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Collecting: The First Step of the Process

This the first of a five-day series on the Getting Things Done method of managing your life as a college student. The first step to managing a complicated life is to collect everything that is currently hijacking your attention. Whenever there is something in your head that you remember that you “should” or “ought to” do, it is an open loop that will constantly bug you until you get it done. There is usually an inverse relationship between how many things you are stressing about needing to do, and how many things you are actually accomplishing. It is usually not that you need more time, but that you just need to take the first step. Here is the basic outline to the process of collecting.
Set aside some time to collect all of the stuff rattling around in your head. I like to affectionately call this a mind dump. Get a trusty notebook or text document on your computer, and just list everything that you need to be thinking about.
Stuff, in this context, defines any sort of information that might require you to do something. This includes everything from errands (“return library books”), to upcoming deadlines (“study for next week’s quiz”), to random ideas (“look into starting a campus band”). Make no distinction between work and personal life. Stuff is stuff…it has to get out of your head.
This list will be overwhelming, but resist the urge to start categorizing or accomplishing things. Once you are certain that you have gotten everything dumped out, close the notebook and wait a few minutes. More things will come to you.

When new “stuff” enters your world you need to immediately place it in a “bin“.

Typically a student will have three “bins”, a folder, an email inbox, and a notebook (digital or physical).

  • If it’s an email, leave it in your inbox,
  • if it’s a piece of paper, put it in a folder,
  • if it’s a thought or verbal assignment, write it down in a phone, laptop file, or a notebook

Tomorrow, we will talk about the process of organizing this “stuff” into something that you can actually use.

Happy organizing!

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