brilliant to-do hacks

I use a Moleskine notebook to capture my to-dos. If I think of something I need to do, in accordance with Getting Things Done I capture it immediately in my notebook. This is fine if your task is “sign up for CPR class to get recertified” (an actual to-do of mine). Sometimes a task recurs, though. One of mine, for example, is “water plants.” Since they are just decorative climbing vine type things, I need to remember to water them every two weeks. More than that seems to do more harm than good. Less than that will kill them.

So my terribly simple hack to merge my recurring to-dos with my notebook is that I put all of my regular recurring to-dos in my Google Calendar. I have Google send me an email the day a recurring task is due, and I write it in my Moleskine. This may seem like a rather minor problem and solution to some, but it was the final step in letting me eliminate any worries about getting things done.

One other quick hack is needed when I don’t have my Moleskine on me. In that case, I do one of the following three things.

If I have my cellphone, I call Jott. Jott is a nifty service and if you don’t have an account yet, you probably should (it’s free). It is a voice-to-email application that takes any voice message (“buy eggs”) and emails you a text version of that message. I have found it’s about 90% effective. Some words get garbled, but I usually blame that more on AT&T or ambient noise than I do on Jott’s software. Once I am back at a computer, I transcribe my to-do from my email to my Moleskine.

I write it down on another piece of paper. This is an obvious step that sometimes people aren’t very good at. I find that if I’m in a meeting and someone says, “Brip, remember to put the correct cover sheet on that TPS report” I’ll remember to write it down if I’m walking out the door and back to my desk. If someone says that to me and then the meeting continues for another two hours, I will forget. Writing it down and then IMMEDIATELY moving it over to my Moleskine the first chance I get is critical. A simple hack, but terribly effective.

I remember it. I have a mind like a sieve except for a very disturbing ability to recall minor details about every movie I’ve ever seen. Remembering Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pronouncement in Conan about the three best things in life (see the end of this post for the answer)? Easy. Remembering to buy orange juice? Need to write it down. Yet sometimes I do manage to remember things. Not too far out, and I prefer to write them down once I have the chance, but I will remember to take the trash out, or to turn off the stove. At least so far. I have used this book to improve my memory – it works.

These hacks may seem trivial, but in a sense I think any truly organized person goes through a few trivial phases before getting organized. First, they decide to get organized; second, they arrive at a system that works for them to get organized (where I’m at) and third, they actually implement the system and stay organized. If you aren’t comfortable with your system, no matter how fancy it is, you will never get organized. That’s where I was with my Treo. I just never managed to fully utilize it to manage my life. I think now I’m finally comfortable with my solution.

Oh, and Conan‘s list of the best things in life? To vanquish your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women. Hmm, now does that go in my @vanquishing or @conquering category?