You need to capture [this inventory of open loops] into “containers” that hold items in abeyance until you have a few moments to decide what they are and what, if anything, you’re going to do about them.David Allen
As explained in detail elsewhere (see Getting Things Done or the many posts under the GTD tag), the first step of this five-step method, namely capture, consists of collecting (or capturing according to the second edition of the book) everything that comes to your mind; every idea, task, or anything else that is worth remembering. You collect them all in your inbox or “IN”. Here are the tools that I am using to collect my incompletes.
The three requirements to make the capturing phase work
But first, let me remind you what are the
success factors for capturing, according to David Allen.
Get It All Out of Your Head
Keep everything in your head or out of your head. If it’s in between, you won’t trust either one.David Allen
In short, you should be fully committed to the system and get everything out of your head, and into your external system (i.e., your IN), the moment new stuff comes to you. Not only this should become a habit, but also you should be able to capture a new (potentially valuable) thought no matter where you are. In other words, you should be able to use your tool in every context
since things you’ll want to capture may show up almost anywhere.
Minimize the Number of Capture Locations
One approach to deal with the above requirement would be to write things down everywhere, e.g., on a napkin while in a restaurant. But this would not be productive;
if you have too many collection zones, [indeed], you won’t be able to process them easily or consistently.
You should have as many in-trays as you need and as few as you can get by with.David Allen
Empty the Capture Tools Regularly
This last requirement is not about your tool specifically, yet it is paramount that you get “IN” to empty.
If you don’t empty and process the stuff you’ve collected, your tools aren’t serving any function other than the storage of amorphous material.David Allen
In his book, David Allen mentioned several types of tools (e.g., physical in-tray, audio note-taking devices, or e-mail). I ended up with a mix of low- and high-tech ones (to fit my needs).
I thought I would not need that one – how wrong! – but ended up with two of them: one at home and one at work. At home, any mail, broken toys, dead battery, etc., you name it, go via my In-tray. Everybody (at home) can fill my In-tray when I am not here in person; hence the mail (put by my wife) or the broken toys (put by my baby boy). At work, all the catalogs, lab sheets, conference notes, etc. go first in my In-tray as well.
The great thing about it, indeed, is that I do not even waste a second of my precious time to think what I should do with that item. I put whatever physical stuff I received in them, knowing that I will look at it later (when I have the time to do so).
With five different mailboxes, I could not stick to the
as few as you can get by with advice, thus inflicting a blow to the second requirement. Unfortunately, these are the worst to handle – i.e., to empty – because anybody (not just me or my family) can put stuff (including spam) in them. Fortunately, David Allen shared good tips (that I will share in a future post) that allow me to deal with this issue quite effectively.
Most of my digital capturing (which is not in the form of an e-mail) goes to my go-to note-taking software, which is Microsoft OneNote. I will go back to this software in length later because it is also my GTD organizer (as opposed to some dedicated App or other paper alternatives that you might typically encounter). Suffice it to say, whenever (I am in front of my laptop and) I have something coming to my mind it goes to the IN section of my Getting Things Done notebook.
“What happens when you are not in front of your laptop, then?”
Good point! As alluded to earlier, you should be able to capture anything no matter where you are. And even though I spent a significant part of my life in front of my laptop, there are times when another tool(s) gets very handy: my phone and Google Keep.
Google Keep, or the Keep Notes app, is a note-taking service1 included as part of the free, web-based Google Docs Editors suite offered by Google. As explained in Wikipedia,
The app offers a variety of tools for taking notes, including texts, lists, images, and audio. Text from images can be extracted using optical character recognition and voice recordings can be transcribed.
Save your thoughts, wherever you are
You can indeed make a quick note, and you have the choice of doing so by text, checklist, voice recording, drawing, or picture. According to cloudwards, the app is easy to use and there is no limit to how many notes you can create (with unlimited storage capacity).
Although some complain that
it lacks advanced organizational features and rich-text editing compared to other note-taking app2, Google Keep is a handy little app that lets you get thoughts down quickly. In fact, not only does Google Keep make it easy to capture a thought, but it also allows you to get a reminder later at the right place or time; a handy feature that I will come back to later.
That’s a wrap.
Coming next: OneNote as my GTD organizer
1 While it is also available as a web application, I restrict my use to the mobile app for Android, keeping OneNote as my software of choice when it comes to note-taking. ^
2 You may wonder why I am not using OneNote on my phone. That is a good question and the most simple (and honest) answer is that I don’t like to install too many apps. Google Keep Note was already there. ^