Saving Your Initial Reaction

Saving your initial reactions to things is important and useful. This is a very simply idea that has helped me in a number of different ways in the recent past. All this means is immediately saving my thoughts on a topic somewhere as opposed to nowhere.

It might be work-related tasks, ideas you've had, ideas your friends have had, personal issues or anything else. Having a record of how and what you were thinking at the time is really valuable to your future self.

Conversely, not having a record can be infuriating. So many times I've kicked myself for not writing things down. I'll remember that I had some good ideas on that topic, but wont' remember what those ideas were.

Saving your first reaction can be simple as

  • jotting down a few bullet points on a scrap of paper
  • creating voice-note on your phone (my favourite)
  • taking a screen recording on your phone, tablet or laptop.

All that's important is that you do it as soon as possible. Not later in the day, not tomorrow. Do it after you get out of the shower or as you're walking to work.

Screenshot 2020 08 06 at 14 19 00
Top tip: your initial reactions still need to be legible

Why is an initial reaction important? This is all anecdotal, subjective, and I have no science to back it up, but I've noticed a few things.

  • It captures the context. Where am I, what I'm doing, who I'm with, what I've been thinking about, how am I feeling? Personally, I'll never remember these details otherwise and they're almost always valuable.
  • It's intuitive. It's your gut reaction, for better or worse. I am liable to over-think things, but I've learned that I can usually trust my intuitions. When I revisit something I'll begin to rethink it, eroding this intuition. Having my initial reaction reminds me of my intuitions.
  • It's comprehensive. I find myself very quickly focusing on details. This means that when I revisit ideas I'm less likely to think about the big-picture and more likely to focus on smaller details. My first reactions are usually more comprehensive, taking the whole-picture into account on first-pass as I haven't had time to focus.

When I do revisit my initial reaction to something, I'm often surprised about how nuanced it is. Of course sometimes it's absolutely garbage but more often then not I've been glad to have it available.