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Mar 15 2007

The “Stuff” Collection Day – Getting Things Done Chapter 5

My Collected InboxWell, today was the collection day. For those of you have have not read or are not familiar with the Getting Things Done methodology from David Allen, the collection day is where you collect all of your “stuff” into your inbox. This is a different task for everybody but I would like to explain how this was for me.

I now work from home in my home office. This is a 10ft x 10ft room with a desk, cupboard and bookcase done out in a very Ikea fashion. About six months of “stuff” has collected in the various drawers and shelves in my study, so today was the day to collect all of this into my inbox.

In preparation, I purchased two 80 liter storage crates that I would use as my oversized inbox. Armed with these I set about clearing and collecting my stuff.

For this collection task, I tried to stick to the guidelines in Chapter 5 of the Getting Things Done Book. I was very tempted to go my own way with this but as I had allocated the time, I thought that I may as well follow the guidelines in the book and do it as it should be done.


There are two forms of gathering and collecting that have do be done at this stage. The first is physical gathering where you collect all of your physical stuff and either throw it in the trash, or put it in your inbox. These are physical items that do not belong where they are. So, if you have a bookcase with books in that belong there, these do not require collecting. However, if you bookcase is a technical reference and you have a book in there which you just stuffed in one day you should really remove the book and put it in your inbox for processing in the next stage.

The next form of gathering is mental gathering. This is where you perform a mind sweep of all your open loops that are lodged somewhere within your head. A trigger list is provided in the book that contains various trigger items, aimed to get you thinking and to jog your memory about incomplete and unrecorded tasks.

I started on the physical gathering with my desk. I cleared the top of my desk, most items straight into the inbox. I then started on my drawers. These had become dumping grounds for old CDs and other items that I had just stuffed in over time.. Phew, I then did my cabinet and trimmed my bookcase. 160 liters of storage, and they were overflowing!

The next phase was the mental gathering. I really wanted to write a list on my Mac and not use a sheet of paper per item. However, I resisted this temptation and started cutting A4 pieces of paper into half as I really did think a whole sheet of A4 was too big for this process.

I started by going through items in my head, and they used the trigger list provided in the book to further refine my items. At the moment, I have quite a few projects on the go. I decided to write just the project name on separate pieces of paper and then do full project planning, using the natural planning method of course. I ended up with 74 pieces of paper with items ranging from gardening jobs, to people I had to call and catch up with. Had I recorded all my open loops, probably not, but this is the start of the process.

I have been using the Hipster PDA for a few weeks now along with a Merlin Mann recommended space pen. I knew that it is of utmost importance that I carry these everywhere now to continue this recording process that I had kicked off, and true to form, my first journey out of the house recorded another 6 items.

Do I feel any better? Well, yes. I feel excited at starting this project and also happy that I have recorded a lot of my Open Loops onto paper.

Phew, my office is now a bomb site! I have a large task ahead of me, that is the processing that is covered in chapter 6 of the Getting Things Done book.

I better had make a start!

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  1. tj said on April 3rd, 2007 at 10:47 am

    i’m about 2 chapters from finishing this book and already trying to carve some time out of my schedule to do this daunting task. i work in an office and almost need to go in on a weekend so as not to be disturbed. but i’m not sure when that’ll happen. :-(

    thanks so much for sharing your experiences!

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