In this segment of “The Whys of Productivity”, we will be looking at the gathering or collecting of information into its proper place.
What Is Gathering?
The secret to any organizational system is that like items should be stored together, be it by type or by purpose. But in order to see what needs to be organized, you have to know what you have. Gathering is simply a fancy way of getting information into one place so it can put stored together.
How Does Gathering Fit Into The Systems?
Organization is at the root of every productivity system. You can’t work at your most effective if you can’t find things, or spend time in the fruitless activities disorganization breeds.
Every system has you put things together. In the case of the “buy the planner” system, for example, you are given an instruction book that will tell you to explicitly enter all your phone numbers into the address book section. GTD has you pull all “open loops” into an area for processing. Do It Tomorrow refers to backlogs. 7 Habits does a subtler form of gathering when it has you think about your roles and goals.
Gathering allows us to recognize and categorize things we have going on in life.
Gathering Gives Us An Idea of What We Have Outstanding
Gathering will allow us to pull together piles of stuff and information to see what all we have. For example, you might find that you have a stack of old magazines that you keep meaning to get to…that are now three years out of date. You might find you have four different places for storing phone numbers.
I found that gathering allowed me to purge many duplicate items from my life, as well as figure out that what I had going on wasn’t as much as I had feared.
Gathering Ties Up Loose Ends
As you are sorting and categorizing information, you might find that some things are close to being done. For example, I ran across something that had been on my radar for months: finishing a craft project. When I came to look at it, I found that all I really had to do to check it off was to sew a button on and deliver it. Both of which took less than 10 minutes, and got it off my mind.
David Allen calls
Gets Us Thinking About What We Might Like to Do
When we gather up our ideas of things we might like to do, we think about our future and where we would like to be. This can be done very formally, as in the 7 Habits model, or informally, as in GTD’s Someday/Maybe lists.
Writing down things we might want to do, or have decided to do later, can solidify these ideas, particularly if gathered in one place for regular review.
Gathering Helps Us Keep Up To Date
As we perform gathering regularly, we will see things coming that are due, as well as things that just need a few finishing touches. It can also allow us to release things that are no longer useful to us: it does no good to hang onto baby clothes when the last child is five.
Organization is at the root of every productivity system, and in order to organize, you need to gather things together.
Photo by S.C. Asher