Starting two years ago with the popularity of e-readers I wanted to jump on the bandwagon. For years I have not been able to sit down and finish a book. As much as I would like to think that the reason was because my life has become extraordinarily busy, the reality is I was terrible at time management. After buying an e-reader, I began to find small snippets of reading time for books.
Reading electronically fundamentally transformed how I read nonfiction. Because reading is now part of everyday life, minutes at a time, ideas from these books also began to blend into everyday situations. Unfortunately, these connections have been effervescent, fleeting thoughts that seldom resurface. Like David Allen states in Getting Things Done, our minds don’t create ideas when we most need them – they do so on the fly, often when we least expect. When a problem is at hand and you need to figure stuff out, you may still remember that an answer had popped into your head two days ago, but the brilliant solution is long gone now. Paradoxically, the mind seems to have a mind of its own.
Like many people, I read to live a more exciting, fictional life, and to expand my limited knowledge about the world. I also read to share interesting ideas with friends. Unfortunately, despite how interesting the books or articles were, I find myself trying to recall to a friend, “I read this book a few months back. I can’t tell you the details. Actually, I can’t remember anything about it except what you said reminded me of it.” Many studies have shown that sharing experiences — collaboration — is one of the best ways to develop ideas. However, few controlled studies highlight that the actual developing of new ideas: a great rebuttal to a debate, the optimal solution to a problem, a better punchline to a joke, sometimes occur long after the collaborative interaction. That is, just long enough after walking away that turning around and firing off that brilliant rebuttal would be quite awkward.
Why Figure Stuff Out?
Figure Stuff Out was started to help me synthesize ideas as they form in my head and connect with one another. Unfortunately, for most of us these connections are formed once and then forgotten quickly. In Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi argues that relationships are best maintained with multiple touch points: email, thank-you notes, and phone call because each solidifies the connection. Likewise, ideas stick best when they are exercised in multiple settings: discussing them, recording them, and sharing them.
I wanted to start recording these glimpses of ideas throughout everyday little things, and I hope here are at least a few interesting thoughts that make my readers’ precious minutes spent reading them worthwhile.