capture everything: buckets

January 24, 2008 | 2 Comments

This is part 1 of 5 in a series on capturing everything. Other entries:

I have always had a good memory — some friends even call me Rain Man, though I’ve forgotten who they are. This elephantine memory isn’t necessarily a strength, because I’ve come to understand that the best use of my brain is not to tuck things away.

The most helpful idea that I have adapted from David Allen’s Getting Things Done is the discipline to capture everything. From a creative perspective, the goal is to free your mind from remembering details so it can create and interact with ideas.

This will be the first of a series of three or four entries describing my ever-evolving process of capture. It is misconception that ‘getting organized’ is only for anal types who would rather line their children up alphabetically than hug them. On the contrary, a good system of making sure details are taken care of can free up space in our souls to focus more on the things that bring us life.

The first challenge to capturing everything is to make sure you have reliable and trustworthy systems in place to collect and store what is flowing out of your noggin. I will call my collection tools buckets — these are what I use to make sure everything is caught and stored. On my Mac, I have two main software buckets, because there are two different categories of information that need to be captured:

Capturing tasks – The way I see it, tasks are temporary. They can be checked off, completed, and best of all, forgotten. Tasks are typically, but not always, life-draining and serve to distract from more life-giving experiences such as developing relationships or finding ways to express ourselves. Sometimes you just need to focus on getting this stuff done, and when you do, the more prepared you are, the less time these tasks will suck away. There are many tools available to manage your tasks, but as I’ve mentioned before, I use OmniFocus for capturing and organizing my tasks. For those familiar with GTD, OmniFocus is excellent for organizing your tasks into projects and contexts. For those who don’t have a Mac, or the cash for OmniFocus, don’t panic. There are many options, but I would recommend you try out Remember the Milk — a free(!), web-based task manager that seems to have new features everytime I look at it.

Capturing thoughts – Unlike tasks, thoughts usually have value beyond a certain timeframe. They might be an idea you want to think about more, research for a story you want to write, or a quote you want to make sure you never forget, er, lose. There are roughly 10,487 programs for the Mac designed for something like this, but for me, the choice is Yojimbo. In spite of the name and the dock icon, this is a clean and easy program to store and retrieve whatever thoughts, images or notes I need safely tucked away. In my Windows days, I found that OneNote was great for this. I haven’t found an online option that offers the needed flexibility, although you might be able to do something similar with BackPack or Google Docs.

Both of these programs win out for me because they can both collect and organize information very easily…but I get ahead of myself. We’ll visit those processes in future entries in this series.

  • This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I collect lots of ideas and thoughts that aren’t specifically actionable, which I imagine David Allen would consider reference material. So far I’m keeping them on a thumb drive in Word documents, but that separates them all and makes it harder to search (though not impossible). If only there was a simple, uncluttered, flexible place for such things. Alas, I do not have a Mac.

    Perhaps I’ll look into OneNote. Thanks for the post.

  • Rachel

    I use Evernote. You can sync the notes in Evernote on your computer to your account on the Evernote website. It’s free, too! Or you can pay for it and get some extra features but I’ve found that there’s plenty of space with the free version. You have 40 mb and that ends up being plenty of room. Unless you plan on using more than 40 mb, Evernote is a great free alternative. And if you do want to pay for it, it’s a cheap yearly fee.

    I still haven’t found a very good free task manager for the desktop (I don’t really like using web-based apps) so right now I just use good old pen and paper. My current set up is the new design of the Moleskine planner (it has one page for the week and the next page is a notebook page) and another Moleskine lined notebook split into Next Actions, Projects, and Notes. I use two small Cahiers, also. One is split into Lists and Someday/Maybe and the other is Waiting For. So far it has worked out great. It might seem a little daunting to carry so many notebooks but it works for me.