Today we’re going to look at the Collect phase.

I’m not going to go into all the details of how you do it, this is going to be an overview. In future videos, that’s where we’ll dig into more detail.

So let’s jump on in and talk about how we collect things that are going on in our life and our work

I don’t know about you but I’ve got things coming at me from all directions. I’ve got emails coming in. I’ve got messages. I’ve got all these messaging apps. I’ve got people coming up to me and saying Garry can you do this. I’ve got my family.

Everything is a demand on your time. They’re coming from so many different sources it’s hard to know what you should be doing with any of them. Sometimes trying to keep track that’s exhausting let alone doing the work.

This is where we must talk about collecting everything and putting them into one central location.

This central location, what is it? To be honest that’s up to you. I use an app, but do you know what the best way of doing it is? It’s using sticky notes.

It’s simple, all you do is write a note and then let yourself know where you can go if you need some more information. By putting it on the sticky notes, I’ve collected it. By putting those sticky notes together in one place it’s collected in a central location.

That’s all they have to do. You don’t need any fancy apps, they can make it quite useful, as I say I use one myself. The key is you start doing it. You start making little notes so that you know where to go. Then what you do you get rid of that incoming item. You may put it into a folder, it’s out of my inbox. You might mark a message as read. Ideally, you would delete the messages. The problem is once you delete it then it’s gone, you can’t find it. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a folder option in a lot of these apps.

How often do you do this? Again this is very much up to you. It’s a personal choice. I want you to think back to 20 years ago if you’re old enough to think about 20 years. We used to only get mail delivered once a day by the mailman. You only had to check your meal once a day. Nowadays we’ve got emails coming in all the time. Most of us have got the little ding that comes when a new email arrives. We show the number in your email inbox so you can see that it’s stacking up. Is human nature you immediately want to go and answer that email.


Email generally isn’t urgent, if it’s urgent they’ll contact you another way. What I do is I check my email three times a day. I check it at the start of the day. I check it about lunchtime, and then I’ll check it towards the end of the day. Three times a day I’m looking at my inbox, processing it, and capturing it into that one central location. I then file it away and don’t think about it until I come back to look at that central location.

Messages can have a lot more urgency to them, so what I tend to do I’ll check my messages once an hour. I usually try to have a 45-minute working block when I’m doing stuff. In that 15 minutes when I’m down that’s when I would go and check my messages.

Think about how often you need to check them. You don’t need to constantly check everything. One of the biggest time wasters is frequently checking messages and emails. I’ll cover that in another video.

What other things do we need to be collecting as part of this Collect phase?

I’ve tried to capture collect items into three categories:

  • inboxes
  • commitments and
  • reviews


With the inboxes, we’ve already talked about emails. We’ve talked about messaging.

Your in-tray. These are pieces of paper that come to you. Quite often again someone hands you something and you look at it straight away. Don’t do that. Pop it in your in-tray.

Your desk. Stuff that’s laid around on your desk, could be a magazine, could be an article, could be anything.

Think about at home. Think about the various tables that you’ve got and you put stuff on it willy-nilly. Then when you try and find something you don’t know where it is.

Sticky notes. I’ve already told you how simple they are.

Notebooks. I keep a notebook with me at all times. If anything comes to me I can jot it down straight away. I could capture it straight into my app. I find that by the time I’ve taken the phone out of my pocket, opened the application, typed it in, that’s two minutes gone. I can jot it down in about 10 seconds, That’s why I always keep that notebook with me.

This is a small set of inboxes. Why don’t you stop now for a second and think and jot down the inboxes you have. Where are they? Jot them down onto a sticky note or into a notebook. Then spend a bit more time digging into them and start emptying them.


These are things that you’ve committed to doing. They could be promises you’ve made to other people so, often on the phone or an action item in a meeting.

Other commitments. I know is very vague, but it’s things like you might have a commitment. Maybe to go to the dentist or to go to the doctor. You might have a school commitment. All sorts of different commitments. If you’re not recording them into one single system you’ll spend too much time worrying about where they are. That takes away from being productive.


You must review what’s going on. Don’t assume because it’s in your system that it’s still valid. That you still have to do it.

You need to be constantly thinking about what can I be doing better.

Some other review items.

New ideas. Generally, I find I’m in bed and at three o’clock in the morning an idea pops into my head. I jot it down. It gets collected. Don’t try and keep it in your mind. What you’ll end up doing then you’ll lay awake for ages making sure you don’t forget it.

A mind sweep. This is a brilliant tool. Once a week sit down jot down anything that’s on your mind. Doesn’t matter how relevant it is, get it out of your head.

Action management. This is our single collection point. It’s our action management system. You have to regularly review it to make sure things are still valid. You know quite often I find I do a task but forget to tick it off. When I do my review that’s when I notice it so I can then get rid of it.

Review your calendar. We all look at what’s going to be happening today. This item includes looking at what happened last week. Did you promise something that you have not captured? By looking back over your calendar it often prompts you so you can then jot it down. What’s going to happen in the next week? Are there meetings you need to prepare for? Do you need to send a report? Do you need to read something? Looking at next week’s calendar means you can review it and come up with any necessary actions.

Teams. How many of you have got a team? How many work in a team? What things are team members doing that affect you? What are the things you’re waiting for? What are things that people are waiting for from you? Think about these. They are commitments aren’t they?

Your boss will be asking for things from you. Make sure you’re noting them down. You may be asking things from your boss. Make sure it’s noted down. Make sure you’re chasing it up regularly

What’s running low? This is more on consumables. Is your printer running low? Are your pen supplies or your notepads running low? If they are don’t wait until they’re exhausted, replace them early. One of the things I do is when I start using something I then buy its replacement straight away. I’ve always got a printer cartridge handy, I’ve always got a new notebook handy, I’ve always got pens handy.

Unless you think about it you’re not going to do it.

These are just a few.

Now you’ve identified your inboxes we need to go through the process of collecting them together. As I’ve said it’s simple. Start easy, start with sticky notes. One idea, one action per note. If you’re using a system or app when you’re collecting one item per entry.

Don’t combine things thinking “well I may do them all in one go.” If you’ve got three items, three entries.

Keep it simple as you go through the collect phase.

For each item, you need to be asking yourself three questions

Is this for me, do I need to do anything with it?

If it isn’t for you or you don’t need to do anything maybe it’s something you’ve been given for information. File it, move on.

If it is for you the next question

Can I delegate this?

Quite often we try and do everything ourselves. What you need to do is start thinking if someone else does this for you. It doesn’t need to be a person, It could be some kind of automation or some checklist. If it needs doing and you can delegate it then do so. Get it off your plate and onto somebody else’s.

When you delegate make sure you let the person know that you’re there to help and assist. Treat this as a learning experience for other people. The more they learn the more they can do for you. The less you have to do means you can then focus on the more important projects.

Can I do this in under five minutes?

Quite often you might see two minutes, I usually find five minutes is more of a better number.

The idea with this is if you can do something in under five minutes just do it. Get it out of the way. Don’t put it into your system. You’re going to have to do it at some stage.

You are wasting time if you capture quick actions into your central location instead of doing them.

You’re looking at something that’s going to be quick. It might take you 30 seconds to understand it and decide it’s going to take five minutes. Then you put it into your central location. You come to look at the items you’ve filed away. You spend that 30 seconds again looking at it and understanding it again only to find it takes you a minute to do. Rather than doing anything like that make it a general rule under five minutes just do it.

That’s three very simple questions. We don’t have to spend too much time thinking. We don’t have to spend too much time digging into nuances. We’re asking three questions to decide where it goes.

For this Collect phase we’re not trying to think too deeply. We’re making these quick decisions:

  • is it for me?
  • can I delegate it?
  • can I do it in under five minutes?

What we’ve covered here is an easy and simple method to collect everything into one central location. Once it’s into that central location we then move from thinking to planning and action.

I’ve already asked you to list out your inboxes, if you haven’t done that please make a list of inboxes. The only way to do this is to start doing it. Don’t say “I’m going to do it tomorrow,” because if you do that you’ll never start. Sit down now. Spend two minutes. It doesn’t take long to go through and create that list of inboxes. Then go through each of those inboxes and take every item look at it ask the questions:

  • is it for me?
  • can I delegate it?
  • can I do it in under five minutes?