I forget things. It’s just what I do. I have decided my brain is better at figuring things out than remembering anything. Which is a bit crap since the brain is where all memories are (lucky there are these things called “cameras”). So, because my brain doesn’t like to remember things, I rely on more permanent storage systems instead.
Before having a “system”, I would think of something I needed to do – it would just “pop” into my head as an idea or something that really needed attention – then I would really try to concentrate and commit that action to memory, hoping I could recall it when I was in the right place at the right time. Or, I’d turn to the person next to me and say “remind me to…”. How many times do you think either of these things worked? You wouldn’t even need one hand to count it.
So I had to come up with new, more permanent and reliable ways to remember all those things that I needed and wanted to get done. I think this was the start of my journey into the world of productivity applications, “getting things done” (GTD) and all that good stuff you can find around the web.
Here are three things I use to capture tasks, ideas and everything else, so that I can easily get to it when I need to, wherever I might be.
1. Get New Tasks into Your Inbox with Wunderkit
With all the smartphones available today, and the massive number of apps available, it should come as no surprise that the thing to do when you think of something to action is to put it into your phone. For this, I use and recommend Wunderkit, a task management and collaboration tool from 6Wunderkinder. When I think of an action, it doesn’t matter if it’s related to work, my home life, my family or my personal projects (like this blog), I straight away pull out my iPhone, launch the Wunderkit app and use the QuickAdd, or BrainDump+ as I call it, to quickly jot down the task.
It’s then that I decided what area of my life the task belongs as I select the right workspace. My task is now safely tucked away on my phone, my MacBook and on the web (thanks to the cloud). I’m no longer worried about if I will remember what to do, the activity will always be available for me to review and do. Now that the task is in Wunderkit, I need to remember to do it, right?
To make sure nothing goes un-done, I go through a weekly review process every Friday afternoon. In this hour from 3pm to 4pm I review every one of my to-do items, moving tasks from the inbox to the right list and looking for things that need to (or can) be done in the coming week. So unless my task was urgent, I would see it at this time and then allocate a time to make it happen. If it was an urgent task, all I need to do is tap the star/priority icon when creating the task. This means that the task will stay on my list of things that need to be actioned, regardless of when it’s “due”.
2. Collecting Helpful Information with Evernote
With the task now captured in Wunderkit, it’s often the case that I’ll need to go and find out more information, or do other activities such as meetings or phone calls. When this needs to be done I capture all this extra information into Evernote. Evernote is an amazing application available as a phone app, a desktop app and on the web. It stores anything and everything, so it makes perfect sense to capture all my task research, progress and details here. Of course, some tasks don’t need the level of detail that I use Evernote for, so these tasks just get done. Those activities that do need meetings and research get a note like the one below that acts as an index card.
By linking each additional piece of information I collect into this main note, I don’t need to go hunting for obscure words in random notes. To link notes in Evernote, right-click (Mac: two-finger click) the note name in the list of notes, then select “Copy Note Link”. Then, just go into the note you want the link to appear in and paste it in with CTRL+V (Mac: CMD+V) or Edit > Paste from the menu.
3. Capturing Actions in a Meeting
Meetings are mundane, it’s a fact. More and more people are taking iPads into meetings to take “notes”. But it’s just so easy to get distracted when using an iPad that if something really important does get discussed it might be overlooked or not given the attention it deserves. That’s why for meetings I recommend going the way of pen and paper. Get a notebook and a classy pen. It always feels cooler getting a great pen out that digging around the bottom of your satchel for a bright orange Bic that’s cracked at the end.
Capturing notes during a conversation is so much easier using pen and paper. It’s natural. You don’t worry about the font, the formatting or anything like that. You just start capturing information. Diagrams are easy to draw with a pen, much easier and quicker than on an app. And it’s really quick at capturing tasks too.
When an action item pops up in a meeting, I added an empty box into the margin of my notebook then write down who’s responsibility it is and what needs to be done. That way, when I’m revising my notes, if the action has been done, I just tick the box. It makes it really easy to see what actions have been identified too – just scan down the margin. At the end of the meeting, I add one last box and action: “Add to Evernote”. Then, when I have time (though I try to do this straight after the meeting), I type up my notes from the meeting in to Evernote, and link the note to the main index note, of course. I can spend a little more time now preparing the formatting, drawing diagrams and the like, so that I have a detailed note that I can easily search for and that has more context and detail than my notebook does. And those action items? They get added to Wunderkit! Once the note is typed up, I go back to my notebook and tick off the “Add to Evernote” action. This tells me that I can find the same information and more by searching Evernote instead of flicking through the pages of my notebook.
There are a ton of ways to capture tasks, but I truly believe the best are the ones that don’t force you to work a certain way. They are the ones that fit your lifestyle and the way you work, not the other way around. What’s your method of capturing tasks quickly and easily?