The first step of David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system is Capture. This step is all about getting stuff out of your head and into your productivity system.
Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.
The first step in setting up the Capture part of your system is establishing inboxes to capture your thoughts. Inboxes can take many forms, both analog and digital.
Some of the inboxes I use include:
- My e-mail inbox
- My OmniFocus inbox
- A physical inbox at home (where I put physical letters, things I want to read, loose paper I’ve written on, etc.)
One word of caution here: try to minimize the number of inboxes you use. Having too many inboxes may become unmanageable. Capturing your thoughts should be simple–you don’t want to have to stop to decide which inbox to put something in.
If this is your first time working with the GTD system (or if you want to do this on a semi-regular basis to ensure you aren’t letting things slip-through uncaptured), Allen recommends doing a mind dump. I will talk about that now, and then afterwards I will discuss what it looks like to maintain this Capture step on an ongoing basis.
A mind dump is where you spend 60-90 minutes reading through an incompletion trigger list and then adding to your inbox any thoughts you have related to each item on that incompletion trigger list. These may include things to do, or information/ideas. You don’t need to include details–just enough information so that when you process your inbox, you’ll know what you were thinking of. You also don’t need to separate them–everything can go into a single inbox. We’ll process it in a future step.
Nothing is too big or two small to capture. It’s important to capture everything on your mind.
Examples of things that you might want to add to your inbox include:
- Ideas for marketing email content
- Ingredients for spaghetti
- Taking a dance class
- Vacation to South Korea
- The URL for a website you know will be useful in the future
The final part of your capture habit is ensuring you’re prepared to capture outstanding tasks as you encounter them throughout your day. Don’t trust your memory to hold onto things until you’re ready to record or action on them. Write them down as soon as possible.
Some of the things I use to facilitate this include:
- The OmniFocus app on my cell phone
- Sticky note pads and pens that sit on my desk
- A notepad and pen I store in my wallet
With these practices in place, you’re now set-up to Capture everything you need.