During my last year in graduate school, I started noticing that my boss was carrying a notebook with him whenever he went to meetings, talks, poster sessions, journal clubs, etc.. I walked into his office one day and he was browsing an article and writing stuff in his notebook. I asked him about it and he told me it was his “idea notebook.” I always (ok not always, but sometimes) take notes during talks, and if I like a poster I’ll get them to e-mail me a PDF or take a hard copy. In my mind, I was doing the same thing as my boss. However, I can’t tell you where all of those scraps of notebook paper are or where the hard copies from those posters went.
Now, I am beginning to see my boss’ wisdom.
Since he wrote all of this notes (even transcribing things from hard-copies) in one single notebook, he can easily keep track of all of his thoughts and ideas. Now that I am all grown up and coming up with ideas of my own, I have started keeping my own idea book. As I read articles, I write down interesting reactions or molecules (always writing down the reference so that I can find the hard copy when I need it) and any thoughts I have about the paper and any big ideas I walk away with from their paper. I’m going to my first big meeting as an assistant professor next month, so I will get to test my notebook out during talks and poster sessions.
I am really excited about doing this. I think it has gotten me back in the mindset of research and has gotten my wheels turning for coming up with my own ideas.
So, do any of you keep and idea book? If not, how do you keep track of all of your ideas (my mind is too cluttered to keep them all up there!)? I’m always looking for ways to keep my thoughts organized.