8 Tips and Tools for Forgetful Productivity

Get more done and think less about it.

by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)
by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)

My parents bought me a Franklin Quest planner when I started junior high. They each had one, and each of us kids had one. We would joke about how our planners were our brains. They were how we kept track of everything we needed to do. Without them, we were lost.

Over the years, the nature of our trusted systems have changed, but the lessons I’ve learned from them are more applicable than ever. By writing down everything I need to do, it’s okay if I forget about it. I’ll be reminded of it and still get it done. The stress and anxiety of juggling a mental list of everything I need to do just isn’t there. I still have high pressure days where I am completely oversubscribed, but I can usually focus on one thing at a time, give it my complete attention until I’m done, and then move on.

In addition to the six principles I outlined in “Forgetting Everything You Need to Do”, here are eight specific tactics I use to let myself forget and still get things done.

  1. OmniFocus Defer Dates. Set the Defer Date on OmniFocus tasks. Then review these regularly to remember tasks you want to do on a specific day, week, or month.
  2. Time-Based Reminders. Use Siri to remind you to do something at a specific time. For example, last week, I wanted to remember to grab some business cards before heading off to a networking lunch, so I set a quick reminder in Siri the night before: “Remind me to grab business cards at 11:00 am tomorrow.” This works with any iOS device that has Siri.
  3. Location-Based Reminders. Your iPhone can remind you of tasks the next time you arrive someplace. For example, “Remind me to mail the letter when I get to work.” If Siri doesn’t know where work is, she’ll prompt you. Location-based reminders only work on an iPhone with Siri.
  4. Set things out the night before. You will be more hurried getting ready in the morning than before you go to bed. When you review your day, set out things you’ll need that aren’t part of your everyday carry. Setting out routine items can also help your morning go more smoothly.
  5. Asynchronous Communication. Instead of waiting to ask a question of someone in person, send an email, send an iMessage, or leave a note in their inbox tray. If it really needs to be discussed in person, send a quick “remind me to ask you about …” note, or just call while you’re thinking about it.
  6. Just do it. This is the 2-minute rule at the core of GTD. If it will take you longer to create a reminder for yourself than to just do it, just do it. Be done with it. For important things, like dropping off the rent check, jot a quick note in your planner that you did it.
  7. Automate it. Few things are easier (and safer) to forget than those you never need to remember to do.
  8. Forget about it. We don’t have time to act on every possibility we come up with. There are good, better, and best ways to spend our time. If an idea isn’t the best use of your time, forget about it. Cross it off your to-do list. Let it go.

We work so hard to remember everything we need to do that the notion of intentionally forgetting about it all can be terrifying. Start small. Pick one thing that you can put into your system and forget about. Once you see that it still gets done, your trust in your system will grow. You can start putting more and bigger things in.

Whether your system is digital, a specialized planner, or a trusty notebook, let it do the heavy lifting for you. Write down everything you need to do and everyplace you need to be. Let your system remember it and remind you. Free up your brain to have fun, be creative, and dream up the next great thing you’re going to do.

Question: What invaluable tools do you use to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks when you forget about them? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.