Capture and sort

Welcome to part ten of how to find time to do the stuff you really love! This post is all about how to managing information. If you didn’t catch the other tips covered in this series so far, you can check them out here. When it comes to productivity, I’ve had to face the fact that handling information and research is part of the game. As far as information is concerned, capture and sort are two ends of a seesaw (or teeter-totter if you’re in the US). Too much of one or the other puts you out of balance. Here are some practical small steps to show you how to manage information overload. By the way, as email is such a crucial part of information overload, you might also like to check out blogger Michael Hyatt’s advice on handling your inbox, which I don’t cover here.

Capture and sort

So, tip number ten is:

10. Tip number ten is called ‘capture and sort’. By ‘capture’ I mean find a way of holding onto the relevant information you need to do the thing you really love to do. It might involve a digital or physical filing system, but it’s much more than that. By ‘sort’ I mean find a way to keep only what is relevant, useful or important to your project, to avoid drowning in paperwork or interesting, but ultimately unhelpful, online research.

Set up a system to capture information of different kinds

  1. The first step with ‘capture and sort’ is to make a list of the different kinds of information you need to capture. For instance, if you want to build your own house, you might want to capture: research, quotations, costs, budget, brochures etc.
  2. Take each of these categories and break it down. ‘Research’ might break down into types of research – internet searches, lists of useful websites, lists of books and magazines, site visits etc. Research also breaks down by the best way to capture the information: on a mood board, on pinterest, in Evernote, in a scrapbook, in box files, on a noticeboard, on a blog. Budget breaks down according to all of the major incomings and outgoings – which of course feed into your research.
  3. Set up a system using tools you like – don’t use a folder if you dislike the colour, for instance. Use the categories you came up with in 1 & 2 and pick the most appropriate way to capture the information.
  4. Crucially, don’t capture information you don’t need if you can help it. Decide on a 30 second evaluation rule – if you’re not sure, capture it anyway, but those 30 seconds will help you save time when it comes to sorting.
  5. Have the system accessible, so you can see it, and so it’s easy to use.
  6. Have a ‘bung it in’ box. Do this with a folder on your computer (or a notebook in Evernote) and using a box or basket near your work space. This is where you put everything you’re not sure what to do with. Once the ‘bung it in’ box fills up, go through it. It will show you if you need a new category in your system or a new way of capturing the information.

Set up your week so you have time to sort your information

  1. Decide how much time to devote to the task. How important is it? How much information do you need to capture? Do you need half an hour a day or an hour a week?
  2. Use timetabling to schedule some sort out time.
  3. Be ruthless as you sort. Have your recycling bin handy.
  4. Use your to do list – and what blogger Michael Hyatt calls a ‘not to do‘ list – to guide you through the task. If you’ve decided not to do something, you don’t have to sift through information about it. Recycle / delete it. It works the other way too: as you sort the information you can add to both your to do list and your not to do list.
  5. Use the categories you’ve set up and the method of capturing the information to help you sort. From time to time, make sure they’re still working for you. Is there a category with no information captured? Do you still need it? Would a physical mood board or a scrapbook work better than pinterest? Is it time to get those quotations you’ve received out of the box file, or off your email and into a spreadsheet?

So there we have it: plan your time off, invest in your sleep, get some perspective time, try some proactive timetabling, automate like crazy, work out where the time is going to come from, reflect and review, organise your space, organise your tools, and finally: capture and sort.

Here’s a bonus tip for you! Tip number eleven.

Review all ten tips on how to find time to do the stuff you really love by clicking here.

Want more? Try these:

Small Steps Project Management 

Check out these great productivity resources.



Add Comment