The Single Most Important Aspect To My Productivity And Sanity

by | May 23, 2015 | Personal Development, Productivity

There are a lot of ideas floating around about productivity lately. Thousands of apps, programs, methods, books, and calendars exist.

But you’re busy with your practice! Maybe not with clients yet, but how can you find the time to follow all of these programs?

While they can be extremely helpful, I’ve found the most benefit in one element alone that has freed up my brain power and added very little extra work.

And the little extra is a massive trade-off for the amount that I can remember and get done.

This idea is from David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” or GTD as it’s also referred. If you haven’t read it, read it, it’s amazing. However I do find there is a lot work involved in following his method, and most people do not have the time, effort, or desire to set up such a large system. Which is why the only aspect I’ve stuck with from it is the collection box. And I mostly use it for information, not for to do items. Tasks go directly into an Asana app that is a story for a different day.

This one thing addresses my poor job of remembering so many quick, fleeting ideas.

The Answer Is This: A Collection Box

Do you ever have an idea in the morning, and by the time you’re home that evening when you have time to do something with it, you have forgotten? Me too! And so has everyone else. In comes the collection box.

Having a place where I put all of my ideas as soon as they come into your head is essential to my sanity.

Your mind can really only focus on 1 thing at a time, and writing down everything you want to remember later gives you the permission to forget about it as you go about your day. Then you don’t have to worry about trying to keep it top of mind for the rest of the day, week, or however long because you have it recorded and therefore forgetting about it doesn’t matter.

The one stipulation with this process is that you have to trust your collection box. If you don’t have trust that it will truly keep your information you won’t actually release it from your brain. This brings us to the one important element of the collection box, the review.

Reviewing Your Collection Box

You must set time aside on a regular basis to review the stuff in your collection box. Maybe it was a blog post idea for your practice’s website, maybe it was an accountant’s website address that a colleague recommended. The goal with this review time, is to address what to do with or where to put the information in your collection box.

It shouldn’t be the end place for your information.

Again the basis of this system is on trust so you can release your mind and focus on the things that are actually right in front of you.

The other big benefit is the speed of just capturing ideas instead of trying to assess the items when they are placed in front of you. If you have an idea for promotion strategy for your next wellness workshop, instead of trying to find which folder, notebook, or calendar to put it into at the moment (when you’re busy with something else) you put it in your collection box instead. Then you can go back to review, elaborate, expand, and sort it into a place you can keep it for reference.

Put your review time on a schedule. Do a big one every week, pick a day, and stick to it. This will help ensure you trust your system, and really forget about relying on your brain. You should also do daily quick reviews if you’re putting quite a few to do items in your collection box. I only use my collection box for ideas and information that are not direct action items. Obvious and time related tasks go into a different system for me.

Analog or Digital?

This is completely a personal preference. While I love to write with a pen and paper, actually carrying those two things around everywhere is too much of a hurdle for me. I opt for my phone instead.

The other hindrance with pen and paper, once you write it down and you want to store it somewhere new, you either have to rip out that page from your notebook, or rewrite it. Too much friction for me.

The app I use is Evernote. If you’ve been anywhere on the internet in the past few years you’ve likely heard of it. It’s simple, free, syncs to iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, seamlessly and it’s SIMPLE.

The idea with the collection box is to simplify your life. We don’t want to add unnecessary complications, gadgets, gizmos, and details.

My Evernote has a folder called “Collection Box”. Then I have other folders in a “Reference” stack for all of my ideas and information that I sort in my box review time. My folders include, My Work Notes, New Business Ideas, Client Notes, Technical Web Resources, Personal and so on.. Evernote and similar apps allow you to do a few crucial things over paper and pen. Electronic search, modifying notes, adding information, re-ordering, re-organizing, changing folders, and it can all be done easily and quickly from whichever screen you want.

However, you can do this system and process with a notepad and pen in your pocket. Your collection box doesn’t have to be a fancy new app. The app world can be a time-suck if you’re not tech savvy or diligent in picking ones with only features that are necessary.

It’s a cycle of dumping your brain into a system to keep track of your ideas, and then reviewing the information to address what to do with it and where to keep it for later.

Again the idea is to get stuff out of your brain to allow focus on what you’re currently doing.

Try some things, find out what works for your habits and lifestyle, what makes you more productive and peaceful, and continue only those.

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