Life Lesson: Have a “Capture Device”

During our initial inbrief at IBOLC, the battalion commander read off a list of ten things (I think it was ten) that would help us to be successful officers in the Army. Some of them were pretty basic, like be in good physical shape and try to get enough sleep. I dutifully copied down the notes, but became particularly interested when he said “Number 8, always have a ‘capture device.'”

I straightened up and craned my neck to listen.

Around the time I was getting out of the Army in 2006 and starting college, I became super-interested in all things “productivity.” I read all the blogs and articles and theories. I created my own monster of a “getting things done” system that I still follow and tweak today (a post for another time).

So when he mentioned something that sounded like it might fall into that realm, I found myself listening intently.

He went on to talk about how good ideas often present themselves at random and inopportune times, and without a “capture device” they will simply disappear.

A capture device can be anything, from a simple pen and pad to an App on your iPhone (I use Things, and to a lesser degree, Evernote).

It is some of the best advice I ever heard, and my feeling is that it was lost on most the young Lieutenants sitting in the room.

Did you ever notice that you’ll often have fantastic ideas while in the shower or during exercise? There’s a bunch of scientific reasons why that happens. When Don Draper is stumped on an idea, he goes to the movies and lets his brain rest. By the time he leaves, the idea is there waiting for him.

Only in real life, if you don’t have a place to “capture” that idea, you’ll find yourself stopping in your tracks hours later, staring at the floor with an outstretched index finger and scrunched face, trying to remember what it was you wanted to do.

When I get an idea for work, social life, a gift, this blog – anything – I will stop what I’m doing and go to my “capture device,” in this case, my iPhone, and capture it quickly, usually in just a couple of words, and then revisit it later. The idea for this blog post came after I got an idea for another blog post and went to my phone, realizing that it would also be interesting to write about that in the first place!

Those “good ideas” only last a few moments before I forget them, usually because I’m caught up in something I’m enjoying, like watching a movie or exercising. Without capturing them, I am essentially letting them pass, hoping they’ll return at a later time when I’m not so engaged – unlikely, says science.

Over time, I’ve collected lots of great ideas for ‘things,’ most of which amount to nothing, or sit on an ever-growing list of things that I may one day do. Others, though, have been fantastic and lead me down paths or allowed me to do things that I never thought I would do. That is why I almost always have my iPhone with me.

It is my capture device.


9 thoughts on “Life Lesson: Have a “Capture Device”

  1. Fleep Tuque

    Hah! When I first read the title of this post, I thought “capture device” meant something like.. I don’t know, handcuffs or restraints, as in capturing people, not thoughts! As for my capture device, I recently got an Android Smartwatch and my favorite feature so far is a super quick, super simple record voice memo button that automatically emails me the recording. It’s the most convenient “capture device” I’ve used yet!


  2. claywatkins

    Great idea – I often get ideas while driving to school (I’m a teacher) and forget them quickly – great advice. This morning I was skimming emails and caught your post – what were the other 7? Would love to know – good physical shape, plenty of sleep, and a capture device.


  3. Just Plain Ol' Vic

    I find that the older I get, if I don’t write/record something down somewhere, then it is as good as lost. I really utilize specific productivity tools on my phone and tablet to insure I am always on top of things!


  4. Don Royster

    Great advice. I have had a “capture device” for years. Only I don’t call it that but that is a great name for it. It is a pen and notebook. I always carry a small notebook in my back pocket. Cause I never know when…


    1. Don Post author

      I used to to paper and pen – but since I carry my iPhone with me pretty much everywhere, I just use that. The only strange thing about it is when I pull it out to start taking down a note, it looks like I am texting. I usually will say “Let me get this down” as I pull out my phone so as not to offend whomever I’m speaking with.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. victoriadecapua

    I’m looking for a better iphone writing stylus. The dollar store one I have is too fat for it work with my handwriting recognition software. But for me that combines both worlds. I remember things better when I have a tactile reference, but I also store information and sync it with Evernote.


    1. Don Post author

      I’ve never been able to get into using a stylus on an iPhone. It’s awkward to do the typing thing with the virtual keyboard, but I’ve gotten use to it.


      1. victoriadecapua

        Yeah, I can type on it, but for short notes I can see the appeal of being able to scribble. Especially as that software turns the notes to text, and syncs with evernote. I think I’d be a little more enthusiastic about it if I had an ipad, but I don’t have any powerful desire to buy one.



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