The Sparklist

I'm not a very organized person. My processes are messy. My tools are rudimentary. And consequently, I miss deadlines and some of my thoughts get lost.

One trick I adopted a few years ago is the concept of a sparklist. I read about this very specific type of list on Quora or Twitter a few years ago. I can't even find the original source, but someone branded it.

A sparklist is just list (paper journal, Google Docs, Notes application). It must be easily accessible because you'll never know when you will use it. It for the « I've got to write this down » moments.

Your write anything and everything on a sparklist. There's no filter. There's no category. It can be keywords, sentences or short paragraphs.

I like it with no styling – only plain text. It makes it easier to avoid thinking about formatting or making it pretty.

Over the years, I've used the sparklist for many things but mostly:

Business/project ideas

I have a sparklist where I write stuff like « 3d print musical parts; phone cases; speakers » (this is an actual entry from 2013) or « Write a blog post about tuning of vocals in modern music » (another entry from 2015). So when I feel like revisiting my brain from a few months earlier, it's fun and I can laugh about some thoughts I had. 

Live notetaking

I attended SXSW 2017 and opened a sparklist just for that where I would write down quotes, speakers names, random restaurants. I didn't try to document my journey, I was just trying to catch up with all the information I gathered in these intense conferences.

Travel to-do

I open a sparklist when I travel as a « comeback to-do ». I just input a bunch of stuff I want to do when I get back. It's a thematic to-do. These are nice to do in paper journals.

Music writing

I use a sparklist for music writing. I take weird notes in my Iphone of quotes, book passages, songs ideas, words and phrases I like. I have a huge backlog of like 50+ items. When I pick up my guitar and play music. If I need some inspiration, I just read outloud all of that. Some are road names I liked in Vermont, some are quotes from bathroom graffiti, some are things someone said in a movie. Some are really old notes from 5 years + that haven't been used yet. Some are fresh. It's a backlog.

Try it! It really helps sparking new ideas.