Mobile Phone as GTD InboxI have a thing for hi-tech gadgets. Over the years I have owned and used many desktop computers, laptops, PDAs, mobile phones and so on. A few years ago I was still convinced that my whole life could be organized with a single digital device (e.g. PDA). Even before discovering GTD, I already decided this was not going to work and I made a substantial -not radical- change towards analog tools. You may remember them: pen, pencil, paper? I’m sure you remember that I have been using a hybrid GTD system ever since; it still has a digital heart (Excel) but everything else is analog (Moleskine pocket diary, PocketMods, pen, tickler, archive).

Of course I still use computers daily, but my PDA is quickly gathering dust in the corner of my office. One digital device has remained constant in my life though: the mobile phone. Actually, it has become a seamless part of my GTD system… as a mobile GTD inbox!

Using your mobile phone as a mobile GTD inbox

If you’re anything like me, you probably carry your mobile phone with you all the time also. If you’re anything like me, you probably use less than 10% of your mobile phone’s functionality. I make a habit of learning about every nook and cranny of every (digital) tool I use (yes, I even read manuals), and then selectively using the functionality I really need.

As part of my GTD system, I always carry a pen and my two PocketMods. These already make for a great mobile GTD inbox. I jot down notes, add projects or next actions, and so on. But sometimes I need something more than pen and paper to capture “stuff”, especially when I’m driving my car. This is where my mobile phone comes in. I’m using a Nokia 6230i at the moment, but I guess any modern mobile phone will do.

I realized that I use my mobile phone as a mobile GTD inbox very frequently. Let me give you some examples of how I use it as a device for capturing “stuff”.

Digital pictures or movies
- Imagine me visiting a client and they start drawing and writing on a whiteboard or something like that. Instead of trying to capture this on paper, I simply take a digital picture with my mobile phone once they’re done!
- Recently I have been involved in a car accident. I was very glad I could take some pictures with my phone (think: insurance company).
- My son, who is almost 4 years old, recently rode his little bike without any help. I was able to capture this moment by making a small digital movie with my mobile phone.
- Sometimes I receive (or send!) important papers. A quick way to make a “copy” of these or any other physical object (for your archive) is to take a quick digital picture.

Of course, I don’t use my mobile phone as a replacement for real digital (video) cameras. I just don’t happen to carry my digital (video) camera with me every single day! ;)
After capturing “stuff” like this, I typically store these items digitally, or print them and then store them in my analog reference system, client file, or tickler.

Digital sound recordings
- After a phone call (friend, colleague, client) I use the voicememo function of my mobile phone to make a quick summary of the conversation (important information, appointments, tasks, etc.) This is especially useful when you are driving your car for obvious reasons.
- I also use the voicememo function frequently to record quick notes or thoughts when I’m out and about.
- Another novel use for the voicememo function is to record important voicemail messages that you may need later. I dial the voicemail service and record this “conversation” to create a permanent digital copy of some voicemail messages I receive.
- You could theoretically record entire phone conversations in a similar way. This is not recommended for legal reasons and also because you probably wind up with long recordings of “useless” information.
- Sometimes I record (parts of) interesting seminars or workshops I attend.

I use pen and paper whenever I can to make quick notes, but obviously I prefer using the voicememo function of my mobile phone when I am driving my car. To really “finish” a phone call (especially with my clients) I find it highly useful to record a quick summary of the conversation as described above. Then I can safely move on to another phone call for instance, without worrying about forgetting something important from the previous phone call. Again, voicememos may be stored digitally, but more frequently I transcribe them back at the office. That way they become an integral part of my normal GTD flow.

Other uses
As part of my productivity routine, I tend to get up really early in the morning. My mobile phone serves as a great alarm clock, especially when I’m sleeping in a hotel. Not really part of my GTD system but useful anyway: I also use the mobile phone for basic contact information and an occasional text message.

I started this article telling you how I stopped using my PDA as a single digital device to organize my entire life. That’s why I don’t use my mobile phone for text notes, calendar, to-do lists, e-mail, web browsing, instant messaging, synchronization, etc.

The whole point is to use useful functionality of your mobile phone -that pen and paper cannot easily provide- to act as a mobile GTD inbox. Remember that inboxes need to be emptied and “stuff” from them needs to be processed and organized… frequently. In other words, don’t use the mobile phone (or any other tool) simply because you can, but because it supports and extends your GTD system in a useful and effective way!

Feel free to let me know how you have incorporated your mobile phone into your GTD system!