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Following on from last week’s post, I’ve done a lot of reading. I’ve been reading Leo Babauta’s book, Zen To Done.  I’ve been skimming back over David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. The conclusion I came to last week is that in order for my organisation system to stick, I need to build solid habits. In order to do that, I can’t just jump straight into a full new system, where everything is new.

good habits vs bad habits

The general consensus is to build 1-2 habits at a time in order for them to stick.

It’s overwhelming and it’s too hard to focus on your habit changes if you do too many at a time. Instead, focus on one at a time, and adopt the system in phases. – Leo Babauta, Zen To Done


That’s the big question! I think the first thing that needs to be done is to clear the decks. That will be one of the biggest stress relievers. Get everything out of my head and onto paper. It doesn’t have to be sorted for now. If it’s not sorted and organised in my head, it’s going to be in no worse a state if its in a big list on a piece of paper.

This will be a chance to organise all my inboxes and make sure they stay clear. A chance to get my thoughts out onto paper and keep my mind free for concentrating on the job at hand, rather than worrying about trying to remember what it is that I need to remember. Now I’ve written it down like that, it sounds crazy that that is what the majority of us do, we use our brains to try and remember what it is that we need to remember.

We use our brains to try and remember what it is that we need to remember.


I’ve already covered how my life is pretty much split into two, between work and my personal life.  Both will require separate systems unfortunately. But in a way, that is a good thing. It means I can experiment on which methods work best more easily. Split-testing if you like.

For ease, I’m going to start off concentrating on my work system. Initially, I think I will get the most benefit from that. It is also possibly the easiest to organise. I have limited constraints on what I can and can’t use (pretty much limited to paper/pen, MS Office programs or plain text). There are also only limited areas that I go – around the office building and customer sites.

So, as I need to be able to carry my capture system with me wherever I go, I am going to try the pen and paper approach. I will set up a notebook and jot everything down in it that comes my way.

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I have set up a legend so that when I am inputting notes in, I can see at a glance, whether it is an action, an idea or a general note:

* = Action / to-do, ** = Urgent action, i = information, ? = idea / question, w = waiting for

Again, this is something that I will evaluate over time. I will document how well this works as I am going along.


The other part of my kick off will be to assess my current inboxes. These are any source that I receive my information from. So, a quick assessment of my current situation:

  •  E-mail
  •  Telephone (I don’t have voicemail)
  • Face-to-face meetings
  •  Post
  •  Memos

These should be pretty simple to combine, by using the notebook:

So now I am essentially down to 2 inboxes to process:

  •  Notebook
  •  E-mail


One of the problems with only taking on one habit at a time and by doing the collection process first, is that I am worried I will let my notebook overflow with information. When it comes time to take on the second habit of processing, it will be a mammoth task that I will procrastinate over. For that reason, I need to do at least some minimal processing.

For ease of future manipulation, I will simply carry any actions from my e-mail into my notebook, so that all my notes are together. That will buy me a reasonable amount of time to address how and where I should store my action and project list going forward, whilst still keeping items in a semi-organised state.

Each day I will set aside some time to process my inbox, rather than checking it adhoc and get actions into my “system”. I will note down any obstacles I encounter and they can be addressed in future posts.

However, my key focus for now is going to be on building my collection and clearing habits. Next week I will discuss how I intend to build these habits using tried and tested methods.