Write with “magic” so you never have to face a blank page
Ali Abdaal uses parallel processing.
He took one more step. With the process, he built a “second brain” on Notion. This has helped him produce at least one YouTube video per week since June 2017.
In computer science, parallel processing goes like this. A complex task is divided into smaller tasks, and these tasks are executed on multiple processors. They are also executed at the same time. These results are then recombined, reducing processing time.
I decided to apply parallel processing to writing. Since July, I have been able to produce three articles of more than 1000 words per week. I also posted frequently on social media.
My writing output has increased tenfold.
Here’s how I capture ideas, organize them in Notion, and use the magic of parallel processing.
1. Capture ideas on Notion
“Your mind is made to have ideas, not to hold them.” —David Allen, author of Do things
I switched to Notion in July and now use it for everything. Books I should read, movies I should watch, content ideas, etc. My ideas are all in one place.
In my dashboard, there are different pages. My homepage houses my 6 month planfinances and links to documents.
In the left toolbar there are links to pages. This is where I store content ideas.
When I want to capture an idea, I open Notion – via the phone app or my laptop – and add a new entry. It could be a possible title, a random bullet point, or a useful article.
No matter how developed an idea is, I capture it. I currently have over 50 content ideas.
Some of these ideas can stick around for months. The brainchild of this article you’re reading right now was first captured on July 16.
2. Add ideas from my “in-tray” and review them every Sunday
Capturing ideas on Notion is part of the equation. Other ideas come and go when I’m in the shower, doing the dishes, or doing other chores.
Here’s how I capture them when my phone is out of range.
Step 1: Place tools to capture ideas around my apartment
I have a pen and paper next to my bed. In my bathroom I have a whiteboard pen with which I can write on the tiles.
When it suits you, I will transfer these captured ideas to post-it notes or slips of paper.
For example, if I capture an idea before falling asleep, I will put it next to my bed. It will be the first thing I see when I wake up.
Step 2: Add these ideas in a plastic bin – my “receiving bin”
Every Sunday I will go through the ideas in my plastic bin and act on each item. For the ideas that I no longer like, I throw them away.
If it’s a good idea, I’ll add it to Notion. Others can go into my diary for a later date (eg an idea for a new course).
Once I’ve activated all the items in the bin, I’m going to review the content ideas on Notion and delete the ones I don’t like anymore.
3. Start connecting the dots
Sometimes I realize that something could complement an idea I’ve already stored on Notion.
Here comes the magic. I’ll just add this “thing” – be it a quote or a useful article – to the existing idea I have on Notion. This way, I “research” for future articles without having to do any research.
My writing time continues to write. Most of the research is already done.
Best of all, I never have to deal with a blank screen. I simply copy and paste the raw materials I gathered on Notion onto the appropriate platform.
Take away food
As a content creator, coming up with ideas is 80% of the game. Some articles write themselves. These are usually the ones that work the best.
My most successful article took me less than two hours to write. However, this is misleading. Even though I wasn’t using Notion, I was using parallel processing without knowing it.
I had spoken with Louise on my podcast, the subject of the article. I had also consumed his online courses and watched his YouTube videos. I was looking without realizing it.
When it came to writing the article, it seemed to write itself.
- Capture ideas on Notion. (Asana and Trello are good alternatives.)
- Review these items regularly. Action them or delete them from your workspace.
- Connect the dots and see your writing output increase.