Simplify Your Collecting Process

This article first appeared on Alpha Efficiency Magazine: Issue Collecting, subscribe and buy here

My collecting habits have evolved with technology, as well as the needs that I have. The only thing that I continue to do from my early productivity days is collect all that I can, even if I just delete it later.

I understood the importance of Collecting after I read David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. I even carry with me one of his “Notetaker Wallets”. I learned the importance of collecting everything and that was an important first step. Over the years the tools have evolved; it is incredible to think that in 2003 Internet on mobile devices was a dream, and by 2013 it is not only a reality but in many cases the *only* reality. With the existence of iPhones, iPads, Android Phones, Tablets, email, Papers, Evernote, Pocket, Instapaper, Pinterest and many more vehicles, collecting can be really overwhelming – almost something to avoid.

Reduce your inputs

The problem is that in general the amount of information, ideas, and opportunities you will have in the next six months will increase, so you need to look for ways to collect that are more efficient. I moved to being #iPadOnly in 2011 with the idea of reducing distractions and becoming much more productive. The journey has been really interesting and I have learned a lot. One of the things I learned as I moved from a really complex set up to being #iPadOnly is that many things on your workflows, when simplified, can be much more efficient, and sometimes it is worth spending the time to make sure things are as effective as they should be.

One of those things that I put under the microscope was: Collecting.

I used to collect on paper, in email inboxes, iPhone, Mac, iPad, paper mail and a huge array of software like Evernote, OmniFocus, Drafts, POP, and much more.

It was a mess and required a long time to process everything, mostly because I needed to look into many places. First step was to reduce the collection points to two:

There is nothing I can do for paper, even when I try my best to reduce the amount of paper that I get, there is really nothing I can do. I simply need to deal with the amount of paper I have in the best way I can.

Everything that needs to be filed physically is dealt with twice a week after a copy is stored on Evernote. Everything else is directly filed in Evernote, and the piece of paper is destroyed. Having one place for paper had been a practice that I have kept from my early days of traveling for work, so I am good at processing and filing them so I have no paper laying around.

My personal collecting device: the iPhone

For everything else, I use the iPhone. Yes, I only collect on one device: My iPhone.

The iPhone allow me to take pictures, record voice messages, make notes and much more. Having re-trained myself to collect there makes the process really quick and efficient, and with the new OmniFocus2 for iPhone, I can even be more efficient since I can now receive voice memos. With Omnifocus version 1, you could record them directly in the application, but now I can use the VoiceMemos application and simply email it directly to my OmniFocus Inbox.

One of the advantages of using one – and only one – device is that the collection process is almost automatic; my brain doesn’t need to make a decision if paper, iPhone, iPad, Mac or anything else should be the best device to capture the idea. The default is the iPhone.

Even when I am collecting paper, the iPhone is next to me, making sure that anything that I need to collect gets directly into the iPhone and from there into the OmniFocus Inbox.

On the old system, I would have collected on anything, from the Mac to Paper. Even when I had many of my electronics, software and more syncing to each other it added a small decision moment. Not having to make this decision speeds up the process of capturing, reduces the time of the interruption, and – since my brain knows the iPhone is the only device to capture the process – requires little attention and is therefore much more effective.

After all that collection, the problem is to process everything. But in general, that’s where the iPad plays a wonderful role. The iPad version of OmniFocus can even play the VoiceMemos that I record and send as an attachment, something that the iPhone Version of OmniFocus 1 couldn’t do.

Have you ever considered limiting collection to one device? Which device you will pick?