If 100 people came to me today and asked, Hey Dude, what is the most impactful habit that I could develop starting today, which habit will be the right starting place from which to build all other habits? Which habit is going to make my life easier and more productive, which habit is going to make me king of the world?
I have one very simple answer, and that’s to start writing things down. Start collecting the things you need and want done. Do it now, find a note book, or a writing pad. If you’re not a ludite, use your computer and open up a document and start making a list, go nuts. But let me warn you, writing things down that you want or need done is the simple part, after you get going you are going to quickly discover that man, you’ve got a lot of things in this list, some require immediate attention while some can wait, some are personal, some are for work. How in the world am I gonna make sense of all this?
So, it will become almost immediately apparent that you need a way to organize all of this. But before we do that, let’s talk about why writing things down is so important, even though it may be obvious as you start creating what may seem to be a never ending list. Ok, put the pen down for a moment and check this out.
Why Writing Things Down Is So Important
Every commitment you have in your life is an open loop, and in your head these open loops are tracked, and require personal energy to keep them there. Some are easier than others to keep at the forefront of your mind because of their importance to you, while other things may also be important, perhaps your mind psyche isn’t so willing to prioritize it right now, so it slips down there in the deeper crevices of your mind, and will require a little bump or reminder to bring it to the front again.
All the while you are adding more and more commitments to your mind, and there’s simply a capacity you have, everyone has some capacity, some limit as to how much stuff they can keep relevant and important in their heads. So, naturally things get forgotten, and forgotten things won’t get the attention they might deserve. Writing things down is one answer to this. Another might be meditation or memory hacks for organizing things in your head. But writing down things is something everyone can do right now.
The importance of collecting these things is obvious. Now you can organize and prioritize the things you need to get done, then use some process to do it efficiently. But until you write things down, the process or system you might have is limited to what you can extract from your head.
The Collection Habit
Let’s call this the collection habit. It’s the number one habit in my personal productivity system I call Good Change Done or GCD. In fact it is the number of habit in just about any personal productivity system out there, each has their own take on it and I encourage you to learn a bunch of methods and choose the tools and techniques that work best for you. Here are my suggestions for making this habit work for you.
Get it out of your head. Your mind is best at creating, not storing, so use it that way. Keep collection tools nearby so that no matter where you are, you can capture ideas, things to do, important events, or anything that has your attention and will need to be recalled and worked into things that need to get done. The fewer things you have to keep track of in your mind, the clearer your mind will be for the creative stuff, the place where you solve problems.
Collection tools, fewer is better. Some people are old school and a daily planner is their thing, some people carry around a note book. I have nothing against these things, they work for some people, but they are limiting. Most people, and I assume you like most, have a smart phone, either an iPhone or Android. There are unbelievably powerful and simple to use apps out there designed specifically for this purpose. My two favorites are Trello and DayOne. They are very different apps, but both are at their base fantastic collection tools. I will be referring to both of these often with reviews and tips.
Organize, process and refill. It’s a great start to collection all your things thing need to get done, but unless you organize the information so that it makes sense, the prioritize it, you won’t know where to start. After you organize it you need to process it, this means put it into your workflow, start doing the work, move it along. Now you’ve got a system, a beast that must keep being fed, so go and collect more stuff to do.
You don’t have a process yet? The simplest of all is the straight line process Collect -> Plan -> Do. These are, in my humble opinion, the top three habits you need to start working on right now. Look for future posts that will show you how to quick start your path towards productivity and high performance.