the thought/idea, tags, and then have it disappear for later review.

The problem with the Evernote route is that it seems a bit "overkill" -- either having to create a new note for every idea, or breaking flow if you have to search for and pull up a note of centralized ideas. Notes would either quickly pile up with the former, or flow would be greatly susceptible to breaking with the latter.

With the individual note route, I'd be filing at least 15-20 of idea/thought a day. Having to review-sort 15-20+ individual notes each day, cutting and pasting each note's idea into a centralized/categorized document would be enough tedium to break the routine (in my case).

I've considered the route of using my GTD system for this -- Toodledo -- which I currently have a keyboard shortcut for through my Firefox browser, where I'm quickly able to pull up a to-do item, record it, and have it filed for review later.

What I worry about in doing this is the meshing of important tasks that need doing (centric to the GTD system) with items that are perhaps just scattered ideas, thoughts, or ramblings. I fear that it could infect the GTD system's effectiveness like an overwhelming virus.

With that being said -- I'm not opposed at all to answers that interact with this GTD system (like Toodledo and its browser plugin, for example), and in fact, it might be beneficial to have the two mind-dumping systems merged together.

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2 Answers

It sounds to me like you're skimping on the GTD step of "processing" your inbox(es). You describe adding to-do items directly into your GTD system using your keyboard shortcut to Toodledo. My understanding (and practice) of GTD uses a general purpose inbox, where all random thoughts go for later processing. Occasionally I'll have a thought that I know is a to-do item and will put it directly into my system, but that's rare. Most often, everything goes to an inbox and moves from there later.

That turns out to overall be more time efficient -- an amazing number of things that looked like something to do when I thought of it turns out not to be when processing later. Had I entered them directly into my tracking system, they'd be there filling up my lists until I got around to deleting them on review. Eventually. Taking that second look is a big help in making good decisions about what I'm really going to commit to doing.

My primary inbox for electronic random thoughts is Evernote. I think Web clips are great, and I use the Clearly browser plugin a lot for web articles to read later. (The Clearly articles do usually get saved directly to a Reading notebook, rather than Inbox and moved.) Also very useful for not breaking flow is email - every Evernote account has an email address associated with it. I have a hot key combination to pop open email addressed to my Evernote account - type the note, send it, and back to what I was doing. I don't even have to see the screen context change if I don't want to, as I'm a good enough touch typist I don't have to see the email form to be able to use it.

Processing that inbox turns out to not be difficult - real to-do items get cut-and-paste moved to my list manager (RememberTheMilk), Someday/Maybe gets sorted and filed appropriately (books on the books-to-get list, etc.), new projects created and planned, reference material sorted and filed in the appropriate place in Evernote.

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I use http://getpocket.com/ (and for some things the competing http://www.instapaper.com/) which save pages for later reading - pocket goes to my rss reader where I know I will review it when I'm in more 'tuning into the world's information mode' - I trust this system and that works well. Some things that don't go into pocket - go into instapaper - because it has the big advantage that I can send it as a digest to my kindle - this is much better for things where I want to have a deep think about when I'm generally undistracted...

Occasionaly I'll add a next action item along the lines of 'have 10 minute brainstorming about X' - this is quick, easy, and, importantly, specific enought that I can definately to it in the time availible.

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