I've been trying to declutter a few areas of my house lately. While doing so, I've come across a handful of old "idea files." It always seems like a good idea to start one. At previous points in my life, I've been responsible for coming up with 8-10 short article ideas a month for Reader's Digest's Only in America section, and now I'm brainstorming 6 blog posts a week (4 here, 2 over at BNET, with a Friday round-up that combines them). Then, of course, there are columns and factoids or anecdotes to include in books and so forth. This requires a lot of ideas, so clipping articles from newspapers and magazines, and stashing notes in a single file sounds like it would create lots of fodder for inspiration.
But, given that these old idea files are buried in other stuff, it doesn't seem like they're working that well. And frankly, when I looked through one from October-November 2006 yesterday, I didn't come up with much beyond the names of a few plants I'd like to use in my someday garden. Nice personally, but not-so-helpful professionally, which was the point of the idea file in the first place.
But I know some people put idea files to great use. Has anyone here used one? What did you put in it? What did you manage to get out of it? Do you have any tips for making idea files more than a yellowing collection of useless clips?