One of the big principles asserted in David Allen's Getting Things Done is the importance of having a regular “dump” of what's in our brains into some type of capture system. Some of his process of capturing what's on our minds happens in a somewhat prescribed manner, where we look at what projects are on our plates and what next actions relate to each of them. He also has some great trigger lists, where we can read through a list that is designed to trigger our minds to think about stuff that needs doing. The second method of capture recommended by Allen comes more in the moment, as we remember something that needs to be addressed.
I have a few apps that I use when capturing what's on my mind and getting it recorded somewhere. Each of these apps is located on my home screen, so I have easy access to it.
- Evernote: I use this app for capturing things that aren't associated with a task, but rather some piece of data that I want to reference at some point in the future. If some colleagues and I brainstormed on a white board about some possible ways we might use technology to enhance student learning, but I didn't have any to dos associated with the conversation, I would create a new photo note in Evernote and tag the note with the appropriate tag, to make it easy to search for in the future. Evernote even has a feature where the hand-written text of our white board writing will become searchable, once I take a photograph of it from within the Evernote app.
- Remember The Milk: This is my task manager of choice, which I have used for years now. If I think of something that needs doing, I can open up the app and add in the task, as well as any tags to categorize the information, or other details (such as due dates, repeating tasks, etc.).
Both Evernote and Remember the Milk have served me well over the past few years now, but another type of app has entered my workflow: one that allows me to capture even quicker than Evernote or Remember the Milk allow.
- Drafts: This app is designed with speedy capturing at the forefront of its features. You open the app and the first thing you're presented with is a space to capture what's on your mind.
There's no thinking about where to save the information, what tags to add, how to categorize it, etc. There's just a blank slate, waiting for you to record what's on your mind. The processing of what you've captured comes later.
The first few times I heard about Drafts, I didn't get the benefit at all. However, geeks I admire highly kept talking about it, so I decided to give it a try. Now, I have a few things I always do through Drafts, but I'm constantly thinking about other ways I could save time by using the app. Here are a few examples of how I've used drafts:
I have needed to do some health-related tracking, having to do with my pregnancy, multiple times a day. I get the number I need to track and then open up drafts. It presents me with that familiar blank screen and all I do is type the number in. Then, I have a setting that I can access that automatically enters the date, time, and appends the information to a note that I have set up in Evernote. If I tried to do the same thing in Evernote, I would first have to find the note, get my cursor flashing in the correct place and type in all the associated information (date/time) by hand. Drafts makes this process unbelievably fast.
I also have found drafts the fastest way to text Dave (my husband). I open up the app, type in what I want to text him, and hit the link to access my commonly-used functions, one of which is to send a text to Dave. The same process within the messages app on my iPhone would take far more steps.
I've got a demo in the works, where I'll share more about how I'm using Drafts. In the meantime, what tools are you using for capturing your thoughts and actions? What questions do you have about how to get better at doing the capture process?