Cognitive Nets and Offloading: Capture and Develop Your Ideas

John Cousins
February 7, 2023
3 min read

Thoughts and ideas are ephemeral and flit by like butterflies rising and falling as the summer wind lives and dies. Its pleasant to watch them float by but we lose a source of our best selves if we don’t follow them.

It’s our job to capture our ideas before they have a chance to evaporate. We can use cognitive nets to help us. These are practices like note taking. Whenever you have a novel thought that you want to further chase down, write it down immediately.

Keep a notepad by your bedside, in the kitchen, in your car, in the bathroom, and anywhere else where you spend time where your mind is not engaged and allowed to roam free.

Think of these notepads as cognitive nets that help you capture these nascent buds of ideas for further examination. You will discover that many times these are compressed nuggets where meaning and purpose can be teased out as you explore them.

This practice will help you discover your essential you-ness. These thoughts are as ephemeral as dreams, and no matter how obvious and clear they seem in the moment, they will disappear never to return if you don’t set them down right when you are thinking them.

They represent the important stuff that is bubbling up from below the surface. Most of the stuff we think is negative and repetitive.

In 2005, the National Science Foundation published an article regarding research about human thoughts per day. The average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% are negative and 95% are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before.

With that in mind think about how valuable a novel positive thought is. They are worth capturing.

Keep a notebook or journal where you record these thoughts and ideas. Tend to them like a garden and develop their meaning. This cognitive offloading is where great ideas come from and it’s a profound mirror of who you are.

Keeping a diary is another great cognitive offloading practice. Check out Julia Cameron’s morning pages daily practice. I have found that writing my blog is an effective cognitive offloading and cognitive net practice for me. I am motivated by the sharing of ideas and the feedback.

And by offloading them, we make room for the next and the next…

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John Cousins
Author, Entrepreneur, & Teacher

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