For years I have struggled to express my thoughts eloquently in writing, despite considering myself a writer and lover of the written word. Sometimes it’s because my brain is going too fast and in too many directions at once so it’s impossible to capture it all, let alone have it make any sense. Other times it’s because I find it hard to “turn off” my inner editor and get so wrapped up in trying to make sure that what makes it onto the page is good that I lose my train of thought.
This week I discovered the true power of voice notes – of recording myself thinking out loud as a primary way of capturing my raw and unedited thoughts – and I think this may be a huge breakthrough for me.
Capture First, Organize and Edit Later
In the word of PKM or Personal Knowledge Management I have learned that the act of capturing (a thought, a piece of information, an impression, etc.) is vastly different in nature from the act of orgainizing (said thought, information, impression, etc.). Capturing information and organizing it are simply different steps. So it follows that it’s unwise and sometimes impossible to do both at once. Taking voice notes instead of written notes has finally allowed me to separate the two.
Take for example, the weekly review. People from all corners of the world of productivity recommend a weekly review. Some of the most stable and mindful seasons of my life have included a weekly review habit and although I’ve struggled to maintain it, I still highly recommend it. One aspect of that struggle has always been getting easily sidetracked and sucked into acting rather than simply reviewing and collecting information, ideas, and tasks.
It may be an extra step, but capturing my thoughts through voice notes has already made my weekly reviews (for work and personal) less overwhelming, and several times easier. When it’s the difference between done and not-done, it’s worth the extra step.
My Natural Processing Medium
A week before making this discovery I made a different discovery. I realized that some of my best insights tend to come to me in conversation. When it comes to processing information and learning, I do best in dialogue. The act of bouncing ideas back and forth, getting feedback in real time, and having the benefit of another perspective is truly unmatched.
As a result, I decided I wanted to start a podcast. At the time of writing this, I’m still working up to publishing the first episode, but I’m excited about the prospect of shifting my creative process to put spoken expression first. I think it will allow me to share more often, and learn more publicly and conversationally. I plan to have guests as often as possible, and to engage with questions and comments from listeners and readers.
Creative Iteration Cycles
Every time we engage with an idea or a piece of media, we create something new: new thoughts, new perspectives, new insights. Sometimes we manage to express them in the moment, either to ourselves or to someone else which creates the opportunity to engage with them and continue the cycle. Sometimes we also manage to capture those thoughts, perspectives, or insights, which gives us the opportunity to engage at a later time.
Since starting to record my spoken thoughts, I have had the opportunity to carry on conversations with my past selves, adding layers and layers of insights and perspectives, and being able to connect ideas I otherwise would not have been able to do.
I understand that this, the ability to connect ideas across time, is the heart of Personal Knowledge Management, but I’ve never been able to do it purely with writing.
Voice notes have unlocked the benefits of PKM and my notetaking process for me.
Adding Steps is Good Actually
I said earlier that the difference between doing something and not doing something makes it worth the extra step. But beyond that, it’s actually bringing additional value to my creative process.
Creating is meant to have layers and iterations. We have a first draft, feedback a second draft, and so-on. But I’ve never been very good at doing all of that with writing alone. I always tend to go straight to the final draft and I struggle with the revision process. I just get stuck.
But rather than forcing layers of writing, adding in layers of voice notes in between has unlocked that layering process for me and allowed me to evolve my ideas in a way that would have taken me a lot longer, or wouldn’t have happened at all. Instead of writing this post directly from my brain, there have been 3-6 layers of back and forth with myself before landing here. All without the feeling of overwhelm that usually accompanies the process for me.