Capture, organize, synthesize

Takeaway from a Mozilla user study studying how people find, save and share things on the web:

  1. Capture as much as possible. Capture without judgment: your thoughts are more valuable than paper. Externalize what you learn. Once an idea is captured in a tangible form you can begin surveying and manipulating it.
  2. Organize only after you capture. Filter, but don't delete irrelevant information. Computers are big enough to search and store everything. Make them manage it.
  3. Synthesize into new meaning. Re-contextualize what you learn. This is the creative act. Experience becomes art, notes become a novel.

Most creative bottlenecks happen when you try to organize and synthesize before you capture. Spread it all out before you try to arrange it.


Many creative tools are designed for organizing first. Name the file before you can write in it. Create your Photoshop layer before you can draw on it. This causes friction.


Pascal's Pensees were collected mid-way through capture, organize, synthesize.


Also: Design patterns, learn to learn