Organizing Your Strokes of Genius

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

— Albert Einstein

Einstein was on point saying that an empty mind is less favorable than clutter, however, no one really wants an unorganized thinking space. If, like me, you often find yourself quickly scribbling down ideas on scraps of papers, then you understand the plight of searching through stacks of discarded papers, sticky notes and old notebooks for that perfect phrase you jotted down.

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How can you organize your spontaneous inspiration, enabling you to flesh out ideas at a more convenient time? This week’s TechCorner will give you some ideas for streamlining and organizing your brainstorming process to make sure a moment of genius doesn’t get lost in the hustle and bustle of your everyday life.

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MindNode — MindNode is easily one of the top apps for organizing brainstorming sessions into a legible, organized collection of ideas. It’s built around the creation of mind maps, details and inspiration. The interface is simple, and it will walk you through the process for first-time mind mappers. In addition to adding text, you can include photos and hyperlinks to give your thoughts life. What makes it stand out the most, however, is its ability to hide parts of the map you aren’t currently using, keeping the display clean and easy to use. Although one of the priciest options, MindNode lets you see the big picture or the smallest details and is worth the purchase for anyone in need of cleaning up the brainstorming process. (Mac $29.99, iPhone/iPad $9.99)

Mindly — This app is something like the younger brother of MindNode, following the same idea of easy-to-make mind maps. The difference here, though, is that Mindly is solely available for mobile devices and completely free — a premium version will allow you to make more maps. Again it focuses on putting your main idea in the center and building off from there, and the app allows you to customize the color and size of each circle to organize the map. For a similar experience, you can also try Pearltrees. (iPhone/iPad free — premium $6.99)

Idea Growr / Idealist — For those who aren’t as visually inclined when organizing their ideas, both Idea Growr and Idealist work in a more conventional list format to organize your thoughts. When a potential idea comes to mind, simply write it down in either app, which will organize them however you would like. Each will let you take notes on the idea so you won’t forget. What makes them unique, though, is that both ask you a series of questions to keep you elaborating your ideas — questions like, why would someone want this and what problem are you looking to solve.

Post-It Plus — Finally, an app for those of us who can’t quite give up the tangible aspect of writing your notes down on paper. This free app connects to your camera and lets you take a photo of a collection of Post-it notes — up to 50 — and it will scan and digitize your writing. From there, you can organize your notes into different sections and themes. For a camera-based app, it’s surprisingly good at recognizing what you wrote. The app was designed alongside Post-it itself, though, so the company isn’t making its product completely unnecessary and the app comes with some drawbacks. You can’t add digital notes to your collection from the app, and you also can’t edit your writing once they’re scanned. Still, turning handwritten notes digital can be one of the most tedious aspects of brainstorming, and this app is great for making that an almost seamless transition.

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