The Four Stages Of Building Knowledge

Ev Chapman
June 30, 2023

Ideas take time to emerge.

I rarely go from a new spark idea to a fully formed thesis in one spark writing session. They need time to soak & marinate. Often over days, weeks or even months.

But the challenge becomes how do we keep track of all those notes at different stages without them getting lost or forgotten?

I use four simple 'note states' to move ideas from spark to fully fledged, embedded ideas.

And because I'm obsessed with sparks, I follow a spark framework. But you could just as easily swap this out for a gardening framework, a cooking framework, a construction framework - heck if you want to create a Star Trek framework - do it.

The Four Stages Of Building Knowledge

The four stages of my idea development framework are: Spark, Charge, Surge & Electrify. And all my Ideas move through each of these stages as they develop.

The ⚡️SPARK Stage

Every note starts at this stage - as a little spark.

When I save a spark note either from something I am reading, or a random idea I throw in - I always leave myself a quick breadcrumb note. This is just one or two quick lines as to why this particular idea sparked me.

It helps me get sparked again about that idea when I jump back in during my spark writing session

All these spark notes live in my spark inbox and are sitting ready for me every morning to choose them as the note I'll work on for that day.

How My Notes Feel Waiting To Be Picked Each morning.

The 🔋CHARGE Stage

Once I've pulled an idea (note) to work on and put some initial thoughts around it, it gets moved to the Charge stage. The imagery that helps me understand this stage is I've plugged it into my ecosystem and now it's charging up.

At this stage, these ideas are still fairly new. They need lots of nurturing, otherwise, they'll lose their spark altogether. So, I keep these 'CHARGING' ideas front of mind through a process I call peripheral thinking.

Because our ideas need both deep thinking time and time to breathe.

Here's how it works

  1. During a spark writing session, I'll take a note and spend some deep thinking time on it. I'll get as much as I can out during that time. Once I'm done, I hit the Charge button in my Tana workspace and it moves up the chain.
  2. Each week I choose a few of these CHARGED ideas and move them into a list I call The Hot List. This lives on my daily agenda page so it's close at hand at all times. Because they are front and centre, my mind tends to dwell on them in a subconscious way. Every now and then I'll have an inspiration strike & I can easily open the note and add my new thoughts.
  3. Finally, each day before my thinking walk I scan through my hot list. Then I head out on my walk and inevitably new waves of thinking bubble up to the surface. I record anything that comes up with Tana Capture and add it to the note when I'm back home.

I continue this light touch, peripheral thinking until I'm satisfied that the idea is coming together. Then I move it up to the SURGE Stage.

The 🔌SURGE Stage

Ideas at this stage are starting to become rich & fully formed. And now it's time to plug them back into the public domain & get some feedback.

It's not enough to just collect & build knowledge in private. Ideas are meant to be shared, not hoarded. By sharing our knowledge we end up with much better and richer ideas in the process.

And after all, the purpose of our spark writing practice is for content to bubble up and spill out.

As The Idea Is Building I’ll Add New Content Ideas Inline In The Note

I often start off by sharing these surge ideas as tweets - this is the easiest & quickest way for me to get pretty instant feedback. Whether that's resonance (if an idea hits for my audience) or feedback on the actual ideas through questions or people sharing their own thoughts.

Quite often people will share a perspective I hadn't thought about. Sometimes people will disagree with my perspective. And all of that makes for a much deeper understanding of the idea.

This Sharing -> Feedback loop has become an integral part of building my ideas & knowledge. Other people's knowledge gets added to my own and the ideas become richer and deeper as a result.


Once a note gets to the Electrify stage it's become fully embedded into not just my spark library, but my psyche. It's essentially become a part of me.

And this is one of the most exciting things I find about this whole process. We're not just collecting & filing the information away. We're taking the time to dwell on & build ideas and they eventually become an embedded part of us.

They become our 'lived-in' knowledge.

The ideas at this stage are now just part of my regular knowledge sharing. I continue to share them and add to them as new ideas emerge. But they need less outwardly managed focus at this point.

When you put your ideas through these stages of development, they become richer, deeper, more embedded part of you. You 'own' them. And the more you do this the more you start to be known for them.

So rather than force ideas to be fully formed the first time you write about them, start taking the time to let your ideas emerge and build.

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