Getting Things Done- Do You Use A Capture Tool?

GTD ImageIn order to organize your life, you have to process all the items that come into it as soon as they show up. David Allen is famous for saying, “You should handle things when they show up, not when they blow up.”

The faster you do this, the better. However, there is only so much that your mind can process and remember. Everyone forgets things, and the only way to prevent this is to use a good capture tool. (Tweet This)

Now, what is a capture tool? It is any tool that you can use to record your thoughts as they occur, wherever you are or whenever something comes into your mind.

Of course, you do not have to record every passing thought like, ‘I wonder when the train will arrive’, or ‘Should I get Chinese or just grab a burger?’ The thoughts that you capture should be important enough to require an action.

The problem is that these thoughts happen to you when you are on your evening walk, waiting in line for lunch, or even trying to sleep. Your brain does a great job of remembering information, but it is not very good at giving that information back to you when you can actually act on it.

For instance, you could be on the way home from work when your brain reminds you to send an important work email. You cannot do it right now, but will your brain remind you to send this email when you are at your computer. No, your brain just does not work that way.

Your brain will frequently remind you of this email, and all of the other incomplete items in your life. This is the cause of a lot of your stress. What is worse, the more your brain reminds you of the things that you have not done, the more your mind is not present in the here and now, and is not getting things done. This happens to everyone, which is why a capture tool is important.

Your capture tool can be anything that you have with you at all times. You can make a note of the things that you need to accomplish as you think of them. Later on, you can process these items and put them on your action list. Your brain will relax once it realizes that the information is stored somewhere that it can trust.

The capture tool that you use is up to you- it could be a smartphone or just a small paper notepad that you carry in your pocket. The point is that your tool has to be with you all the time so that you can record your thoughts on the fly. I personally recommend a smartphone as the best choice to use as your capture tool.

So, let’s assume you have the best capture tool for you. The next question is how to use it. Simply put, you use your capture tool just like any other inbox. Go through the tool on a regular basis and see what you have captured, process it, and add these items to your action lists. Just like your inbox, your capture tool should be empty by the end of the day.

Getting Things Done is about selecting the capture tool that works for you. The benefit to you is that using the right capture tool for you will allow your mind to be more relaxed and focused and you will feel less stressed. 

What do you use as your capture tool? How is it working for you? Share your comments here.

If you are an Evernote user and would like to integrate Getting Things Done with Evernote, check out Evernote: The Unofficial Guide To Getting Things Done.  This eBook will help you to become more productive by combining Evernote® with the best practices of the Getting Things Done methodology. It has helped over 13,000 people become increase their productivity over the last 12 months and it can help you today. Purchase a copy here.
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  • Peta

    Great post Steve. Thanks! I use Evernote as my capture tool. It’s a free app and is super easy to use. My husband and I sync ours so he can pick up my additions to shopping lists, pick up times etc.

  • sespring

    Thanks Peta! I am trying to get up to speed on Evernote and will be sharing what I have learned in future posts. Feel free to share any tools and tips that you think will benefit us.

  • Dan Lakey

    Evernote here also. I have been a follower/fan of GTD for several years, and had tried several different “capture tools,” including paper, Outlook tasks, and others but without any real success. Then about January of this year I discovered TSW (The Secret Weapon) and found the integration of Evernote with GTD was a perfect fit for me.

    • sespring

      Dan, thanks for your comment. I have been trying to use TSW myself but I am still not up to speed. I will keep working on it.

  • Anwell Steve

    There are already a lot of productivity software tools coming out like Nozbe and Evernote which helps you create a to-do list tasks and remind you as well of all the things that should be done. These apps are available through phones, so it will be easier for you to capture your thoughts and make your tasks productive.

    • sespring

      Thanks for your comment Steve. There seems to be a lot of interest in Evernote, Nozbe, and mindmapping and I will write more about using all three soon.