February Habit: Write It Down, Right Away

posted in: extra 4

And now it’s February.

For this year I’ve adopted a “habit plan” where I choose 1 habit each in 3 areas per month to work on, so I can gradually work back up to full steam after my last pregnancy and baby (who is now 3 months old). Several of these were habits I’ve either had before or tried before, and I am trying to keep them small and simple.

In January I focused on making my bed, reading my Bible, and drinking 100 ounces of water a day. I was more successful than not, and, thrillingly, I actually made my bed every single day all month without fail! I’ve tried multiple times in the past to instill that habit, and suddenly, this time, it took!

In February now I will be building 3 more habits. January’s will continue (otherwise they wouldn’t be habits), and to them I will add

  1. Organization Habit: ubiquitous capture
  2. Mothering Habit: smiling with eye contact
  3. Health Habit: consciously plating all my food

Ubiquitous capture is a term from David Allen’s Getting Things Done that basically means you should always have a way to write down, right away, any information you need to have rather than assuming you’ll remember it or remember to write it down later.

So, this habit has a couple logistical contingencies I’ve had to work out. First, to know what I need to write down and where I need to write it, I had to have my planning system set up. Second, I had to have a way to write down what I need – in David Allen’s terms, I need a “capture tool” – and I have to have a way to keep it at hand. Third, I have to actually pull it out and write down events, items needed at the store, or whatever else it is, right away.

ubiquitous capture

1. Step 1: Planning systems ready to go.

Getting my book about the process of setting up a paperless system published was the catalyst for finally cleaning up my own system. I’ve been using Remember the Milk for at least four or five years and Evernote for one year, and as I was writing I cleaned up and tidied my own accounts. So now that they’re ready to go and neat and tidy, they actually aren’t going to do me any good unless I look at them and use them. This habit is the first step I’m taking toward using my organization to keep me organized instead of my typical cycle of organizing for the sake of “being organized” and then still winging it in the day-to-day bustle.

2. Step 2: Having a capture tool at hand.

I have two tools: my Macbook Air & my iPod Touch (my smartphone substitute). For most data entry while I’m at home, I can hop over to my laptop and quickly get a note down. It is usually close at hand, it comes out of sleep quickly, and I keep my browser and Evernote always open. Still, I’d like to make it more of a habit to keep my iPod with me, since it is my mobile unit. If I have it with me, I can check my to-do list, calendar, or day’s notes while nursing, while transitioning between lessons, and other such small breaks in the day. If I keep it with me, I also have audio books, Kindle books (with the app), classical music I can turn onto the house speakers, and library audiobooks and ebooks. So, it’s nice to have around and it’s annoying to have to go scrounging for where I last left it.

Right now it is jeans season. Of course, I live in a part of the country where it is always jeans season and jeans are casual as well as “almost-semi-formal.” In New York they wear black (so I hear), and in the Northwest we where jeans. And, now that I’m out of maternity clothes, my jeans do have pockets once again! However, once the weather warms up I become more of a skirt person, and 3/4 of my skirts (those that are not jean-skirts) do not have pockets. Must I restrict myself to wearing only clothes with pockets? I certainly don’t need the extra width on my hips. I can’t go that far. So here is my plan:

  1. When wearing jeans or denim skirt, keep it in my right front pocket.
  2. When wearing clothes without pockets, around the house wear either a waitress apron or a runner’s pack (a slimmer fanny pack) as pocket replacements.
  3. When going out in clothes without pockets (including to church), keep it in the front pocket of my purse (not in the jumble inside the main compartment!), which stays with me (particularly since I now require the stash of spit rags my purse contains).

Step 3: Just doing it.

  • If an event or plan is mentioned, put it on the calendar right then.
  • If I pull out the last bag of flour, add it to the grocery list immediately.
  • If I say I’ll bring something to someplace, make that note.
  • If I realize I need to do this or that, get it into Remember the Milk right away.

My personal ability to keep any information or reminders in my head has been practically nil the last few years, so I’ll be following the advice in Getting Things Done:

These collection tools should become part of your lifestyle. Keep them close by so no matter where you are you can collect a potentially valuable thought — think of them as being as indispensable as your toothbrush or your driver’s license or your glasses.

4 Responses

  1. Meredith_in_Aus
    | Reply

    Well done for making the bed every day! That was a habit I developed some time after we married, too. It really does make a difference to the way the day begins and how much tidier your bedroom looks.

    I think I’ve told you about how I keep my ipod in my bumbag? I think my habit this month should be to put it on first thing in the morning and I also need to work out a habit of where to put the bumbag when I go out (and put my ipod in my handbag) and where to keep it at night so I remember to put it on first thing in the morning. All that is a bit hit and miss at the moment and doesn’t facilitate ‘ubiquitous capture’ (tee hee).

    That bumbag has been so great during our school time, too! No longer am I totally frustrated by the child who cannot find his eraser or whose pencil needs sharpening (but, of course, that is nowhere to be found in his pencilcase…). It’s all there in my bumbag. Yay!

    The other thing I did with my calendar (after reading your e-book and trying for the ubiquitous thing and the trustworthy calendar thing) was to add a new tag called ‘pencilled in’ to my Pocket Informant. I made it the same colour as my ‘appointment’ tag, just a little more muted and added this cute little ? graphic to it. So now, when I go through my daughter’s dance calendar, for example, I can put all the dates in and distinguish between which ones are set in concrete and which are more subject to change. Of course, when something becomes concrete (like she definitely qualifies for the state championships), I would change the tag over to the ‘appointment’ tag.

    Thanks for all your bloggy work. It’s really appreciated.

    In Him,

    PS – love the picture: very arty/stylish.

  2. Mystie Winckler
    | Reply

    Thanks, Meredith! I love the “pencilled in” idea — I’ll have to figure out a way to do that with Google Calendar. :) Yes, it was you mentioning your bumbag that got me looking at them! It would fit a correcting pencil and extra eraser in it, too, but not my phone. I think I’d like to start wearing my half-apron (it’s a cute one) during schooltime to keep supplies literally “on me,” but right now with the baby and nursing it’s a bit too annoying.

    I use my iPod as my alarm also, and low flashlight if I need it when I am up with the baby, so I keep it on my bedside table at night.

    • Meredith_in_Aus
      | Reply

      Yeah, the nursing thing with too much hanging off you is a real pain! Much better to travel light and just enjoy the baby snuggles.

      I plan to set up some sort of charging station on my bedside table (nightstand) in our new house. Do you have yours in anything special or just sat on top? I keep pinning all these groovy charging stations, but have yet to find the “perfect” one. I will give up eventually. After all (giving myself some therapy here), I can always replace whatever I have been getting by with if I ever stumble upon the perfect one, can’t I?

      In Him,


  3. Heather
    | Reply

    I started implementing GTD a few weeks ago. I’m doing it very slowly because baby #5 is due in 2 months and I have other projects that take precedence. But I’m finding that for me, ubiquitous capture is the absolute key to all of this. I’ve always been a list maker, but getting everything that’s in my head onto my lists has been very stress-reducing!

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