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How can we refine our ideas in a way that is efficient, reusable and effective?

Joan Didion once said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.” 

This quote perfectly captures the essence of what we call the ‘Voice Memo Method’ – a simple approach to exploring our thoughts and shaping them into coherent ideas. 

Let’s dive into what exactly this method entails.

A powerful tool 

At its core, the voice memo method is simple— write, refine, repeat. 

It’s a system that thrives on the principle of free writing/stream of consciousness writing, and allows you to express your thoughts without constraints or overthinking.

To get started, all you need is a recording device (your phone’s audio recording app works just fine) or a blank document (if you prefer to go analogue, you can also use a physical notebook or piece of paper – though personally I type much faster than I write by hand, and I’m sure many of you feel the same way). 

Hit record or start typing and let your thoughts flow freely. Don’t worry about formatting, grammar, style or even making sense at this stage. It’s all about spilling out your ideas, raw and unfiltered. 

The key here is to not inhibit yourself with perfectionism or the fear of getting it wrong. 

Shaping, refining and reusing our ideas

Let’s explore an example to illustrate how this method works: Imagine you have a thought – in this case, let’s take a recent topic I covered in a few different places: Has Twitter finally met its demise? 

(And no, I’m not going to call it ‘X’ just because a moronic billionaire has decided to dismantle its brand value.)

You might start by recording or writing everything that comes to your mind on this topic. It could be an analysis of Twitter’s position among other social media platforms, its unique features or potential threats to its relevance (Elon). 

For instance, you might discuss how Twitter remains a vital text-based social media platform, despite the rise of visual platforms like Instagram and TikTok. You could delve into the immediacy and real-time nature of Twitter that makes it indispensable for journalists, policymakers and activists. Or you could ponder over possible game-changers such as Meta’s new Threads app.

Once you’ve expressed your thoughts, it’s time to refine them. 

Transform your stream of consciousness into a well-crafted, bulky paragraph. To refine further, distil your write-up into three key points. This helps create a concise, to-the-point version of your idea that’s easy to share or pitch.

Finally, adapt your refined idea for different formats, such as a LinkedIn post or video or blog. This repurposing of content not only maximises its reach but also enables you to engage with your audience on various platforms. 

The beauty of the voice memo method is that it’s iterative by nature. It’s not a one-time process. You continue to refine your thoughts, making your ideas clearer and sharper with each pass – and it only takes a little bit of time and brain power.

Moreover, this method offers a plethora of reusable content. By looking at your writing or recording from different angles, you can extract multiple key points, giving you a wealth of material to explore in future content ideas. 

Simply put, the voice memo method helps you discover what you’re thinking, what you’re observing and what it all means – just as Joan Didion described. 

It’s an excellent way to unleash your creativity, deepen your thoughts and maximise your content’s impact. So, why not give it a try? You might be surprised at the depth and richness of the ideas that emerge!


– Ali Colwell, Creative Strategy Lead


Check out the short clip below from our Creativity by Committee event, where I discuss the voice memo method further:

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