Updated February 2018
Take a peek inside Brain Rewired’s toolbox: a simple, yet essential set of tried-and-true tools and resources to get you started down a path of creative exploration.
Ideas are elusive, slippery things. Best to keep a pad of paper and a pencil at your bedside, so you can stab them during the night before they get away. –Earl Nightingale
Write it, scribble it, sketch it. Get those brilliant ideas out of your head and down on paper.
I used to be a sole digital freak—scrapping the paper and pencils all together in favor of a computer and iPhone for collecting all of my notes, ideas, and thoughts.
It wasn’t until I reverted back to doodling freely on good old-fashioned paper, that I realized an increased level of ingenuity—made possible by the following arsenal of writing instruments and notebooks.
Notebooks and Journals
Shinola Medium Soft Linen Journal
I admit to a tiny bit of favoritism toward the Detroit based company as we both share the same native roots. I was shocked to learn that the company mainly known for producing iconic watches and bicycles, also throws down some pretty sweet notebooks and journals.
The soft durable linen cover on the Shinola Journal has a nice texture to it and the thick pages lay flat when flipping through. The medium size fits perfectly in most everyday carry bags.
Field Notes Ruled Pocket Book
The Field Notes notebook is small, simple, and lightweight. It’s the one notebook I keep on me at all times and slips easily into the back pocket of my jeans.
Moleskin Extra Large Notebook
Used for when I really want to get crazy and need the extra real estate for more intense brainstorming and mind mapping sessions. The Moleskin brand is known for its durability and style. The notebook pages are the perfect thickness suitable for any writing utensil you throw at it.
I continue to follow the exciting entrepreneurial journey of the young and always smiling, Angelia Trinidad—creator of the Passion Planner. My first planner purchase was a few years ago—assembled and shipped from Trinidad’s garage following the completion of her successful Kickstarter campaign to raise startup dough.
This is not your ordinary daily planner with the typical mundane daily calendar of events template. The Passion Planner takes it a step further and comes stacked with plenty of extra pages for doodling, inspirational quotes to start each week, a “Space of Infinite Possibility,” action plans, a passion roadmap, monthly reflection, and tips for successfully organizing your goals and ideas.
Plain index cards, you know the ones we used to use as flashcards for studying back in high school? I am a fan of the colored 3X5 index cards and use them for mind mapping and brainstorming sessions, plastering them all over the walls to visualize my thoughts. The index card also plays double duty as a bookmark as well as a dumping ground for capturing notes and quotes while paging through a good book.
Post-it Page Markers
Instead of dog-earing pages during reading sessions, Post-it page markers can be used for categorizing book content. Tag the important pages to refer back to at a later time.
The glue that keeps it all together.
I first discovered Blu-Tack in 1982 after tripping and falling into the door of my brother’s bedroom—tearing down his Bruce Lee Enter the Dragon poster on the way down. “Wow, what is this cool sticky stuff? It’s not tape!”
I would later use the compound to cover my entire bedroom with Michael Jordan and Rocky posters. Now reunited and it feels so good several years later—I use the stuff for sticking index cards to my walls and to affix clippings inside the pages of my notebooks and planner.
Basic Writing Instruments
The Pilot G2 Pen Bold 1.0mm
The Pilot G2 is a simple pen that writes smooth with a bold output.
When you need to highlight those critical passages and don’t want to mess with an annoying cap in between. The Sharpie Highlighter just so happens to be conveniently retractable.
The Sharpie is used for emphasis and bold expression when scribbling away ideas.
Paper Mate Flair Felt Tip Pen
If the Pilot G2 pen made sweet love with a Sharpie, their offspring would be the Paper Mate Felt Tip—a thin marker used for precision and greater control when writing and drawing.
Paper Mate Sharpwriter Mechanical Pencil
Sometimes writing just flows more smoothly when a pencil is involved. The Paper Mate Sharpwriter mechanical pencil has a twistable tip to advance the lead, along with a shock-absorbing tip to reduce lead breakage.
See the Brain Rewired library of book recommendations.
A Bag to Carry It All in
It’s where I keep all my things. I get a lot of compliments on this. Plus it’s not a man purse, it’s called a satchel. Indiana Jones wears one. – Alan Garner, The Hangover
Not a satchel, but more of a messenger meets laptop/briefcase bag—the Filson 24-Hour Tin Briefcase is the culmination of 5 years of research in search of the ultimate everyday carry bag. The bag has a little ruggedness to it, yet sophisticated enough to sport in the executive boardroom meeting. I love the vast amount of strategically placed pockets for quick access to all of my things.
Because of the whopping price tag, I threw up a little in my mouth after clicking the buy button. After a couple of days however, I was completely hooked on the supreme quality and clever design by the Filson brand backed by a lifetime warranty guarantee.
You can purchase the bag directly from Filson, but I have seen the prices fluctuate over on Amazon so you may be able to snatch one up for a lower price.
Let’s Get Digital
Evernote, the king of note taking apps, is the central repository for all of my online note collections, print and online articles, web snippets, and anything inspirational worth saving. The powerful app is my main research tool and writing platform. It’s tagging and notebook system allows me to instantaneously retrieve information via a quick search, bringing order to my chaotic digital universe.
Google Task (gTasks)
Thank you Google for not killing off the Google Tasks app just yet. The simple bare-bones design makes it a cinch to whip up quick to-do lists.
A visually pleasing arrangement of all my favorite blogs managed in one app.
Get answers to all of life’s biggest questions.
Instead of getting sucked into the Facebook vortex the next time you pick up your phone, try launching the TED app instead. Wouldn’t you much rather view fascinating and inspirational talks from remarkable people instead of endlessly scrolling through a Facebook feed that’s been hijacked by baby photos?
Trying to read online content today is like attempting to get through a good book while sitting smack in the middle of Times Square.
Distractions run rampant: monstrous banner ads, pop-ups, flying autoplay video ads that can scare the crap out of you if the computer volume is turned up too high. Removing the distractions is key for soaking up and retaining great content.
Safari’s Reader View and Reading List
Sorry Apple haters, but Safari’s Reader View and Reading List are my top tools for keeping my sanity in check by eliminating all of the surrounding garbage when zeroed in on a good online read. I can save articles to view later in the Reading List while online or offline. Seamless Reading List synchronization with my iPhone makes the tool a winner.
Reader View crops out just the meat of the online article, offering an aesthetically pleasing reading experience.
The Reader View and Reading List icons are placed conveniently in the browser bar and no need to install any plugins or extensions.
The almighty Evernote also offers a simplified article feature. I mainly use the browser add-on to retain articles for research and not as a stand-alone read-it-later service.
Not an Apple person? Instapaper leads the pack of read-it-later services offering stripped down text versions of web articles. Instapaper has more options for customization to make for a beautiful and pleasant reading experience.
Update: I’m currently testing out Instapaper in conjunction with my Kindle Paperwhite. Serenity for me is the ability to read my saved online content with my lightweight and easy-on-the-eyes Paperwhite. I am comparing the Instapaper integration to the Send to Kindle app and will report back my results soon.
Known as the online learning community for creators, with a smorgasbord of cool classes to choose from taught by real-life experts. We are offering two months free of unlimited classes to our loyal readers of Brain Rewired. Start a binge learning session this weekend.
By now you should be bursting with pent-up ideas and creations to share with the world. What you need next is a platform, a stage, a microphone to let loose. Setting up a blog has never been easier. No need to spend hours researching the overwhelming amount of blogging platforms.
All you need in your life is the big 4: Dreamhost, WordPress, Genesis and StudioPress.
We’ve had much success with Dreamhost here at Brain Rewired. Dreamhost offers an award-winning hosting service with an easy one-click WordPress install. The web hosting provider is optimized for performance and preconfigured for easy maintenance. WordPress is the required content management system (CMS) needed and powers nearly 30% of the internet.
Choose a Theme
I’ve tinkered with many different themes and companies throughout the years—recently dropping WooCommerce after they discontinued two of my themes one week after I paid the annual renewal fee (no refund). Fortunately, this mishap led me to StudioPress Themes.
StudioPress has exceeded my expectations substantially by offering a generous selection of high quality themes, a solid and trusted framework, and excellent support. They are even backed by Copyblogger.
Here’s what you need to do after setting up your hosting service and one-click easy WordPress install:
- Before you select your actual theme, you will need to install the Genesis Framework. Think of the framework as the underlying skeleton to support your overlaying theme.
- Choose and install your dazzling StudioPress theme.
- Blog away!