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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Corralling it all in one place

Checking this blog needs to work the same way—piggy backing it on a habit. Before I go in further, realize you could substitute “change the air filter,” “water the plants,” or “write the check to the church” in placing of “checking this blog” and everything is going to applicable….And how many little-bitty tasks that have to be done every so often do we have in our lives?

Here’s how I handle this sort of thing. My daily ritual consists of two things:

  1. Check the tickler file.
  2. Check the Palm. (Before the days of the Palm, it was to check the Day-Timer.)

The first tool handles all of the paper. The second captures everything else—appointments, to-do items, notes, long-term goals, addresses, etc. The game is consists of taking all of the “stuff” that comes at me from and making it fit into one of those two tools. I can handle remembering to do two things (usually). Three puts me on shaky grounds, and more than that is a disaster waiting to happen.

There are a couple of pretty good options for handling these miscellaneous tasks—like checking this blog.

  1. Jot the task on an index card and throw it in the tickler file. You know that announcement I make every Wednesday to leave your computer on? It’s nothing more than a card with that announcement. On the next line is a note to myself to re-file it for the next Wednesday.
  2. Make a note on your calendar on each Friday. (Simply writing “Blog” or even just the letter “B” might be enough to serve as a reminder about that task.)

The first method uses the tickler file; the second uses your calendar, Day-Timer, or whatever “capture tool” you use (and we all need a tool that captures stuff in one place). I would not recommend using both an index card in the tickler file and a note on your calendar for the same thing; it’s just double work.

Now, what doesn’t work? Look at the post-its you have stuck around your computer screen right now. How many of them represent things that you will have to wait until sometime in the future to do anything about? That’s an example of something that does not work. A post-it that reminds you to leave your computer on next Wednesday serves as a distraction from Thursday through Tuesday. On Wednesday, you have become so used to seeing it that it has blended in with the background.

Don’t believe me? Think about this one—on a trip from your house to Wal-Mart, how many billboards do you pass and what do they say? That’s a tough one. After a while, they just blend into the background. If that happens to something the size of a billboard, just think what happens with the Post-Its on the computer screen, the notes on the refrigerator door.

Most people remember to change the air filter when the heat pump blows up, flush a box of Rid-X down the commode when they see the septic tank float past the front door, and water their plants when they’re dead, and renew their driver’s license when…(yeah, about 3 of you just got this awful look on your face and started pulling out your license to look).

If you want a good stress reliever, having a good system and then making EVERYTHING fit into that system is a pretty good place to start.

If you know the point of balance,
You can settle the details.
If you can settle the details,
You can stop running around.
Your mind will become calm.
If your mind becomes calm,
You can think in front of a tiger.
If you can think in front of a tiger,
You will surely succeed.
—Mencius

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