In five minutes, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know to never forget something important again.
GTD, OmniFocus, Things, Day Planners, etc, etc. They all have four fatal flaws.
- They all require management
- They all require that you spend time reviewing what’s there
- They are all too slow
- They all suffer from bloat
After trying just about everything under the sun (including the things mentioned above) for years, I finally found a system that works for most people (I’ve talked to quite a few people that do the same thing I do) and I’ve proven it for over 8 years.
I don’t have a fancy name for it. I haven’t written a book about it. I’m not a productivity “expert.” I’m just some guy who did trial and error until I found something that really works. And the system isn’t revolutionary or new. It’s just very simple and easy.
Here’s What I Do
I find out something has to be done. I open my phone and within 10 seconds, I schedule a time in the future that I think will be a good time for me to either do it or think about doing it. When I’m done typing, the event gets an automatic alarm set to a default time. I forget about it.
Later, I’m sitting down and my alarm goes off. I am reminded of what it was and either think through it and create another reminder for a better time or I just do it. Everything important stays off my mind and I’m still productive and relaxed.
Now, you can either read through my long-winded explanation/argument or skip to the bottom (Solutions) where I tell you how to set this up.
I’m going to be straight up with my readers and tell you that I’ve built an app for the iPhone that does all this (I’ll tell you about it at the end of the article), but you don’t need it to work this system. There’s a way you can do it for free with the phone you’ve got in your pocket right now.
There are 5 things that I’ve found have to be in place for this system to really work well.
- It has to do your remembering and reminding for you
- It has to go everywhere you do
- You have to be able to get something into it in less than 10 seconds
- Everything you enter must have a date and time
- You have to be able to defer reminders
Ubiquity is Your Friend
So it’s probably already obvious that this system is dependent on a mobile phone. Mobile phones meet the first two criteria because they can remember things for you and they go almost everywhere you do. So I just assume that you can’t really use this system without a mobile phone. It doesn’t even have to be a smart phone.
10 Second Rule
This is not unlike the 5 second rule you learned as a kid. If you can pick up your candy quick enough it’s still good.
Here’s how this works: Several times a day, you’ll learn about something you need to do, either from your own brain or from an outside source (in my case usually my wife). You’ve got a short space of time to get that to-do item off your brain and into a system so that you can relax about it.
For example, just yesterday, my wife asked me to be at the house at a certain time for when my daughter’s bus came home from school. A trivial thing with disastrous consequences if I screwed it up.
I was extremely busy with work when she asked me and so I had a very small window of time (mentally) to get this thing off my brain and into my system. This is not atypical. All the other systems mentioned try to accommodate quick entering of items in one way or another, but I’ve found that any system that won’t allow for a 10 second or less window will never really work well.
This is why I bothered to do an iPhone app. The default calendar sucks for entering dates. It’s a tedious process that takes too much thinking and too much time.
Help Me Help You
Here’s where this system really diverges with the others. Those systems rely on review. You have to refer to them throughout the day as you do things. Some of them are time-based and have date-related features but still require you to go back to them to adjust the system, close things, etc. They require MANAGEMENT. Any system which requires you to remember and manage your stuff is inherently broken. The whole reason I want a system is to help me. AUTOPILOT BABY!
That’s why connecting your to-dos to a point in time with a reminder is so critical. The software can tell YOU when something is important. Even when you’ve forgotten all about it.
People who use this method and had Palm Treos back in the day LOVED their Treos. That calendar was/is still the best one ever. We’re still trying to catch up to how great it was.
So first the free solution.
- Get a Google Calendar account
- Set up SMS integration with your phone in the Google Calendar settings
- Set a default reminder time (15 min seems to be pretty good)
- Create a new contact on your phone with the Google SMS number
- Send text messages to the new contact that look like this: “Party tomorrow at 5pm”
- Google SMS parses your real-world text into calendar dates
Second, the not-free solution.
Calvetica (www.calvetica.com, $2.99) integrates with your current iPhone calendar but makes entering dates and seeing things at a glance super fast. It was built to accommodate this system and even has the ability to “snooze” an alarm until you can do something about it. It also has its own notifications page so that the iPhone’s crummy notifications don’t get lost after they’ve passed.
Try this organization system for a week and see if it doesn’t make you more efficient, productive and stress-free than you’ve ever been.