Master Log: Using Notes, Lists and Brainstorming to Bring Ideas to Reality
This week I had someone write me a message who follows me on social media. He was both interested and I think more than a little confused in not only how I made my living, but how I found the time and inspiration to do all the different things I do.
As someone who now works for himself full-time, my brain has to constantly be in motion- working on new ideas for my business; creating art for personal projects or commission; answering emails to personal coaching clients or writing programming for fitness and nutrition clients; juggling my wife and her two daughter's schedules while still fitting in 6 days of lifting a week, and 5 days of jiu jitsu and muay thai; mandatory events and long distance travel for my club; all these things and a hundred more have to get done every week.
As a busy guy, sometimes I get overloaded with all this shit, and I start to lose my organization- like that game Jenga, once one piece falls out of place, the rest of the foundation starts to get a little wobbly too, and before I know it, my whole day is derailed because of some easily avoidable fuck-ups. The way I avoid this is through the use of what I call the Master Log
I use a black hardcover moleskine with blank pages, because I like the freedom it allows to work without lines, as I do a lot of my brainstorming and whatnot in a very visual fashion- flowcharts, sigils that have personal meaning to me, drawings of new t-shirt designs, whatever. You can use whatever you want, and you should explore your options. You want your Master Log to be something you enjoy using, and enjoy writing in. Knock yourself out.
You are also going to want to have 2 or 3 separate, smaller blanks- for this, I use the softcover blank moleskins, slim, they come like 3 or 4 to pack.
Now, your main book, this is your Master Log. This thing is your life's grimoire- your reliquary of ideas, thoughts, planned actions, brainstorms, strategies for winning on this battle field of life. I use this thing to program my workouts, write lists of all the shit I need to get done the following day. I don't make weekly lists, as they always seem to get derailed anyhow- I try to plan for the next day only, as far as lists go. Obviously, I plan ahead for bigger events, bills, and all that stuff, but for my checklists, I just write down everything that comes to mind the day or evening before. If the list is huge, so be it. The idea is to cross off as much of that shit as possible before the end of the day. If you absolutely can't get something done, it goes on the list for the following day.
Clearly, the idea here is to stay ahead of the curve, and not weigh yourself down by being a lazy bastard, letting the lists pile up and getting nothing done. I do this by prioritizing my list before I go to bed- shit that I absolutely, positively have to get done first, and things that can take a backseat after that. Making these lists also de-stresses me and gives me a sense of clarity for the following day, which I believe helps me sleep better and not stay awake thinking about those things I need to get done.
Second, every good idea I have during the day, I record in here. I do this for a few reasons: one, you think your memory is sharp, but it isn't. I am quite convinced I have forgotten more than one million dollar idea that I never wrote down, and I never got to do it, because it never went on a priority list! Seriously, you forget a lot of things in the heat of combat, or the trench warfare of daily life. Write it down. Two, because once you write the idea down, you can come back to it later, when you have the time to flesh it out, take it from the realm of vague potential and bring it into being- a true act of magic of the highest order! Once you put pen to paper on an idea, it is no longer swirling around in the grey fog where we pull our dreams and clouded visions from...you have taken the first step to giving it form by writing it into being.
I have dozens of old notebooks, Master Logs of bygone years, and I still pull them out from time to time, like a goldminer of past inspirations, panning through the debris and scratched out lists for something glimmering with usefulness. Often, I find something there, something that younger me was unable to use or see the value in, or I change it in a form of alchemy, turning the simple lead of a seemingly useless thought into gold- sometimes literally.
I also encourage you to draw in this thing. Give your ideas real shape and flow, break your creative mind out of stasis, shatter those hardening channels in the brain by using creative visualization to bust out of tired ways of thinking and doing. My Master Log has pieces of poetry, snatches of prose, drawings of places that I have dreamed of and then seen or created in "real" life. Words that came to me during a distracted moment that I later returned to and shaped into songs, articles, stories for around the fire to make my brothers laugh. There is real magic in this world, we just ignore it as "flights of fancy" or "daydreams." I am in the business of making my daydreams a reality, because that's what I know how to do.
Now that you have your Master Log rolling, that fucker will get chaotic. However, you will begin to find your own method and madness, and your eyes will begin to make sense of it all- I can pick my "to do" lists out from the rest, because I use an underlining system. Some things get circled. Others get arrows. You could use different colored pens, different handwriting for different purposes, whatever you like, or fits your style.
Because it is important to have some fashion of order, I use those slim books as "subject specific." So, I use one for my weight training only. It is an orderly log of numbers and words that relate to that one facet of my life, in order to be simple, streamlined, and orderly, because it needs to be
I use another one for my business and finances, budget and so on. For you, it can be whatever it needs to be, whatever areas of your life require or need more ordering. This way, you can take applicable information and details from the Master Log, and keep it all in one place, topically. You can start one of these slim books for anything that becomes important. I now have one for Jiu Jitsu. You might have one for story ideas only. Mathematics problems you are working on. Philosophical questions regarding existentialism. Essentially you are curating the massive art gallery of your mind into separate rooms.
Through doing this, you will capture more of your mental inner workings into this world, here, before you lose it in the eddying stream of chaos, perhaps never to return again. If you are a thinker, a doer, this is a very real tragedy, as many of these ideas may get driven out because you are too busy racking your brain trying to remember what bill you were supposed to pay, or why today's date seems important for some reason.
Those of you whose ideas are shaping the world around you, who are creating a meaningful life from the images they see in dreams and waking visions, brainstorms, and manifested ritual- the Master Log is like a map and compass in the jungles of possibility and potential. Use them to your advantage, and instead of being lost and confused, carve out a place for yourself through the limitless might of your own thought and action.
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