When does the brilliant idea strike?
When do you remember you’re desperately low on milk?
It’s rarely when you’re actually sitting down, pen in hand, to make a relevant list.
But if you don’t write it down right away, it’s gone.
Hence, the need for ubiquitous capture.
Ubiquitous capture is a term from David Allen’s Getting Things Done that basically means you should always have a way to write down, right away, any information you need to have rather than assuming you’ll remember it or remember to write it down later.
So, this habit has a couple logistical contingencies I’ve had to work out. First, to know what I need to write down and where I need to write it, I had to have my planning system set up. Second, I had to have a way to write down what I need – in David Allen’s terms, I need a “capture tool” – and I have to have a way to keep it at hand. Third, I have to actually pull it out and write down events, items needed at the store, or whatever else it is, right away.
1. Step 1: Planning systems ready to go.
Getting my book about the process of setting up a paperless system published was the catalyst for finally cleaning up my own system. I’ve been using Remember the Milk for at least four or five years and Evernote for one year, and as I was writing I cleaned up and tidied my own accounts. So now that they’re ready to go and neat and tidy, they actually aren’t going to do me any good unless I look at them and use them. This habit is the first step I’m taking toward using my organization to keep me organized instead of my typical cycle of organizing for the sake of “being organized” and then still winging it in the day-to-day bustle.
2. Step 2: Having a capture tool at hand.
I have two tools: my Macbook Air & my iPod Touch (my smartphone substitute). For most data entry while I’m at home, I can hop over to my laptop and quickly get a note down. It is usually close at hand, it comes out of sleep quickly, and I keep my browser and Evernote always open. Still, I’d like to make it more of a habit to keep my iPod with me, since it is my mobile unit. If I have it with me, I can check my to-do list, calendar, or day’s notes while nursing, while transitioning between lessons, and other such small breaks in the day. If I keep it with me, I also have audio books, Kindle books (with the app), classical music I can turn onto the house speakers, and library audiobooks and ebooks. So, it’s nice to have around and it’s annoying to have to go scrounging for where I last left it.
Right now it is jeans season. Of course, I live in a part of the country where it is always jeans season and jeans are casual as well as “almost-semi-formal.” In New York they wear black (so I hear), and in the Northwest we wear jeans. And, now that I’m out of maternity clothes, my jeans do have pockets once again! However, once the weather warms up I become more of a skirt person, and 3/4 of my skirts (those that are not jean-skirts) do not have pockets. Must I restrict myself to wearing only clothes with pockets? I certainly don’t need the extra width on my hips. I can’t go that far. So here is my plan:
- When wearing jeans or denim skirt, keep it in my right front pocket.
- When wearing clothes without pockets, around the house wear either a waitress apron or a runner’s pack (a slimmer fanny pack) as pocket replacements.
- When going out in clothes without pockets (including to church), keep it in the front pocket of my purse (not in the jumble inside the main compartment!), which stays with me.
Step 3: Just doing it.
- If an event or plan is mentioned, put it on the calendar right then.
- If I pull out the last bag of flour, add it to the grocery list immediately.
- If I say I’ll bring something to someplace, make that note.
- If I realize I need to do this or that, get it into Remember the Milk right away.
My personal ability to keep any information or reminders in my head has been practically nil the last few years, so I’ll be following the advice in Getting Things Done:
These collection tools should become 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 as indispensable as your toothbrush or your driver’s license or your glasses.