This post is the third in a five-day series about the three apps I use to manage my life, and the system by which I make them work for me (so my brain is free for more enjoyable things). Interested? Start at the beginning.
Preparing For Take-off
Stick with me on this one - it's a bit of work, but it's going to be worth it really soon.
Hop back into Evernote. Check out that list you made yesterday. Good job, you. Now, what are we going to do with it?
Step One, Part B: From Brain-Mess to Clarity
Today's job is all about sorting. You'll need a cuppa and some peace for this. Maybe some chocolate. We're going to empty this note. Completely. Not delete it - you'll need it as a processing space for new incoming items in the future - but empty it.
Start at item #1 and go through your list, item by item, categorising and re-housing each list item as follows:
1. Pre-Existing Recurring Items
These are your standing arrangements - the daily glance at your meal plan to figure out what to defrost, weekly swimming lesson, monthly lunch with friends, annual zombie apocalypse readiness drill.
Open up Remember The Milk and enter these tasks first, creating new RTM "lists" as you need them (I have "Homemaking", "Personal", "Liam To Do", "Other People", "Work", and - because we're moving soon - "Packing").
Schedule them, tag them, and erase them from Evernote. Dealt with. Now you can forget these things until the day you need to know them.
2. Pre-Arranged One-Off Items
These are single tasks/events which are already set in the calendar - the birthday party, the movie night, the doctor's appointment, the flash mob.
Add these to RTM next. If there's a clash with one of your regular tasks, you'll need to decide - based on priority - which stays and which is moved/cancelled. If there's preparation required (eg buying a gift before a birthday party), schedule these for an earlier day. Another load off your mind, and your list is one item closer to empty.
3. New Schedule Items
These may be things things you've just thought of. Or they may be things you already do at random, but would like a plan for - I chose a specific day to clean the bathroom, for example, and also set a daily reminder to read a Bible chapter.
Take a look at the RTM schedule so far, and decide where these will best fit. Enter them in, and clear them from your Evernote list. Voila - you're ready to be held accountable at grout-scrubbing time.
4. Future Items / Projects
Not all of the items on your list will be tasks that can be dealt with in one - or two - simple, scheduled actions. Some will be about ongoing projects; others may be non-urgent tasks to be dealt with "one day", which you just weren't sure how to schedule.
For these, you'll be using Evernote. Set up a new note for each project, or each list of related "pending" tasks. I have a note for things to do when we've moved to Ballarat, for example, and another for Christmas present ideas. Etcetera. This is your thinking space. You might like to set up a RTM reminder to check in on a specific note on a specific day if necessary - or not.
5. Forgettable Items
Those old Chinotto bottles I was holding onto for some vague decorative idea, Owen having a free Saturday to try out Kindergym before we move... they're not all winners. It's inevitable that some of the things hanging around in your head are there unnecessarily - an honest scrutiny of your mental to-do list is bound to turn up some dead ends, practicality-wise.
When you come across something you're never going to actually deal with for whatever reason, delete it straight away. Some deletions may require further action - I also had to throw out those cute bottles; and as I deleted the Kindergym idea I added a reminder to check it out in Ballarat instead. Free up that space for the things you are going to deal with.
6. One More Thing...
I'll add another item to your list here: Birthdays. I highly recommend adding all important birthdays (ie those you plan to act on in some way - gift-giving, phone-calling, Facebook-posting, whatever) to RTM.
Be specific. If you plan to send a text on the day, mention that in the task description and schedule it for the birthday itself. If you plan to buy a gift, schedule that task far enough in advance to make sure you have time to do it.
Remember RTM rolls on incomplete tasks to the next day, so you'll continue to be reminded until you tick it off as completed. This feature is your friend. No, really.
Aaand... booyah. Take a moment to love that emptied list. All the muddle you were trying to deal with internally is now outside your head, neatly pinned down into categorised groupings and scheduled actions. Feel better about it all?
Tomorrow we'll have a chat about this system we've created, and how it's going to work for you Every. Single. Day.