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. :-)

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