Write with “magic” so you never have to face a blank page
Ali Abdaal uses parallel processing.
He’s taken it one step further. With the process, he’s built a “second brain” on Notion. This has helped him produce at least one YouTube video a week since June 2017.
In computing, parallel processing goes like so. A complex task is broken into smaller tasks, and these tasks are executed on multiple CPUs. They’re also executed at the same time. These results are then recombined, reducing the processing time.
I decided to apply parallel processing to writing. Since July, I’ve been able to produce three 1000+ word articles a week. I’ve also posted frequently on social.
My writing output has increased tenfold.
Here’s how I capture ideas, organise them in Notion, and use the magic of parallel processing.
1. Capture ideas on Notion
“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” — David Allen, Author of Getting Things Done
I switched to Notion in July and now use it for everything. Books I should read, films I should watch, content ideas — you name it. My ideas are all in one place.
In my dashboard, there are different pages. My home page houses my 6-month plan, finances, 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’ll open Notion — either through the phone app or my laptop — and add a new entry. It could be a possible headline, 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 may sit for months. The original idea for this article you’re reading right now was first captured on July 16th.
2. Add ideas from my “in-tray” and review them every Sunday
Capturing ideas on Notion is one part of the equation. Other ideas come and go when I’m in the shower, washing dishes, or completing other tasks.
Here’s how I capture those when my phone’s out of reach.
Step 1: Place tools to capture ideas around my flat
I have a pen and paper beside my bed. In my bathroom, I have a whiteboard pen I can write on tiles with.
When convenient, I’ll transfer these captured ideas onto post-it notes or scraps of paper.
For example, if I capture an idea before I go to sleep, I’ll put it beside my bed. It’ll be the first thing I see when I wake up.
Step 2: Add these ideas to a plastic tub — my “in-tray”
Every Sunday, I’ll go through the ideas in my plastic tub and action each item. For ideas I no longer like, I’ll throw them out.
If it’s a good idea, I’ll add it to Notion. Others may go in my diary for a later date (e.g. an idea for a new course).
Once I’ve actioned all the in-tray items, I’ll go through the content ideas on Notion and remove any I no longer like.
3. Start connecting the dots
Sometimes, I’ll realise something could complement an idea I’ve already stored on Notion.
Here comes the magic. I’ll simply add this “thing” — whether it be a quote or helpful article — to the existing idea I have on Notion. This way, I’m “researching” future articles without having to research.
My writing time goes on writing. Most of the research is already done.
Best of all, I never have to face a blank screen. I simply copy and paste the raw materials I’ve gathered on Notion to the relevant platform.
As a content creator, coming up with ideas is 80% of the game. Some articles write themselves. These are the ones that typically perform best.
My most successful article took me less than two hours to draft. However, this is deceptive. Even though I wasn’t using Notion, I was using parallel processing without knowing.
I’d spoken with Louise on my podcast, the subject of the article. I’d also consumed her online courses and watched her YouTube videos. I was researching without realising.
When it came to writing the article, it seemed to write itself.
- Capture ideas on Notion. (Asana and Trello are good alternatives.)
- Regularly review these items. Action them or remove them from your workspace.
- Connect the dots and see your writing output increase.