Have you ever said to yourself, “I have to remember to do such and such” but then forget to do such and such? If you’re like me, the older you get, the harder it is to remember things. I recently read the book Getting Organized in the Google Era which states that our brains can only hold five to nine items in short-term memory at one time. As soon as we try to add a tenth item, something will fall out of short term memory. Whether it’s remembering to pick up milk on the way home, mom at the airport, or clothes at the dry cleaner, trying to remember everything will ultimately lead to something or someone being forgotten.
My solution is to write things down – I mean everything. Whether it’s buying someone a birthday gift, making a particular phone call, or filing paperwork, everything I need to do goes on my calendar or on a master to-do list. If I know exactly when I’m going to do it, it goes directly onto my calendar. If I don’t know when I’ll do it, it goes on my master to-do list. I review this master to-do list weekly and transfer relevant items to my calendar. My master to-do list isn’t just a random piece of paper with miscellaneous thoughts scribbled on it – it’s a document I keep in the front of my planner (yes, I use a paper planner because it works best for me) which lists the tasks that I want to do in the future, how long I think each task will take, and the date by which I’d like to complete each task. As I review my master to-do list each week, I schedule those with approaching due dates onto my calendar for the upcoming week.
It doesn’t particularly matter what form your to-do list takes, only that it’s in a format that makes it easy for you to add items to it and remember to the things on it. Here are a few electronic to-do lists you might consider: Good Todo, Jott, Organisemee, Evernote, and Toodledo.
One of the many great benefits of having a master to-do list with time estimates is being able to identify quick tasks that I can accomplish when I have small tidbits of time. For example, I was recently on hold while waiting for a real live person to answer the phone regarding my insurance. Rather than ponder the pros and cons of Abba songs on Muzak, I flipped to my master to do list and grabbed a five-minute task I could do while waiting on hold – filing some notes from a recent teleclass into a binder. Although this wasn’t earth-shattering, getting that information into a binder will prove helpful next week when I’ll need to refer to it. If I hadn’t written that task of down, it would probably have remained undone until I frantically shuffled through the pile while on a call with a client.
While writing everything down may seem burdensome, once you try it, you’ll appreciate how much lighter you feel. Your brain will be clear to focus on the task at hand, and things that used to slip into and out of your mind will be captured for future action. So what system will you use for remembering all those to-dos that would otherwise clog your brain or get forgotten?
Wishing you simplicity, harmony and freedom,