Personal digital assistant or paper for on-the-go collecting

Now that making phone calls is only the 5th most popular thing that people do with a smartphone, perhaps more people are using their smartphones as GTD digital collection devices. But even though most people always carry their phone, some of the most savvy GTDers also use pen and paper for collection. The key is to know what methods reduce the friction in your system. If the device is not easy to use for getting stuff off your mind and into your trusted GTD system, you’ll tend to use it less.

How do you get things off your mind when you are mobile? Digital, paper, or a combination?

GTD NoteTaker walletFor those of you who already use paper for on-the-go collection, and those who want to give it a try, David Allen’s favorite tool, the NoteTaker Wallet, is on sale for 30% off throughout July.


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  1. Evernote. I can even use it whilst driving thanks to the audio recording/transcribing function 🙂

  2. I just bought a new Android smartphone. I feel enthusiastic for google voice .
    Now I can collect only talking to the device. And you are right. I’m using my system more!

  3. I always carry pen and pad, since smartphone coverage for cloud apps is not everywhere. If I have to hold something in my mind waiting for a stronger signal, the collection system is slowing me down. My pen and pad have never said, “Hold that thought while we range for a better signal to access your cloud-based to do app.” Also, I like to mind-map some ideas quickly, and that’s easier on paper.

  4. Either Evernote on my iPhone, or a Filofax Flex Slim (currently with a Moleskine mini-notebook, 3×5 index cards and a supply of Post-it Notes inside).

    And I’m often surprised when my iPhone rings – “hey, it’s a phone too!”

  5. Phones are getting better as capture tools, but I still use a small notebook and pen.

    I have two reasons for this.

    1). My phone is great for info. retrieval, but is clunky at info. capture.

    2). I prefer to put the pages into my existing physical inbox rather than to send an electronic note to one of my other electronic inboxes (ie email, voicemail). I don’t like getting email or voicemail from myself, and I want less inboxes, not more.

  6. Like many others, Evernote and iPhone are my capture tools. Evernote offers text, audio, images, and video input, syncs with all my other devices, and I always have it with me.

    I tried having my phone and a separate pad and pen, but having to lug all of lose around, and keep track of two separate capture devices was too much for me.

    One tool (iPhone) and one program to capture (Evernote) all of the ways I like to input ‘stuff’ (text, audio, images, and video) is a ‘no brainer’ for me!!

  7. I use Toodledo on my iPhone and then on my computer at the office and it has transformed my life.

    In addition, I always carry a moleskine for the times when using a smartphone is not convenient or possible.

  8. I mostly use 3×5 notecards that I keep in my IPB for most capture, as it seemlessly goes into my kanban system, but for some things (pics, audio snippets) Evernote on my Android is excellent.

    Like Wendy, I do not always have coverage for my phone, so I can easily run down my battery if I do a lot of syncs without internet access (I live out in the country…).

  9. Paper, always. My entire system is paper. A smartphone comes a poor second in almost every way. Scrambled/deleted/corrupted data, poor speed of access (by comparison), battery failure, poor/non-existent connectivity. As a phone book it’s great. For everything else, I have paper

  10. Like Ann M, I use Toodledo and a moleskine. I just got an iPhone but I can already see that it will replace a lot of my need to carry the moleskine.

  11. I have the tri-fold note taker wallet, predates having a smartphone. Now that I am on year 3 of having an Android smartphone the note taker wallet pad is seeing less and less use. (still use it on occasion though, so handy!)

    For immediate capture I use ToodleTask. If a data connection is not available it waits and sends updates to my ToodelDo inbox when there is a connection. Simplest interface I have found for immediate task/idea capture.

    For general notes and information collection I use Evernote. Been working on going paperless with this tool.

    With 4.1 of Android (Jellybean) you will be able to do offline dictation. So basically any application on an Android device that takes text as input will have voice dictation available anywhere anytime…

  12. I use (and created) an iPhone app called Purpose. It was designed from the ground up for GTD. Much more convenient than trying to do GTD with general purpose to-do apps. It has a quick audio record feature for quickly dumping things out of your head wherever you are.

  13. I use a combination of paper and digital for capture.

    My primary capture is my Franklin Covey Task List Wallet, which holds 3×5 cards and my ID plus a few credit cards. That and my cross pen go everywhere with me. I also use Evernote on my Android phone for capture and as my reference system. The new voice input is much better. I also take a picture of the whiteboard after a meeting, and save it strait into Evernote for processing later.

    My Projects and Next Actions are all in Toodledo, but I try to never capture directly into it unless it’s just recording a Next Action.

    I tried to find a link to the FC Task List Wallet but it looks like it’s discontinued. Now I’m worried about mine finally wearing out. I have been carrying it for 4 years.

  14. I prefer to use a combination of tools:

    Capture digitally:
    I love the voice recorder on my iPhone, particularly to capture those fleeting thoughts.

    Organize on paper:
    Yes, I still use a DayTimer. And I still write my appointments and to-do’s in it.

    There’s something about the tactile act of writing on paper that causes me to think, envision, and engage more of my brain in the process of getting organized.

    Call me half-evolved, but it works for me!

    Jim Watson
    Portland, Maine

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