Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From, has an easy solution for combating procrastination or feeling creatively stuck. He keeps all of his hunches in a single document accessible from anywhere, and he reviews it, in its entirety, at least once a month.

In a funny way, it feels a bit like you are brainstorming with past versions of yourself. You see your past self groping for an idea that now seems completely obvious five years later.

The key is to capture as many hunches as possible, and to spend as little time as possible organizing or filtering or prioritizing them. (Keeping a single, chronological file is central to the process, because it forces you to scroll through the whole list each time you want to add something new.) Just get it all down as it comes to you, and make regular visits back to re-acquaint yourself with all your past explorations. You’ll be shocked how many useful hunches you’ve forgotten.

Johnson calls this his “Spark File.” The Spark File makes brainstorming easier, since you essentially have a backlog of ideas to rummage through at any given moment. Plus, having a single document for your Spark File (as opposed to maintaining a notebook) forces you to scan over past ideas, potentially sparking new insights as you work.

See exactly how Johnson utilizes his Spark File over on Medium.

  • Mickey

    That seems like a smart and wise activity to do: Fully read through your “spark file” once a month. I think I have inadvertently created a “spark” file without knowing: One of the journal embedded in my Penzu journal (see is basically a “spark” journal for my future research agenda. I hadn’t thought about reading through it fully every now and then, or at least through journal entry titles. Thank you for sharing this! Take care.

  • Valentina Bertani

    Brilliant idea. I keep a spark journal of sorts myself. I jot down ideas and other things in a notebook that I always keep with me.

  • Valentina Bertani

    A physical one. A small notebook that I can slip into my bag and I keep in my bag a pencil case with a pen, pencil and marker felt. But I do use my phone too, Evernote is the app of choice and I like to capture ideas with pictures, too; for that I use Instagram.

  • Casabona1

    I actually do that. Using notes from iOS. So I have them on mi desk computer, iPhone, iPad. This way every time I have a new idea I can write it down quickly anywhere.

    Btw. Completely true how you forgot good old ideas.

  • Jorge Barba

    This my Brain Bank, and it sits in my Evernote. It goes with me everywhere…

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