“The time that a person has something in his head and the amount of things that does about it are factors reversely proportional”.- David Allen


“The memory is the intelligence of the fools”.- Albert Einstein


“Never keep in your head something that fits in a pocket”.- Albert Einstein


The collection is the basis on which you settle the rest of the method. Basically, it consist on capture the things that arises (and they will need to be attended later), through notes or reminders, storing them in a common, accessible and reliable place, called Inbox.

The mind is a powerful tool, but it has limitations, being the main one the lack of true multitasking capability. For many simultaneous things that the mind attempts to process, the fatigue, the changes, the rhythm, the spontaneity, the uncertainty … all of them will seriously affect the concentration, the ability to remember, to think about the problems and the things that must be realized.


Keys for collection

The keys for an effective and efficient collection are the following:

  • Collecting in the moment in which something is arising.
  • The things must be in the inbox: always outside the head.
  • Having the minimum and necessary number of inboxes.
  • Emptying the inboxes in a regular way.


The meaning of the collection is to realize it always in the precise moment in which something is arising. You have to acquire this habit, or otherwise, the collection will be ineffective.

Do not rely on memory, nor delay the collection for another time. How many times has happened that, while we are engaged in a task, arises a thing, and with the confidence that the current task is near to end, we will collect it after, but that time comes and we have forgotten what was that thing to collect?

NOTE: We are using the terms “thing” and “something”, because in the time of collection, all that arise don’t have a concrete form.


How many inboxes do you need?

The collection can use one or more inboxes. I recommend you have, at least, one inbox for each scenario or situation (eg, in the office, at home, one for phone calls or one for errands to attend). The best recommendation is to have the minimum number of inboxes, always by hand, using the common sense.

Thanks to the new technologies, you can trust everything to a single shared inbox through an application in the cloud, accessible from a smartphone, from a personal computer or from a tablet.


Inbox tools

The inbox can be the classic plastic tray, a box, a file, a folder, a notebook or a computer application.

Particularly, I use the following tools:

  • A notepad.
  • An email application. I use an inbox for my professional email, and other inbox for my personal email.
  • A web application in the cloud, in order to sync all the notes on the smartphone, the computer and the tablet, using any Web browser, at anytime and anywhere.


The process of collecting

How to collect

The collection must be realized at anywhere and anytime. For this reason, the inbox must always be available and affordable.

When something new is arisen, and that might be an outstanding information or an important action, this one is written on a reminder, is deposited in the inbox immediately, taking out the something from the head, and we deal again with the tasks we were realizing in that moment. Forget to classify, categorize, prioritize or urgency to that something. That will be made later. The really important thing is to continue with the task in course, without wasting time or energy or concentration. We will worry about reminders and their corresponding tasks when the time comes.

The classic tray or a box will allow you to deposit physical documents: notes, invoices, orders, catalogs, objects, etc.

If you carry a notepad, you can annotate an idea, a call, a reminder, an information about a meeting o anything else. Later, when you arrive to your table, you pull the notes from the notepad and deposit them in your inbox.

The new technologies allow you to collect things using applications on the cloud, accesible 24 hours a day, at anywhere, from any device and platform. The smartphone is usually present anywhere, although, in the working table is more suitable to use the computer, because the keyboard is easier and faster, and the collecting downtime is significantly reduced.

IMPORTANT: If you want the collection really works and be effective, you must acquire the habit of collecting always. This is the hardest part, but once implemented this habit, the collection process will be realized in a natural way.


What can you collect?

You can collect anything that requires a postponed attention. What collect depends on what you identify, but it must allow you to remember what to do with it. The most basic thing is to write a brief note that references to that something. It should be brief, in order to invest as little time as possible in the collection, and avoid dilated interruptions for the ongoing tasks. Besides brief, the note must be concise, in order to give no doubts, inconsistences or memory gaps in its retrieval.

If you require more information to consult, you can add a reference to find this information: an URL, the title of a book, an article, etc.

You can collect a document, such as an invoice (to be paid), a prescription (to be purchased), a catalog (to be consulted and decide a purchase), a report (to be reviewed), etc. You can also collect a physical object, such as a toothpaste tube, in order to remember that you must buy more. Or a business card, in order to remember to update the agenda or make a phone call.

Thanks to the technological tools, you can also collect emails, URLs (web addresses), voice memos, fragments of web pages, electronic documents, pictures, videos, etc. Thanks to the smartphones, you can also take a picture using its camera, and annotate something.


Must you distinguish between home and office things in the collection?

It is very common to doubt whether to use the same inbox to collect things for home or work, or if you use a different one.

The collection is a spontaneous task. No one can predict when or where or what. For this reason, it is better to use the inbox that is handy at that moment.

Have we got a laundry basket for white clothes, one for colored clothes and one for delicates clothes? No. We collect all clothes in the same basket, without worrying about the type of clothes. Later, we will select and separate the clothes to be washed.

Similarly, when you process the things of the inbox, you will identify what is each thing and where does it should be. In the organization phase, everything will be deposited at the corresponding place.

“My memory is magnificent to forget”.- Robert Louise Stevenson


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