Systems & Tips

Why I Don’t Use My iPhone as a Capture Device

After seeing the benefits of a capture device and thinking of a strategy to use it, people sometimes still struggle with using capture tools regularly.

I think this issue stems from choosing the wrong capture device, because not all devices are created equally. Deciding which one to use in the first place is something that we must think about in order to make the best use of our strategy.

For many, it seems like a no-brainer to use your smartphone. You always have it with you and it’s so powerful, why would you use anything else? But I believe using a smartphone as a capture tool is a mistake for most people.


The most important thing about a capture device is to choose one you will actually use. And the one you will use is the one that offers you the least amount of resistance.

The easier and more convenient a device is to use, the more likely you are to take it out whenever the tiniest of ideas strikes. If there’s any resistance, you’ll fall back into the “surely I won’t forget this” pattern, and then why have the device with you at all?

Social Convenience

Some advocate capturing thoughts by using their smartphone as a voice recorder, using apps such as Dragon Dictation to transcribe their recordings. I can’t imagine that working for me.

Maybe it’s self-consciousness, but I’m just not the type of person who would take out my iPhone and start dictating a memo when a thought strikes me in the store checkout line. I’ve had thoughts come to me in meetings or even when listening to lessons or sermons when recording a memo to yourself isn’t appropriate.


If you’re not going to record a voice note with your smart phone, what about typing one in manually?

That’s too slow.

One of the factors in resistance is speed. Most people don’t think about it, but it’s crucial. The quicker you can capture an idea and get back to what you’re doing, the more likely you are to record the note.

As I’ll explain in my next post, I can take out a notepad and pen in a fraction of the time it takes me to type in a note on my iPhone. That just makes me more inclined to use my capture device instead of hoping I remember the idea until a more convenient time.

In the Camp and in the Field

Some people will point out that speed isn’t just about capturing the note but also about processing the note. It may take you longer to enter a note on the front-end with an iPhone, but the note becomes easily plugged in to the rest of your system. This uses less time overall than capturing thoughts on a notepad and then entering the notes later into your lists.

But this isn’t the right way to look at it. No one experiences resistance because they think “Oh man, this note is going to take me 20 seconds to process when I get home.” No, people experience resistance because of the time it will take them at that current moment to capture the thought.

It’s like a fire department that spends hours organizing hoses so that they can save a few seconds when deploying them in a fire. The firefighters aren’t concerned about how much time overall they spend on arranging hoses – in fact, they’d spend much less total time if they just threw the hoses carelessly into the truck and took them out haphazardly on the scene of a fire.

But all of their time isn’t equal. Seconds matter more in the field than they do in the camp.

The same is true with capture devices. As long as I can get my speed of capture low, then I don’t mind spending a few extra seconds processing the notes on the back-end. In the field, I’ve got a lot going on, and I can’t slow down to capture a thought. In the camp, I’m processing my notes in bulk and have time to think.

Being fast in the field leads to less resistance, which leads to actually using my capture device more.


The smaller and more portable a device is, the more places I’ll carry it and the more often I’ll have it on hand when I need to capture something. There are also other portability factors such as how something will hold up to wear and tear as you carry it around, whether a pen will leak ink into your pocket, or battery life for a smart phone.

This is one thing that smartphones have going for them, especially considering that those with smartphones will be carrying them around anyway. But I still opt for a notepad and pen.

I can’t stand bulky things in my pockets, so I’ve tried a few variations of notepads and pens for capture. I’ll give my recommendations in my next post.

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