In my last post, I laid out the creative advantages and power of swipe files.
So, I know you’re thinking … swipe files, there’s nothing new, sexy, inspiring or glamorous about them.
I get it.
I feel the same way.
But let's face it, there’s nothing exciting about most tools.
Welcome to the Mind Palace
So, I put a slightly different spin on the concept. Being a huge fan of the BBC series, Sherlock, I like to think of my collection of swipe files as my digital “mind palace”.
If you have seen the series, you are familiar with Sherlock’s use of a mind palace to recall obscure bits of data from his memory. Just the right piece of information that leads to a breakthrough in the case.
Well, the concept of a mind palace is not just a device of fiction. The memory device is an actual technique with roots in ancient Greek philosophy. When you create a swipe file, you are in essence creating a digitized mind palace — a powerful extension of your human memory.
A swipe file system or mind palace isn’t just a place to store little bits of data. It’s a turbocharger for your memory. Imagine eliminating hours of research time trying to find just the right piece of copy, the perfect design element or the next great idea for a new project … with near instant recall!
Swipe files can do just that. They deliver a much-needed jumpstart when you’re stuck in a creative rut, whether it is writing a new, compelling piece of copy, designing a new website or landing page, or just needing a quick quote for a new blog article.
Building and Organizing Your Mind Palace
So how does one go about creating a comprehensive swipe file? How do you quickly retrieve just the right piece of information at the right time — without drowning in the sea of data?
The answer is simple — organization.
First, you need to have a clear understanding of the types of information you want to capture. I suggested some possibilities here. Some examples included headlines, quotes, landing pages, etc. While not an exhaustive list, it represents a good starting point.
Don’t worry about how many different categories of information you want to collect. Just start with a few. You can always add additional categories later.
Without doubt as you begin to gather items for your swipe files you will discover their power as you put them to use. You will find new and creative advantages that will lead you to expand the types of material that you want to collect.
Second, you need a set of powerful tools to collect and store your material. There are many tools available, but Evernote is the undisputed king.
Evernote Is The Cornerstone
Yes, I know, Evernote. Everyone says to use Evernote. But, probloggers use it for one reason. It just works and, if you take just a few moments to set up your file system, you can retrieve the information you need instantly. I’m going to show you how to configure your system in a moment.
The second tool you’ll need is Evernote’s WebClipper extension. The WebClipper makes it easy to clip, save and organize material on the fly without leaving your browser. It’s a browser extension that allows you to capture text, images, screenshots and add that material directly into your designated swipe file — all without ever opening the Evernote app. Best of all it’s available for all major browsers.
A third tool and one that I’m starting to use more frequently in conjunction with Evernote is SnagIt. SnagIt allows me to capture and edit images, record video and store that material directly into Evernote again, without ever opening the Evernote app. Unlike WebClipper, SnagIt provides a scrolling-screen capture capability. That feature allows you to capture entire webpages, lengthy infographics and other long-form screen captures.
SnagIt’s screen capture and recording capabilities, and annotation features are much more robust than Evernote WebClipper so I’m able to add greater detail to my image and video captures. SnagIt is available for both Mac and PC, but it’s not free.
A free alternative to SnagIt is Awesome Screenshot, a Chrome extension. It has a scrolling-screen capture capability, but can not save captures directly to Evernote.
Tags, Tags, Tags
Finally, the last critical capability needed for a large swipe file system is an easy way to find and retrieve your material.
Evernote’s powerful notebook and tagging system make retrieval a breeze.
Each item saved to Evernote should receive at least three tags. My recommended tags are:
[swipes] – This allows you single out of your collected “swipes” from your other notes.
[subject] — Landing pages, squeeze pages, Facebook ads, etc.
[source] — Site, i.e. http://wordpress.com
For example, the tags for a Kindle book cover would be: swipes, book cover, kindle books.
If it were a landing page for Kissmetrics.com, they would be: swipes, landing page, kissmetrics.com.
A nice feature Evernote’s tag search function — you don’t have to remember the individual tags. Just click on “Tags” in your Evernote sidebar and you’ll see a graphic, alphabetical listing of all of your tags.
Click on the ‘swipes’ tag and all of the tags not related to swipe files will dim.
In the example above, the ‘landing page’ tag would remain highlighted. If I then clicked on the ‘landing page’ tag I would see a complete list of landing pages in my library, as well as a graphical tag display of the sites from which I collected a landing page sample. All other tags would be dimmed.
You can tell, you can quickly drill down to the specific examples of material that you’re most interested in reviewing.
This is a powerful feature of Evernote. As your library grows, so does your ability to quickly find, produce and enhance new and epic content for your readers.
Evernote isn’t the only option out there and I certainly haven’t covered all of its potential uses, but this is a good starting point if you are new to the idea of swipe files.
What System Do You Use?
Do you have a favorite method or tool for organizing your material? If so, leave a note in the comments below. I’m always interested in learning and sharing new and different methods with others on the road to becoming a Bulletproof Blogger.