My first step is to have a good understanding of what I have to do. This is the time I collect or Capture all my individual to do’s and tasks. Sometimes I will have things to do that will themselves have multiple actions and it’s then that I create a “project” bucket that holds all these tasks. Sometimes these projects are personal based such as home decorating or garden plans but mostly they are created for my work tasks and often reflect the “projects” I work on as an Architect.
There are multiple ways to capture tasks, both analogue using written lists or digitally using software. I personally have used a professional standard software called Omnifocus by the Omni Group. I have been using this tool for many years now and I reckon I must have around 5000 separate tasks and projects in my Omnifocus database. I recommend choosing a tool that best works for you and critically one that are going to stick with.
Capturing needs to be quick and efficient so that I remain motivated to input all my things to do. Anything that doesn’t end up in Omnifocus for me runs the risk of being missed as I have learnt to trust this software now. I use keyboard shortcuts a lot when I am working on my Mac and Omnifocus has the ability to customize a shortcut to launch what they call “quick entry” for capturing my tasks on the fly.
“Control, Option & Spacebar” works for me to launch a focussed Omnifocus window on my desktop screen. I can then type my task description and using the tab key to add the project name, tags (what Omnifocus calls contexts or tools needed to do this task) and any key dates, such as when I can start it or when it is due.
When I click enter, this task will vanish in to my Omnifocus system and appear in my forecast view on the dates I prescribed or as a result of the tags I selected.
Sometimes I can simply add the text description if I need more time to “reflect” on what I actually need to do this work and then the task goes to the Omnifocus’ Inbox for processing later.
This works great for me and I “fire and forget” during my work day, knowing that with my routine I will review these later.
As mentioned, the key thing that I have learnt over the 15 years that I have been doing this, is to find a system that is efficient and discrete enough not to distract from what I am doing at that time. Then the next most important thing to do is to collect everything you need to do in one place for the next step in the GTD process, which is to “Clarify.”
See below for a simple screencast showing what I do.
Omnifocus comes at a cost and is best suited to Apple computers, iPads and iPhones. If this is not for you or you are PC based, then the Capture approach can still work and I have used Outlook tasks, Wunderlist (now todo.app) and Trello in the past. Just give it a try - there is plenty of information on “GTD” that you can Google, including Dave Allen’s own site. Alternatively, drop a comment below and I would be pleased to help.
For those that are managing fewer tasks or simply prefer pen and paper, a simpler approach would be to write a numbered list each day, adding to it as new tasks come to you. Similarly using “post-it” or “stickies” can also be effective, particularly if you are a more “visual” person and as along as those notes are available to you when you are ready to “organize” and “reflect.”