Closed September 2017

Essentials of Time Management #1: Your Capturing Toolbox

I wrote a popular post recently about my rebellious notions on time management ("Rebel Without a Clock"), and I decided to expand upon it and do a series for the next five Fridays. I had talked about what I consider the five essential components of time management: Spiralnotebookwriting

Today we explore the first step, CAPTURE. So much information is coming at you nowadays. It reminds me of those game shows where the frantic person is standing in a glass booth with dollars swirling around them and they get to keep what they can grab! How do you grab information more effectively and get it into your formalized systems? You have to use the right tools.

You want to have an array of tools for different situations and times, and you'll adjust this as you learn about new tools and about what works for you. Here is a list of some ideas– a toolbox, if you will. Choose what works best for you and your brain:

  • Paper & Pen. Keep some paper in your briefcase or purse. Best to have a dedicated pad or a stack of 3×5 cards instead of writing on random things like receipts or envelopes, since those can get overlooked.
  • Moleskine or other notebook. Same method as paper & pen, only much nicer and a dedicated tool you'll keep track of more carefully. There is a whole cult around Moleskines, it's a beautiful thing!
  • Phone. There are so many ways your phone can capture information. You can call someone like an assistant to tell him or her. You can call yourself and leave a voice mail message. If you have a smartphone, you can use apps for voice recordings and type things directly into your calendar or e-mail yourself.
  • Jott. When I am driving, I like using Jott with my phone so I can capture thoughts and ideas on the run. Jott transcribes my message and sends me an e-mail with the voice recording available along with the written content of what I said. Friends of mine also like using ReQall.
  • Calendar & Task List. Be direct– whether you use a Blackberry, Outlook, or a paper planner, write or type things directly into your calendar or task list instead of transferring them in there later.
  • E-mail. If possible, have someone e-mail you the information for later if you cannot take notes yourself while meeting or talking.
  • Camera. Your digital camera or camera phone is a great way to quickly grab information. I often take photos of things like the parking lot sign where I have parked my car, so I can remember what section I parked in. I have also taken photos of recipes I found in a waiting room magazine, since I could not rip the pages out.
  • Printed Material. Grab the brochure or the handout that is provided at a meeting and use it to prompt you to enter pieces of that information in your system later.
  • Object Reminders. If you really must use your short-term memory to capture some information, you can use an object to help you remember that you are remembering. Sometimes I keep something in my mind and move my wedding ring to a different finger so I will remember to capture it in a more permanent way as soon as possible.
  • Evernote. I love Evernote– it's like my second brain. It's an application on your desktop, the web, and your smartphone that synchronizes between them. You grab little bits & pieces of information that you're not sure what else to do with and stick them in there in "notes." You can tag your notes with keywords for searching later, and if you got the info from the web, it saves the URL of the site where you grabbed the information. I have so much random stuff in there that I may not ever use, but I can always find it if I ever need it, and I often do!  

There are many more ways to capture information, and I would love to hear your favorites in the comments! The idea is that you have your own toolbox of capturing methods that work for you, to make sure information does not get lost. The next step is to COMMIT to what you're going to do with that information, and that will be next Friday's post!

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Kay Odell

Really enjoyed this post Lorie! I love the concept of CAPTURE — and the methods you choose to capture being easy to use and readily available. The random todo, info, question, or idea that pops into your mind and that has been ‘captured’ gives us great peace of mind and frees us to focus on daily tasks better. Great list of ‘capture’ methods and I’ll be reading next Friday!
(I’m ready to explore Evernote.)
Kay Odell
Only Write It Once.


I never thought of using my cell phone to locate my car! What a great idea. And to grab recipes too- never thought of that either. I feel more productive already. 😉


Great post Lorie. Thanks for giving us direction! You are much appreciated and I’m looking forward to following your posts on time management.

Mary Dean

Love it, Lorie! Glad to know others use their camera phone to remember stuff. For frequent travelers, it can also be used to take a picture of your hotel room number. It’s saved me many times during those “it’s-Tuesday-this-must-be-Phoenix”kind of weeks.

David Pierce

Love this post. Evernote’s a tool I use about 1,000 times a day, and I’ve even found that using an object to remember to remember works great. Except that occasionally, I just remember that I need to remember something. Then it’s a terrible spiral…

Connie Allen

Exellent ideas that I’m going to use!
My biggest challenge is organizing all these random bits into an organized structure I can use. All the ideas I have and collect become overwhelming. I want to create organized focus! Any suggestions?
Thanks much!


I use evernote extensively to capture almost everything (which is how I found this site btw), but to collect and organize tasks and create a to-do list I use Remember The Milk ( The site is free and extremely useful once you spend a couple hours getting used to it (costs $25 a year if you want the app on your smartphone though), I can’t imagine going a day without it.

Declutter Day Tips

Carrying around a little audio recorder and recording your thoughts is a great way for getting organized and managing otherwise idle time on the run. It’s useful for those in between moments when you are out and about attending meetings during the day.


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