Getting Things Done- Step #1 is to Capture Everything

Getting Things Done as mentioned before has had a huge impact on this website and is the book that showed me how reading can change your life. GTD can be an intimidating system, but you can alter it to your needs. You can make it super complex and detailed, or you can take a more laid back approach. As long as you review the system and trust it, it will work for you. Using Getting Things Done can improve all aspects of your life especially your time management and to not miss important financial reminders or goals. There are 5 steps of GTD and they are listed below

  1. Capture
  2. Clarify
  3. Organize
  4. Reflect
  5. Engage

Here is a link that goes into more detail on all of the steps on the Getting Things Done website. We will cover each stage in future posts, but let’s start with the first and in my opinion, most life changing stage, capture.

The one thing about capturing is that anyone can do it. There is no barrier to entry. You don’t have to learn a new skill or buy an expensive tool or system. If you have a pen and paper, you are good to go! Your tool might be different than mine or someone else’s, but as long as you can do it quickly and know that you can go back to it, that is pretty much the extent of the capture phase.

One of the best benefits of capturing is that it frees your mind up from remembering all of the ideas and loose ends that it has. Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them as David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done always says.  If you have a thought twice, you’re wasting time and mental energy that could be used on better things or improving your creativity. Your mind does not do a good job remembering things even if you think it does. It causes you more stress and blocks your brain from being free to think of new, different, and creative ideas.

David Allen talks about a “Mind Like Water” state. When you trust in your system, waves and ripples will come through (distractions and obstacles), but your system will get you back to calm, still, peaceful state. Capturing is the foundation the builds trust in your system.

So how do you capture? Or a better question is how do you start the habit of capturing? For me, this used to be a struggle. I did not want to write things down, because that meant I had more things to do! If I kept it in my head, surely I would remember exactly what I was thinking at that moment hours later. Obviously that was the not the case. I had phases were I was really good with writing down everything on my mind to be reviewed later, but then I would fall back into only capturing the “important” items I did not want to forget. I always felt better when I captured everything and for me preferred using digital tools instead of traditional pen and paper.

I used to use an app called DGT GTD for Android that allowed me to make a shortcut straight to my inbox so it was very easy to add and review tasks I wrote down. I have since switched to Informant which is available for both IOS and Android because I liked the calendar and task integration it has. On my Android and IOS devices, I have Informant front and center so it is the first thing I see when I open my devices. This helps distractions from popping up, because as we all have experienced before, you unlock your phone and know what you want to do, but then something pops up or you remember something else you need to do, and then all of sudden you don’t know why you went on your phone in the first place.

Another great idea even if you are efficient in capturing is do a brain dump every now and then. Basically you sit down with a pen and paper or your digital tool and give yourself let’s say 10-15 minutes and you write down everything that is on your mind. Any tasks you need or want to do, any open items you need to finish or find a next action, random thoughts, all of that gets written down. You will be shocked at how much your mind is actually trying to remember and even if you do not act on everything you write down, you will have a much clearer mind. This is the supercharged way to capture!

Free up your mind to focus on what is most important to you.

Hopefully this gave you some good reasons and ideas to start capturing and writing everything down. Don’t let your mind be your notebook. As we learned above that is not what it is for nor what it is good at. The 2 biggest reasons to start capturing today is to have a clearer mind so you can focus on more important, high level tasks instead of the mundane day to day tasks. Lastly, and maybe the most important reason is so that you are less stressed. Instead of trying to constantly remember the same thing, writing things down gives you the peace of mind that you can come back and review whatever your thought was before at a time when it is convenient for you.

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3 Comments

  1. One of my favorite David Allen quotes is: “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”

  2. […] We learned that the first step of GTD is to collect all of the thoughts you have in your mind. We do this to free up our mental energy to boost our creativity and focus on higher level tasks. What do you do with all of your thoughts now that they are written down? This is where step 2 of the GTD system comes in. We need to clarify what we captured and decide what we are going to do now with those items. […]

  3. […] You captured all of your loose thoughts and actions and wrote them down, you organized them and defined what to do next, now we will look at how to organize all of those items into a trusted system that you can take action on! This is a key part of the process and really is the turning point for really buying into the GTD system. You aren’t just writing things done and deciding what to do next now, you are building a system that you will use for the rest of your life… no pressure. […]

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