I work for a digital marketing firm, and I produce a lot of content for the web- videos, blog posts, copy for websites, and more. The one thing I do every day that pays off the most in the long run, is trying to capture ideas, pictures and little snippets that end up becoming the pieces of bigger, more impressive projects later on.

For example, last year one of my clients participated in a big 4th of July parade.  I took lots of pictures and video that day. We posted some of the footage and pictures live that very day.  Some of the pictures went into an email newsletter shortly thereafter.  And all of those pictures and footage made putting together a short video for their site to get people excited about this year’s parade super easy.  This meant the time spent capturing the moment last year has continued to pay off in different ways for at least a whole year- that’s a good investment of time and resources.

Likewise, for another client, we write a ton of case studies about the work they do.  By having their workmen take a few shots when they are installing new equipment, and having the owners shoot us over a little bit about the job and the folks involved, I’m able to create a great case study that showcases a solution to a problem many other people have, while also demonstrating our client’s knowledge and expertise.   A few minutes of capturing data and pictures, and the payoff becomes content for the blog and Facebook that helps create new leads and multiplies their success.

Yesterday, I was trying to solve a problem for a client, and I remembered a friend had posted about this particular issue a few years back- the post stuck with me.  So I looked up their blog, and while the post was no longer there, I found a couple of other interesting ideas, and now I’m thinking about ways we can work together on a few things.

In all of these cases, work and ideas I paid attention to a long time ago come forward and become incredibly useful now- it’s like David Sedaris’s new book- Theft by Finding- by revisiting what you’ve done, you can then remix, rework and come up with entirely new ideas based on everything that’s gone before.

But how do you create a personal Swipe File- Idea Board- collection of stuff that you will use again and again?

Personally, I use Flipboard to alert me to new information and blog posts I might not otherwise see.  I sort the best stuff into a couple of “buckets”- they call them magazines- where I can collect relevant info for projects or ideas that I can then go mine later on when I’m stuck or feel particularly uninspired.

I use Flickr to post pictures, and I also try to take pictures of flowers, signs, etc. while I’m out and about- things that capture my attention, because that all becomes a decent backbone for are for a slidedeck or blog post in the future. I have a log of background sounds I’ve recorded while on vacation- sounds I can use in videos, podcasts, or even a story/drama if I ever need one.

In the age of digital media, you can be a content hoarder and easily get overwhelmed.  The key is to try to stay a bit organized, tag everything so it’s easy to search and find, and use the right digital tools like Skitch, Flipboard, This blog, Pinterest, and even Facebook to keep the good stuff easily available when you need it.

Building in capturing moments that grab your attention now will end up paying off huge dividends later.  All you have to do is keep your eye out for the things that are creative, odd, memorable, goofy- with flashes of brilliance that make you smile. Save that stuff- digitally- and it can reap rewards (and save tons of time searching for this stuff online later).

Just remember the time you put into this now- just moments when you are doing your everyday stuff- can yield dividends multi-fold in the future. Pay it forward- for yourself and others, by being observant in the now.