photo of the OneNote application on an Iphone

A few months ago, I posted about my experience with David Allen’s Getting Things Done, the bible of productivity nerds everywhere. It was one of my most-read posts, but it was just a summary of Capture, Clarify, Control, so I thought I would go more deeply into each of these over the next few weeks. My thoughts come from my own experience at my day job and reading books from David Allen and Cal Newport. I am, after all, a Newportian at heart.

The first step in project management is Capture. What is the project? What ideas arise as I think about the project? What have others contributed? Capture is the essential step. In the work world, it is crucial to be the person that doesn’t let things fall through the cracks. To be the person that people can rely on to get things done. Capture is the step that ensures things don’t get lost.

Many of my tasks and projects come to me via email. One thing I am sure of – Email was not designed to be a project management tool. It is a communication tool, nothing else. But for a while, I did try to use email to capture things – and it did not work. When the inbox has 200 incoming messages a day, it is easy for important things to be lost. Since we use Microsoft Outlook as our email program, it was seamless to migrate items to Microsoft OneNote as a way to capture things. So what I do now is keep a notebook open and add to one page (dated) all day. Then, the critical step – at the end of the day, I look at my notes, things I may have scribbled onto my time block notebook, and consolidate everything, and put it on my calendar. I don’t put it on a specific day yet but on the weekly column of my weekly planner. Then on Fridays, I look at the next week and assign days to the tasks.

Some people I know use Notes on their phone, others use sticky notes, some use bullet journals. Whatever the Capture method, it is nothing if you don’t look at it and get it ready for the next step. This is the part I missed when using email as a to-do list. It was too hard to go through and find what needed to be done. But with OneNote and my time block planner, I feel confident that things are not lost and that I can go home at night without worrying if I forgot an important task/event/project.