Capturing Device - Paper
I use a Moleskine Lined Pocket Notebook as my main capturing device. I have tried other methods of capturing including a Palm Tungsten T5, my trusty Apple Newton MessagePad 2100 and Index Cards (Hipster PDA). No matter where I am I almost always have it with me and use it to capture all manner of action items, phone numbers, notes, calendar items, etc. I simply find the Moleskine the best device for me in terms of versatility, portability and speed. These generally all go in a running stream with a dash/plus system.
The dash/plus system goes like this. All items, no matter what they are, are treated as items to be processed. For instance, calendar items go into my calendar, phone numbers into my contact file, notes go into NoteTaker (see below), etc. Even though it is not a "next action" all items generally need to be processed in some way.The top of each page is marked with the page number and the date. The date is not used for anything other than the date the new page was started (i.e. I do not use it to track when things are added or completed, just a rough estimate thereof)...
There are a couple of other Moleskine Hacks that I employ. I do use a Post-it™ index tab to mark the page I am currently at because while the built in ribbon page marker is quaint I find it not as efficient. I also keep some small Post-it™ notes (the 2 inch square size) on the inside back cover opposite of the pocket so that I may have somewhere to write a note to pass to someone else.
Also, I also have a way to carry items forward that works for me. Every few pages I do carry unprocessed and undone items forward and add them to the current page. When I want to carry an uncompleted item forward I draw a circle around the item’s preceding dash (thus marking that it was not completed and has moved to another page). Then on the new page I write the item and provide the page number from which that item came.
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Coincidentally, I recently found myself in an organizational jam of my own, in which digital to-do lists and calendars no longer served their purpose. At work I found myself spending way too much time trying to figure out how to best put to use the digital organizational tools at my disposal: namely, inbox, taskpad and calendar of Microsoft Outlook. I like computer stuff, I like organization, it just seemed to make sense. Until I realized that I was spending an excess amount of time trying to figure out where to sort my e-mails, or how to prioritize on the task pad, that I was losing the amount of time that I ought to actually be devoting to TASKS themselves. Result: stilted workflow, and a difficult time figuring out just what exactly it was I had completed in a day.
So when it came time for me to crack down on my organizational antics, and find the quickest, fastest way to simply get things done, I brought clipboard and bought legal pad and went to work. Going as minimally as possible, I simply wrote a number item for every task that I was given. When the task was complete, I'd cross it off. At a glance, away from desk or not, I could tell what needed to be completed. At the end of the day, on the subway home, I'd review what had not been crossed off, and copy it on to the top of the next day's list. I wouldn't have to kibbitz about where to sort tasks, I just wrote them down. And, though a bit hard to read, if I needed to recall info on a previous task, there it was, though under a thick pen lien or two.
Volume of tasks was also easy to gage in this manner. On a particularly busy day, I could have around 40 - 50 items that I had tackled. On a really slow day, I could have about 10. Not perfect, or as systematized as Patrick's system, or with as many tags, references or automatic reminders, but it's there, it's clear, and (knock on wood) it's all I need.
I've gone into a similar Luddite direction with my planner. I got a hgue kick out of using Google's online calendar (because, it looked like outlook, and maybe, professional-ish or PDA-like or whatever), but when it gets down to business, if I can't update this thing as I'm walking down the street or someone calls and gives me some info, it's practically useless (unless I want to make a note to add it later, and then again, we're being redundant). So, $8 and about 45 min. spent in the planners section of the Barnes & Noble, and I have replaced Google calendar.
Maybe if in the future I get rich and get some sort of phone/digital organizer thing, I'll get back on that wagon or trail (on more than one occassion, having cut and pasted address or contact info on my iPod calendar has been a useful thing). But until I get something that totally covers those bases and lets me add info on the fly, pen, paper, planner are all I need.