Capture Tools and Best Practices

FacileThings
5 min readMay 2, 2024

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“Your mind is for having ideas, not for holding them.” — David Allen.

Having established in previous articles the value of capturing everything that catches your attention out of your head and accepting the limitations of the mind to retain things, it is completely legitimate to surround yourself with the best tools and procedures that can facilitate the habit of capturing and making the most of this first principle of the GTD methodology.

To capture you need tools that allow you to reliably catch somewhere everything that pops up in your head, until the right moment comes when you can clarify what each thing is and how you want to incorporate it into your life.

Any tool that you can have on hand at all times and that allows you to capture things instantly, so that your workflow is not interrupted and you don’t lose track of what you have captured, will work. For example, you can write things down in a notebook, put reminders in a physical tray, record voice memos, take pictures, or send emails to yourself.

Nowadays mobile devices and new technologies make it much easier. I have a friend who captures all of his ideas by sending WhatsApp messages to himself: texts, images, audios, etc.

Capturing tools

Pen and paper

As cool as certain apps and technologies may be, most of the time there is nothing better than writing what’s on your mind on paper (notebook, notepad, sticky note, diary, or even a loose piece of paper, such as a napkin or the back of an envelope). Of course, there are times when it is neither comfortable nor safe to write something down, such as when you are walking down the street or driving. But since ideas can come to you at any time and in any place, carrying a notebook with you is always a good practice.

Ideas and thoughts don’t usually manifest themselves in the same place they are meant to be used. You can be sitting on your couch at home watching a Netflix series when you come up with something interesting for your next work meeting, and you can be in a work meeting when you remember to buy something you need at the grocery store. On both occasions, you need to be conveniently equipped to catch those thoughts.

Having a capture tool always available also increases your willingness to think deeper thoughts wherever you are, since you know that anything of value can be captured and will not be lost. Interestingly, capture tools incentivize capturing.

It’s a good idea to have notebooks and pens everywhere you are likely to need to capture something: on your desk at work, on your bedside table, in your car, in the backpack or purse you carry everywhere, etc. To get into the habit of capturing, you must make capturing easy wherever you are.

Whiteboards

Whiteboards are very useful capture tools when capturing things in a group, whether at work meetings with your colleagues or in the kitchen at home with your family. They can also be used on your own to brainstorm or think out loud.

A good practice is to take a digital photograph (with a cell phone, for example) of the whiteboard when a work session is finished and save it in a place where it can be reviewed, clarified and relevant actions generated, if necessary.

There are also computer applications that allow you to emulate this type of whiteboard and share boards with people who are not physically nearby.

The fact that there is no structure associated with the whiteboards or the sheets of paper (they are like blank canvases) helps the mind to wander without any kind of restriction.

Mobile devices

Nowadays many people always carry a laptop in their backpack, usually for work purposes. And practically everyone has a cell phone in their pocket. This greatly expands the options, because there are apps to capture all kinds of things (texts, images, audios).

If you are waiting for someone and an interesting thought comes to you, you can write it down in a note app like Obsidian. If you see a sign that reminds you of something, you can take a picture of it with your phone and email it to your FacileThings inbox for later clarification. If you are driving and a great idea comes to mind, you can activate your phone’s voice recorder and create an audio note so you don’t forget it.

Capture successfully

The important thing, in addition to having the capture tools always at hand, is that you have the willingness to capture everything. To do this you need to realize the potential value that the habit of capturing can generate in your future.

There are no bad ideas

Many times we don’t dare to share our ideas in case they are not good enough, or because of what other people might think. Even when we don’t have to share them, we tend to be too analytical and prevent some ideas from even taking shape.

This type of attitude is very detrimental because it limits our creativity and our possibilities. We have to put judgment aside when we are capturing. We must capture 100% of things. The time to evaluate them will come later.

You will not achieve a sense of total control until you manage to capture all the things that come into your head without any judgment.

Capture and continue capturing

There’s more to your thoughts than you think. If you get in the habit of capturing everything that goes through your head, you’ll find that sometimes those thoughts lead to other thoughts, and those other thoughts lead to more thoughts. In moments of creativity you must be open to stringing together thoughts and ideas, and capturing each one of them.

When your mind is allowed to express itself, it does, and without limits.

No strings attached

Captures are not commitments, at least not yet. Being aware of your thoughts and capturing them has nothing to do with making decisions, creating projects or setting goals.

Feel free to capture anything, because that doesn’t mean you have to do anything about it. It’s just a matter of being aware of what concerns you, what motivates you, or what catches your attention… and not missing anything. You’ll probably then decide to ignore many of those things so you can focus on the things that really matter. But you’re in full control when you take all the options into consideration, and you know which paths you’ve proactively decided not to follow.

Originally published at https://facilethings.com.

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