The Power of Collecting

By Francisco Sáez • December 12, 2011

One of the fundamental principles that underpin GTD is the necessity to get your mind clear.

The reason is simple. Everything that inhabits your mind acts as noise. They are interferences that diminish your focus on what you’re doing, block your creativity and add more stress and anxiety to your life.

In addition, you cannot make good decisions if you don’t have a clear picture of all your possibilities. Having many of your commitments taking up space in your head, does not allow you to have a clear overview of all your open loops and prevents you from assessing the importance of the stuff. In view of so confusing landscape, you don’t often know where to start to work, and subconsciously decide to procrastinate.

If your mind is full of little things, some of them will inevitably get lost, and thus, you will lose opportunities. Have you ever had a great idea that you have not been able to remember later? Have you ever found information you thought was interesting and then you could not remember where you found it?

In GTD, collecting or capturing is the fact of writing down or recording, out of your head, anything that happens to you (an idea, something to remember, a new task that shows up, a new need, contact information, an appointment…). Out of your head means poured into an external system, such as a notebook, computer or mobile phone, for example. That is the way you can clean up your mind.

For this you need to have a tool (maybe more than one) that allows you to capture something quickly, at the same time it shows up. It must be an ubiquitous tool—things don’t arise only in the office or at home—, that is part of your lifestyle. And it would be very useful if it allows you to collect stuff in different formats. Sometimes you cannot write text (for example, you are driving) and recording a voice memo may be the right solution. Other times, it’s just much easier to capture an image.

All this makes a smartphone an ideal capture tool. It should have a software that can put everything you collect in a single inbox. And be sure you have always a small notebook in your pocket, since sometimes there is no coverage, battery is gone or, simply, using the notebook is more appropriate.

In any case, using an external memory is, as some scientists say, essential for your GTD system to work. If you do not acquire this habit, you will not trust your system, you will not eliminate stress and you will give up. It’s that simple.

Of course, there are other issues that can ruin your productivity. We will talk about them in future articles.

About the author

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Francisco Sáez (@franciscojsaez) is the founder and CEO of FacileThings. He is also a web developer specializing in Ruby on Rails who is passionate about personal productivity and GTD as a means to a better life.

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