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Podcast Episode 6
In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about capturing ideas and then managing those captured ideas.
Hello and welcome to episode 6 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.
In this week’s show I answer a question about how best to capture your ideas, commitments and events. But before we get in to that, I would just like to unashamedly plug my latest book which has gone on sale today. Your Digital Life 2.0 is a re-write of Your Digital Life, a book I published in 2015. In this new edition I have updated and cleaned up the system I use and recommend, I have also written four new case studies, extensively extended the goals section to include better ways of planning and achieving your goals and of course P.A.C.T (Patience, Action, Consistency and Time). Pretty much everything has been updated and improved.
You can get your copy on Amazon, iBooks store and direct from my website. All the links are in the show notes of this episode.
Okay, plug over, lets get in to today’s show and hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for today’s question... Over to you mystery podcast voice...
This week’s question comes from Jerry. Jerry asks...
Do you have a system of how or what to use to capture your ideas and to do's? Such as a notebook, notepad, voice recorder, etc. I sometimes struggle with collecting my ideas or to do's in a way that is easy for me to process when I get home
That’s an excellent question, Jerry. Thank you.
This really comes down to how you have everything set up. One of the important features any productivity system should have is the ability to capture ideas, commitments and appointments quickly and efficiently. If there are too many clicks or you have to dig around in a bag looking for your notebook and pen then you are not going to be very good at capturing. You need to have your system set up so that whenever an idea strikes you or you make a commitment, you can capture it within a few clicks.
This why having your mobile phone set up so your capture tool of choice is on the home screen ready and waiting to capture that next brilliant idea. As I am sure many of you know, I use Todoist and the Todoist app is right there on my home screen on my iPhone. I also have 3D Touch enabled so capturing a commitment can done with one long press.
Likewise, for my notes I have Evernote right next to Todoist on my home screen ready and waiting to capture any ideas I might have.
On all my computers—I use both a desktop and a laptop—I have keyboard shortcuts set up so I can capture my ideas and commitments and events without having to go looking for the app.
For meetings or one to one sessions with students I will use my notebook and pen. I prefer writing notes down in meetings or in sessions with my students. If I have any to-dos or other notes I want to capture, I will either type them in to Todoist or if there are a lot of notes I will use Evernote’s excellent scanning features and scan the notes directly into Evernote.
I went through all that first because, if you do not have your capture tools set up so they are incredibly easy to access you will resist capturing and that’s how you miss important things and ideas.
So let’s say you have become a master at capturing, how do you make sure processing is just as easy as capturing?
This is the main reason why using the tools for what they were designed to be used for is essential if you want to create a workable system. For example, my system has me capturing tasks in Todoist. I capture ideas in Evernote and date specific commitments and event get captured into my calendar.
For my calendar, the date, place and time are added immediately. For that there is no processing to do. However, for tasks, these are captured, but something has to happen later for them to become meaningful. If I just left everything in my inbox, it would soon become an unmanageable list of to-dos that are either no longer relevant or are still relevant but have no context.
The reason why making sure your app of choice syncs between all your devices is so that when you sit down to do your processing, everything is essentially in one place. All the important things I captured, the ones that need action in the very near future will have been captured in Todoist. This means at the end of the day when I sit down at my computer, I can open up Todoist and all my captured tasks are there right in front of me waiting to be processed.
It’s a slightly different story when it comes to my notes or ideas. Usually these are not urgent and are not at this stage time sensitive. These I capture in Evernote and I process my Evernote inbox around once a week. In a typical week I will capture about ten to fifteen notes and articles. So, there’s never likely to be a huge inbox of stuff to process.
There is one caveat here though. Ideas for my YouTube videos and blog posts are actually captured using an app called Drafts. These are sent directly to their corresponding note in Evernote and so don’t need processing. I recently did a video on Drafts which I will link to in the show notes so you can see how I do that.
So, lets say it’s the end of the day, I’ve had my dinner, done my evening admin and email work and I am ready to begin my daily review and process.
The first thing I do is process my Todoist inbox. That’s where anything urgent is going to be and I process those tasks first. Because my Todoist is synced across all my devices, anything I captured on my phone, laptop or iPad will be there waiting to be processed. This process only takes around 5 mins or so and then it’s on to the daily mini-review. The secret here is really to have everything synced and to try and do your processing from the same place every day.
It doesn’t really matter where you do your processing, it could on your phone, tablet or computer. It doesn’t even matter when you do your processing. Morning or evening, whatever works for you. I prefer the evening, I know many people who prefer to do it in the morning. The basic rule is you need to be processing your inbox at least once every 48 hours. Personally, I will always try and do it every 24, but on a Friday, for example, I generally don’t process until Saturday. I might do a quick look to see if there’s anything urgent in there, but on the whole, I rarely process Friday evenings.
My Evernote inbox gets processed as part of my weekly review. As I said, I don’t capture a huge amount of stuff in Evernote, so processing it’s inbox doesn’t take very long at all. Making it a part of my weekly review just makes sense to me.
I do have one other collection bucket. I carry an A4 plastic wallet with me in my bag. In there I will collect receipts for my expenses, receipts for purchases that have a guarantee and the attendance paper I hand round in my university class. I empty this folder every Sunday when I do my weekly review, scan in my receipts and attendance records into their various folders. I keep an iCloud folder for my expense receipts that is connected to an app called Scanbot. Anything scanned by Scanbot is saved directly into that folder. My attendance sheets for the university class also gets sent to a specific folder in iCloud and can then be sent to the university’s admin office. Doing things this way means I can maintain an almost 100% paperless system effortlessly.
And that’s about it. In total I have three collection points. My inboxes in Todoist and Evernote and my plastic wallet. I do maintain a physical inbox next to my desk, but these days that is very rarely used at all. That’s just a relic from my pre-paperless days and is more of an ornament than a working inbox.
So to sum up then…
To really get your collection and processing system up and running properly, make sure the apps you choose for your to-do lists and notes are synchronisable across all your devices. This way, when you sit down to do your processing everything is in one place—your computer.
If like me you find you are not collecting very many processable notes, don’t feel under any pressure to process your notes inbox every day. This is really your call, but it can save you time during the week when really all you want to do is sit down and relax.
If you still prefer to use a trusty pen and paper for taking notes in meetings etc. Then make sure you have a good scanning app on your phone or tablet. This can save you so much time and an app like Scanbot is not really that expensive when you consider how much time it can save you.
Try to process your main inbox at least once every 48 hours. 24 hours is better, but I know sometimes, when you finish late, the last thing you want to do is be reminded of work you still have to do.
And that’s about it. I hope that answers your question, Jerry.
Don’t forget if you have a question you would like answering, you can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org), DM me on Twitter, facebook or Instagram or you can fill in the quick form on my website (carlpullein.com)
Thank you all for listening and until next week, I hope you all have a very very productive week.