Scheduling the unscheduleable is a challenge. But with modern tools, as well as pen and paper, we can make sure you have what you need, when you need it, even if you don’t know enough to plan ahead in the traditional way.
For Dates, Use Follow-Up Email
Some things get triggered by date, not by task list. That’s easy, use your calendar! As with tasks, you can attach files and URLs to an event, so when that event comes up, the materials you need are at your fingertips. You can also use your Details folders if necessary, adding the subfolder number in a square or circle directly to the event description in your calendar.
For calendar events, you can also email attachments to yourself to arrive on a specific date. Check out my episode on how to use deferred email for details, or services like www.FollowUpThen.com.
Plastic surgery scheduled for May 9th? Just snap some pictures of the noses you find inspirational. Send them to yourself for delivery on May 8th. Then you can share them with your surgeon right before you go under, secure in the knowledge that you’ll come out looking like Betty Boop, Barbra Streisand, Sylvester Stallone, or a glorious combination of all three.
If you have paper items that are relevant to an appointment, use your paper Details file exactly as you would with a task list. Put the paper items in the Details file, number them, and then write the number with a little circle in your calendar next to the relevant appointment.
For Untimed Events, Use Location Alerts
Stacy, you want to remind yourself to investigate paisley motor oil at your next oil change. It’s unscheduled, so you can’t use the calendar technique. And you probably won’t add it to your task list until you see smoke, at which point you’ll have more important things to remember than your desire for fashionable motor oil.
But you do know where your oil change place is. Under many smartphone reminder apps, you can set a reminder that triggers when you arrive at a certain location. Use the task reminder we’ve already discussed, but have it trigger based on location. Even if your task list is on paper, like mine, you can put the reminders on your smartphone. Plus, using location reminders makes you keep GPS turned on, making it easier and less expensive for the NSA to track you, and thus helping keep your taxes low, low, low.
For Unknowable Events, Make Your Own Trigger
If you have a completely paper system, or you always choose a different oil change shop (so they can’t track your movements), then you need to identify something you’ll access when you’ll actually go in for an oil change. I have a windshield sticker that reminds me when my next oil change is due. I’ll always take that sticker off when it’s time. So it’s the trigger. I write a little checkbox using a Sharpie. When I see the checkbox, it reminds me to open the glove compartment, where the “mechanic’s to-do list” tucked inside my car owner’s manual.
You’ll see it pop up and if the time isn’t yet right, you can reschedule it for a few weeks in the future.
For Unknowable, Untimed, Untriggered Events, Pray
If something isn’t on your task list, isn’t on your calendar, isn’t location-based, and has no trigger you can identify in advance, you can set up a calendar-based reminder for the rough timeframe you think the event will occur. Put a reminder in your calendar on that date of your paisley motor oil to-do item, and where supporting materials can be found. You’ll see it pop up and if the time isn’t yet right, you can reschedule it for a few weeks in the future. Here, instead of getting what you need, when you need it, you’re giving yourself a rough reminder so you’ll remember what you need, when you need it.
Stacy, we don’t have to become like the ancient Greek barbarians, memorizing, using our brains, and exhibiting actual skill and abilities! We can reclaim our humanity by identifying the trigger of a given task. Then we attach what we’ll need for the task to that trigger. The trigger can be a task from your task list, a calendar date, a location alert, or an invented trigger. Or, as a last resort, we can use our technology to remind us occasionally, so when the unknowable finally arrives, our brains have the one single fact we need to cope, freeing up the rest of our intellect to watch, admire, and aspire to be like Kim Kardashian.
This is Stever Robbins. Follow GetItDoneGuy on Twitter and Facebook. I run programs to help you develop the skills you need to create an extraordinary life. If you want to know more, visit http://SteverRobbins.com.
Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!