The very first step of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” is Capture, grabbing items that are pertinent to you, whether they’re emails, articles, new ideas. The purpose of Capture is the curate the deluge of information coming your way at any given time and separate it into doable “boxes.”
Next you make a decision on its “actionability.” Is it doable now? Is it urgent? You’re sorting through your digital inbox determining the temporal worth of everything you’ve captured.
Finally, there’s organize, where you place all the items into their appropriate spots. You’ve probably heard the rule “if you can do a thing in two minutes, just do it.” That’s the best rule from the whole system, I think. In fact, I just crossed something off my long-term to-do list this morning because it only took a few minutes. Great advice. Good job me! Or you can delegate work to someone else, which for me, doesn’t work, because I’m it. Solomente. Hitoride. Alone.
Here’s where monkey hits the wrench for me. I’m great at capturing items. Whether I use apps like Raindrop or Pocket or Instapaper or Google Keep (and I’ve used them all), I’m awesome at collecting Tweets and articles from Feedly and various tidbits of interest from all over the Internet and social media. I’m a practiced hoarder.
I tend to skip the Clarify part, skipping straight to organization and dutifully, once a week or so, adding tags and moving into folders, in general (as I list it on my to-do list) processing the information I’ve collected over the course of the week. I can organize like no one’s business.
Which is the appropriate idiom because all those articles and ideas that get organized, stay unread, unused, underappreciated, underground for all that it matters to my research, writing, of life in general. With each realization of failure to consume the information I want and with a steadily increasing pile of digital texst waiting for me to read, I would empty the particular app I was using of its collection, blame the app’s shortcomings for my own, and then switch to an entirely new system that will surely work with my style and this is just the thing I needed.
Two months later…
So as with all things, when you realize the issue isn’t the software, or the marriage, or the job, or the presidency – but YOU. You are the thing that makes it all broken and bad, then its time to fess up and change the one thing you can change. You.
Or me, in this case. You are perfect. I’m in progress.
I stopped collecting. For the last month, I’ve stopped collecting and curating like I used to. I have some bookmarks on Twitter, but only a few and I know they’re all teaching related. Occasionally I add something to my GQueues To-Do list, but only with a date and time so I can take care of it quickly.
Now, when I see an article that I think would benefit me, my research, or my students, I just read it. Honestly, that’s it. I just stop and read the article.
I mean, it doesn’t take that long. I’ve read this investigative work by the Orlando Sentinel called “Laborland” about the plight of theme park workers. That was on the tail end of reading the Washington Post article about families living in motels in Kissimmee. I’d seen a tweet from a reporter at the Sentinel that highlighted their own work in light of the Post’s reporting. Both were worth my time, and yours.
Recently, I read this piece from Edgar Gomez on Narratively about the subculture of “Gays with Guns” in the aftermath of Pulse and the rise of homophobic and trans violence. It’s a terrific piece of experiential reporting and left me with mixed feelings about how we feel and deal with threats differently.
A friend linked to an article via social media, so I took the time to read “This Isn’t What We Meant By Hybrid Learning” at We Are Teachers and instead of just getting mad at the headline, I was able to have my anger be more informed, nuanced. An unending ember instead of a quick flame.
And I think that’s the ultimate result from forgoing collection: I’ve slowed down. Taken the time to read more fully when it comes to current issues. I’m a bit less inclined to “react and move on.” Even in Twitter, even with this tweet, I read the thread first before commenting:
Ultimately, wide-forehead aside, I feel less cluttered mentally, less inclined to switch on and off, and more receptive to diving into articles in the same way I would research. I think giving up Collecting will ultimately improve my comprehension and retention when I’m close reading and give me the clarity to assign urgency to what matters, not just what’s loudest.