My Capture Tools

Tuesday, October 8th, 2002
A discussion came up recently on the Getting Things Done Palm forum.  We were discussing how we collect our ideas and information.  I outlined some of the tools that I use....

I have a few more collection points than you have listed, but ultimately, everything ends up in one of two in-baskets.

Here goes:

I have two in-baskets. The first is on my desk. It is used to collect papers, mail, brochures, personal notes, and especially, notes taken in my note taker wallet. When it is time for a weekly review, I'll walk around and anything that is not supplies, decoration, or reference material, gets tossed into this in-basket. I usually only deal with this in-basket once a week -- or whenever I cannot see my desk.

My primary in-basket is my Lotus Notes e-mail In-box. I have designed my systems so that all of my collection points feed into this single in-basket for processing.  Here are some of the collection tools that I use, in order of frequency of use:

E-MAIL    - messages from others, messages from myself from different devices, Spam, etc.

FAX       - I do not have a fax machine. My fax server archives incoming faxes and then emails me a hyperlink when the fax is ready to view.

VOICEMAIL - The VoiceMail system I have designed deposits the voice message as an attachment along with caller information in my mailbox. If sufficient
information is available, I can reply to the VoiceMail as an e-mail. I have set up a private extension to be used to collect VoiceMail messages from myself.

SCANNER   - I Use an HP Digital sender to collect and file my papers. I have configured a system so that, at the touch of one button, I can take a stack of document, scan them, convert them to Searchable PDF files, and deposit them into a notes database with a doclink in my mailbox. This allows me to process the linked document as an item yet keep my filing in its own database. Because everything is full text indexed, I can quickly search for anything as I need it.  My primary application for this system is to file client work, documents, articles, personal notes/diagrams, etc.

AGENTS    - Being a notes fan, I have setup agents that will go out and collect other information that I want to keep an eye on. This may include other Notes databases, web sites, or system monitors that I have set up. The results of these queries are deposited in my in-box for processing with a doclink back to the source material.

In addition to the above, there are several other collection tools that I may use depending on the nature of the work that I am doing. These include:

PALM      - I have found that I do not use my Palm as a capture tool as much as I thought that I would. This is due in part to the fact that I am often at my laptop and in part to the fact that I use my note taker wallet. I seem to go in phases. When I do take notes on my Palm, they are deposited to my in-basket for processing.

VOICE          - Although I go in phases with this tool as well, when I use it, I use the Dragon Mobile Voice Recorder because of its 99 folders for capture. I map these folders to Notes applications.  At one time, I have designed a system so that the voice attachments would go to my assistant and to be transcribed and them come back as text. Now, I often enter the items myself.

DIGITAL WHITEBOARD - My favorite tool. I have two in my office and one in my conference room. I often save drawings and mind maps.

CROSSPAD - Again, a cool capture tool. I don;t use it often but when I need to take lots of notes on the road, it really helps.

HP CAPSHARE - Great for capturing from newspaper, magazines, or books when doing research

DRAGON DICTATE - An excellent product but you really need to stay in practice to get the most of it. When I do, it works well.

Again, I do not use all of these tools all of the time. Only when appropriate.

As I capture my information, regardless of the tool used to do so, I then process the items one-by-one in my in-basket.

As far as where my stuff goes, My information system is built on a custom template in my Notes mail. If I am not deleting a message, I select it and
click a button to convert the e-mail into a to-do, calendar, file, tickler, or other action item.  (You can see an overview of my system on my web site.

This system works for me because I am usually at my laptop and my laptop connected to my server via a wireless connection at all times.

Now, for my Palm, I presently use it mostly as a look-up device. I replicate most of my key desktop items, my calendar, my wife's calendar, my action list (2220 items as of today) and my reference files to my Palm using a product called Pylon Pro (Now from AvantGo).  

Despite the variety of capture devices, my system works well for me and is really not as complex as it seems. Basically I collect things electronically (in e-mail) or as papers (in-basket) and then I process them.  I try to get most everything into my e-mail so that I am really living and working with just one e-mail in-basket.  That is why there are so many collection devices.

Well, there you have it -- a glimpse into my connected world.  I hope it helps inspire someone else.  This has been a fun email to write. I realize that I need to update my own GTD flowchart as I have added many devices and tools since I last updated it.

So much for simplicity. :-)

CNC Website Launch

Sunday, October 6th, 2002
For many years, one of my hobbies has been robotics.  This led to my interest and fascination with Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Machining - the process by which you can take a concept from design to finished part - all by computer.  Last year, I purchased a Sherline Mill and Lathe, along with a Grifftek CNC conversion.  I have started to document my learning process and that the best way to help me learn, would be to document and share my experiences with others.
Image:CNC Website Launch
Today, I launched Eric Mack's hobby CNC web site, which I hope will accomplish this purpose.