Android and Gmail Combine to Make the Most Frictionless Idea Capture

Frictionless idea capture is, for most creatives, a never-ending search. The more quickly an idea can be transferred from the mind to another medium, so the thinking goes, the better. Any number of tips, tricks, methods, and apps have come into play, from the brutally complex to the devastatingly simple.


There is one method that reduces the time from conception to capture to mere seconds, requires minimal effort, and uses tools that most of us already utilize. All you need is an Android phone and a Gmail account.


Most know that Android phones have built-in voice commands, but few have explored all of the possibilities of these commands. When combined with Gmail (which is the preferred email client of choice for the vast majority of geeks, and is equally attractive to non-geeks), idea capture is a breeze. Here’s how to set it up.


To activate voice commands on your phone, simply hold the search button on your hardware until prompted to voice your command. The command we’re interested in is “note to self.” Beginning with this command, anything you say afterward is used to compose an email to yourself. So, if you’d like to save the world, you’d simply say “note to self: save the world.” A Gmail box appear, automatically filled with you as the recipient, “note to self” as the subject, and your idea as the body, complete with the recording, in .amr format, as an attachment.


It doesn’t get much more frictionless than that- two button presses and you’re finished.


Now, to keep those notes handy, let’s create a Gmail filter. If you’re not yet familiar with filters, check out Gmail’s tutorial.


To find the notes, just search for “note to self.” Select your note(s), click on the “more” button, and select “create a filter” from the drop-down menu.


The “from” field should be pre-populated. If the “subject” field is not, just select it, and enter “note to self.” Click “create filter with this search.”


On the resulting screen, select “New label” and choose a label that you’d like to use. I used the obvious “Notes.”


If you’ve enabled SmartLabels in Gmail, make sure to check the “Exclude from SmartLabel Categorization” box.


Now, to make for easy access on your PC, you can go to “manage labels” from the dropdown menu by clicking “more” from the left sidebar, then scrolling to the bottom. From here, you can choose how Gmail handles your labels. In this case, we want to find our “notes” label and select “show if unread.” The result is that the label will be hidden until you have a new note that needs action.


Note that you can also do this for any other label.


To get easy access from your phone, click in any empty area on the home screen, and add a Gmail widget. You’ll be asked to specify which label to use. Obviously, we want Notes. Select the label, and you’re finished. Your “notes to self” will always be right in front of you, waiting for you to take action.


Personally, I’ve tried about every tip and trick out there, and none can match this method for its ease of use (once set up) and the vital seconds it shaves from idea to capture. In fact, this is the only method that’s been able to dethrone pen and paper as the King of Frictionless.