Collect, process, organize…
In chapter 5, David Allen walks us through the first of these – Collection. Collect what? All the things about your work and life that have your attention, and place them “outside your head” – i.e., in a collection in-box. He recommends at least a couple of hours initially spent on this step, before moving on to Process stage.
I appreciate that it seems like Mr. Allen has peeked in on my life! It made me realize just how alike all we humans are. Some of the examples of “stuff” he is referring to, which we need to capture and deal with once and for all, are: random business cards we’ve collected, little bits of electronic equipment sitting in drawers unused for months, equipment we want to move around, etc.
Thought for you – do you have a lot of these “open loops”? Do you really need to keep that business card, are you really going to repair that little broken something… etc.?
Two Collection Activities – Physical Gathering & Mental Gathering
Search your physical environment for anything that doesn’t belong where it is permanently, for incomplete things that will require a decision. These must be put in you in-basket.
What not to gather: supplies, reference material, decoration, equipment. These stay put.
Careful, though. Yes, true reference material won’t need processing… but a stack of outdated reference material will. Get the point?
Issues in Collecting:
- If an item is too big to go in the in-basket, write a dated note on a letter size piece of paper to represent it. (It’s a good idea to always date everything you hand write, by the way!)
- If the in-basket pile is too big, create stacks for the time being.
- Don’t go crazy – as in decide you’re going to redo your entire house when you start the collection activities. If you don’t really have a huge window of time, you’ll end up in worse shape, having started and not able to finish.
- If you have existing lists and organizers, they still need to go in the in-basket.
- If you run into something incredibly urgent, and you must deal with it that second – go ahead. But the best is to either put it in the in-basket, or create a special emergency stack!
Thought for you – is it time to make some changes? Are you feeling nudged to actively implement this system? I am. I have intuitively implemented some of this, but am challenged to go all out.
Carefully scan your house or work environment, moving anything requiring a decision to your in-box. Bear in mind things like: Can I donate any of this? Are my nostalgia items still meaningful to me?
Mental Gathering: Mind-Sweep
After the physical gathering, you need scan your psyche! Write out each thought, idea, project or thing that has your attention on a separate plain piece of paper. Do not make a list, as each item will need to be processed individually.
Go for quantity – you can always toss out slightly ridiculous items later!
Mr. Allen gives us a long list of “incompletion triggers” to help with the mind-sweep process. I won’t list them all, but they include:
- projects started, not completed
- phone calls, emails, etc. needing to be initiated or responded to
- marketing or promotion ideas
- systems, like phone/filing/computers
- professional development /training/resumes
- information you are waiting for
“If your head is empty of everything, personally and professionally, then your in-basket is probably quite full, and likely spilling over.”
Add to this ANY and ALL items in the “in” portion of your electronic devices (email, voicemail, text).
Wow, at this point I would need to grab a cup of tea and just sit! No need to despair, because tomorrow, Matt Miller will help us take that in-box from “In” to “Empty”!
Tell me what you think! I know some people that would totally rebel against the thought of taking control of their lives like this – it scares them. Others are super organized and have lived this way since grammar school!! Many of us are somewhere in the middle… Where are you?