Get it all out of your head

Date: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 by GTD Times Staff

If you’re still relatively careless about having seamless collection tools because they know they don’t represent discrete, whole systems anyway: there’s an incomplete set of things in their inboxes and an incomplete set in their mind, and they’re not getting any payoff from either one, so the thinking goes. It’s like trying to play pinball on a machine that has big holes in the table, so the balls keep falling out: there’s little motivation to keep playing the game.

So what can you do to improve upon this? Make collection tools a part of your lifestyle. Keep them close by so no matter where you are you can collect a potentially valuable thought. Think of them as being indispensable as your toothbrush or your driver’s license or your glasses.

What can you do to plug the holes in your collection?

-David



7 Responses to “Get it all out of your head”

  1. Paul Pladijs says:

    I have several inboxes/collections tools. Very easy to collect, a bit more cumbersome for processing.

    First of all: my in-basket which stands on my desk at my home office. All paper notes collected in my wallet, kitchen or at the little table next to my bed go daily into that in-basket. At those places I have little note pads to write everything down. Especially just before sleeping or while shaving, lots of stuff pops into my mind.

    I also have map (with 7 compartments) with all my lists (projects, next actions, W/F, …) with one part reserved for collecting papers. Handy when I’m in the main office.

    I keep a STUFF list in my Blackberry to capture todo’s that come into mind during free time outside the house. At least I always have my phone with me.
    While driving the car I use the voice recorder instead of writing down, which is safer but you may not forget to listen and process the voice notes.

    Finally I have a work + personal inboxes for email. So a smaller part of my system is digital.

    I made a checklist of all inboxes (and other lists too), so I’m sure I won’t forget any during my weekly review (or even in the evening).

  2. Kelly Forrister says:

    Excellent Paul!

  3. Tom Stein says:

    There’s a nice academic article supporting how getting it all out of your head frees up cognitive processing capability (a point that you’ve been making for years, David).

    The article is:

    Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
    Consider It Done! Plan Making Can Eliminate the
    Cognitive Effects of Unfulfilled Goals
    E. J. Masicampo and Roy F. Baumeister
    Online First Publication, June 20, 2011. doi: 10.1037/a0024192

    and a pdf copy can be found at:

    http://ambadylab.stanford.edu/ej/MasicampoBaumeister2011JPSP.pdf

    A nice plus in the article is the reference to Gollwitzer’s work that shows the efficacy of next action steps tied to context cues, as opposed to other kinds of planning which do not free up cognitive resources.

  4. shaun says:

    I try and try and try. I haven’t made this work yet.

    I am basically an analogue person even though everything that I do is online.

    I write everything or as much as I can down but it all goes in a notebook… it’s not an action notebook so I don’t come back to it in many cases.

    Another thing is that I find it so difficult to go through my inbox. Currently it has 100 items in it and it’s even going onto the floor. It just seems like such a daunting task that I am avoiding it.

    Do you have any suggestions for this?

  5. Kelly Forrister says:

    I write everything or as much as I can down but it all goes in a notebook… it’s not an action notebook so I don’t come back to it in many cases.
    >>Writing is fine. Can serve lots of great functions. You just don’t want to bury actions within those. What works for me in meetings is to keep a separate page for “Mind Sweep” items, then the rest is just notetaking to scan, file or trash.

    Another thing is that I find it so difficult to go through my inbox. Currently it has 100 items in it and it’s even going onto the floor. It just seems like such a daunting task that I am avoiding it.
    >>If you follow the GTD Workflow questions it should take about 30 seconds to a minute to process each item asking:
    What is it?
    Is it actionable?
    If actionable:
    What’s the outcome?
    What’s the next action?
    If not actionable:
    it’s trash, reference, or incubate (someday or tickler)

    So simply doing a quick estimate on the pile would give you a more accurate sense of how long it would really take (about 100 min). Does that seem more doable?

    It’s also easy to get into “doing” during processing and while you’re making progress on the few you choose to do, you’ll never make it to the bottom of the pile (or email inbox). So I’d watch that too.

  6. Paul Pladijs says:

    To Shaun:

    Before I heard of GTD, I saw the movie Zero-Inbox of Merlin Mann: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9UjeTMb3Yk

    I was having a bad day, big headache and no power to really work. After watching I cleaned out (= processed) all of mail inboxes (with hundreds of emails) in a few hours.

    Wow, I felt great. The methods are IMHO 99% similar as in GTD.

    A few weeks later I read the book Getting Things Done. Now I’m starting to get things done 🙂

  7. Shintaro says:

    I don’t know how the GTD plan would work for me. This is how it would play out in the Perkins’ home.Rusty: Ok Sadie, remember, ngiths that take less than two minutes to complete, you do them. Got it?Sadie: Got it.Rusty: (looks around at all the two minute tasks in the house) See you laterSadie: Yep-Later that evening-Rusty: Umm, hi? What did you do today?Sadie: (stting on the couch) Well I sat down to make a list of all the ngiths that take less than two mintues to do, and the list was so big that I realized that I would be spending my entire day doing countless two minute tasks and that kind of defeats the purpose. Then I needed a break so I sat here and before I knew it I ate a dozen cookies.Rusty: (punches self in face)

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