First Published: December 8, 2022

Last Updated: December 8, 2022

The Gist: Building a habit of saving ideas, research, and notes as you come across them is known as the capture habit, and here's how it will make your content marketing so much easier.

"And that's why you always leave a note."

That quote is from a side character on Arrested Development, but it's also great advice. I'd even go so far as to say it's advice worth scaring into your children, like George Bluth did on the show (although maybe with different methods...).

Writing things down - leaving notes, whether they're to other people or to yourself - is one of the most effective habits you can cultivate for yourself if your job involves research, writing, or creativity.

In productivity circles, it's often called "the capture habit," but today I want to focus on how it helps with content marketing and creation specifically.

But first, the basics:

What is the capture habit?

"The capture habit" is a term from David Allen's Getting Things Done book and methodology. It means making a habit of capturing all the thoughts, ideas, and to-dos on your mind as they come to you. Or at least, you capture "placeholders" for them.

The placeholders can be either physical (post-it note with a reminder, paper that needs to be signed) or digital (digital document). You capture them into inbox "containers," and then empty or process those containers regularly (another essential habit we'll talk about later).

The capture habit is an essential part of almost all personal knowledge management (PKM) methodologies as well.

What you need to get started

To start capturing things, you need:

  • A quick capture tool to actually write the "thing" down
  • An inbox to send the capture to
  • A place to store the information long-term

And you don't need to limit yourself to just one. When talking about inboxes, David Allen wrote that you want, "as many as you need, but as few as you can get away with." That goes for quick capture and long-term storage as well.

Quick capture tools

Quick capture tools are the actual way you capture or write down ideas. You'll probably want a few different ones so you can capture different kinds of ideas and content in different contexts.

Some examples include:

  • The paper you keep nearby to jot something down
  • Browser plugins to save links
  • Automations to quickly send notes to your PKM system
  • Word docs you keep open as a "scratch pad" throughout the day

The more quick capture tools you have, the easier it will be to write things down in any kind of situation and grow your PKM system. At least, as long as all your quick capture tools are going to the same inboxes and you process them regularly.

We'll talk about processing next week, but speaking of inboxes...


Your PKM inboxes are where your captured ideas actually go. The place you store the sticky notes you've written. The unsorted folder of your notes app.

Things like that. In the words of David Allen again, you want "as many as you need but as few as you can get away with."

I recommend having at least one offline/analog inbox, one you can access easily on mobile, and one you can easily access on your computer. (Although with tools like my PKM of choice, Notion, the same inbox can be used on both mobile and desktop.)

Long-term storage

If you recall from my PKM intro, the big difference between knowledge management and information hoarding is how easy it is to actually reference and use the information you've saved.

That means just capturing everything and leaving it alone won't work.

Processing your inboxes regularly is key to keeping your information organized. We'll talk about that more next week, but it involves moving any original notes you decide to keep into a separate long-term storage system.

For example, my Inbox is one Notion database, but my long-term storage is separated into a few different other databases. So in the processing step I move ideas to their proper long-term home to be resurfaced in the right context.

Plan your perfect repurposing strategy

Download my free content repurposing planning worksheet to figure out the most strategic and intentional way to reuse and recycle your content.

How it helps with content marketing

Content marketing involves constantly coming up with new ideas, whether that's content topics, campaign ideas, distribution ideas, or possible marketing experiments.

But we rarely come up with our best ideas when we're at our desk, sitting at our computer, with our content calendar or project management system sitting open. That would be too simple and convenient for the human brain!

Instead, we tend to get our best ideas when we're in the shower, trying to fall asleep, or out for a walk. This has been so thoroughly studied and documented that it even has a name, the eureka effect, and is recognized as one of the four stages of creativity.

(Sidenote: I remembered this from a book I read, and had additional resources on them ready, because of my own PKM system. 😉)

Without a capture habit, you have to trust your brain and short-term memory to remember those great ideas until you can add them straight into the system they belong in. And I don't know about you, but with my ADHD, I do. not. trust. my. brain.

Content marketers also do a lot of learning and consuming other content in our industry, talking to customers, and more activities where it's useful to take notes.

What to capture for content marketing

So what kinds of things would a content marketer capture to their PKM system?

Here's a sampling of what's in mine:

  • Quotes from other people's content that I loved and felt I could reference in my own
  • Statistics I come across and think I can cite in future content to back up unsupported claims
  • Stories or examples of concepts that I talk about, again to back up unsupported claims in the future
  • Highlights from books about marketing and business
  • Voice of customer language captured from both conversations with my own customers and audience research done online
  • Notes and tutorials on the different tech tools I use on a regular basis
  • Notes on my own systems, workflows, and processes, like informal SOPs (formal ones could easily be in here, too)
  • Content ideas
  • Marketing campaign ideas
  • Content remixing ideas

Tips for your new capture habit

If you're ready to start your new capture habit now, here are a few tips for getting started:

  • Start small: while you'll probably end up with multiple quick capture tools, start with one, or maybe one digital and one analog. Once you're using them regularly, you can consider more.
  • Make processing an appointment: falling behind on processing is one of the main reasons PKM attempts fail. Try making it a firm weekly appointment with yourself. When I first started, it was on Friday afternoons when I was too drained to do anything else.
  • Don't be afraid to purge: just because you saved something to your inbox or long-term storage doesn't mean it needs to stay there. Regularly deleting things only makes it easier to find and use the stuff that's still relevant.
  • Review randomly: it can be easy to forget what you've saved over time. When you have random pockets of time, reviewing your PKM instead of doomscrolling social media can help you remember your notes and ideas better.
  • Don't expect perfection: you're still going to have good ideas and to-dos you forget to write down, it'll just happen less often. But expecting yourself to be perfect at this right away is only setting yourself up for failure.

And most of all, have fun with it! Your work is on its way to getting so much easier. But only if your PKM workflow works for you. It'll take playing, tinkering, and experimenting to figure out what that is.

Plan your perfect repurposing strategy

Download my free content repurposing planning worksheet to figure out the most strategic and intentional way to reuse and recycle your content.

Start building your capture habit

The sooner you start building your capture habit, the sooner you'll stop losing ideas, research, and inspiration you come across every day.

So go get capturing!

Which pop star will save your content strategy_