Why it's important to keep your system current

No matter how consistent the system is, if it is not current (i.e. completely up to date with all items in a category) it still can’t be trusted in a way that relieves the psyche of the job of remembering and sorting. You’ll look at a list and some part of you knows it’s not the whole list, so (a) you won’t totally trust your choices and (b) you’ll still try to use your head to keep track. And if your brain still has that job, instead of trusting your lists, you won’t be motivated to keep your external system going (it will be too much work for the value received.) You’ll feel like it’s hard work to keep the list and will resist looking at it anyway because you’ll know it’s only partial and it will remind you that you’re “behind.” – David Allen

2 Responses to “Why it's important to keep your system current”

  1. Luke says:

    In my experience systems fall behind for three reasons: failure to collect (i.e. filing stuff in psychic RAM), failing to process regularly and failure to review commitments regularly (i.e. not doing weekly reviews). I’d like to elaborate on the first one because I think it’s most responsible for GTD failures.

    Never *EVER* file anything in your head. It’s the first step to falling behind. Most GTD users know that already, but have on occasion had to file a thought in their head because they lacked the means to capture it at the moment. It’s important to have the *right* capture tools within reach at all times, not necessarily just one.

    If you’re driving and you get a thought to capture, that nice GTD Notetaker Wallet(R) in your purse or back pocket won’t help you; you can’t take your eyes off the road to reach it, much less write something down. But if you have a small digital voice recorder on a lanyard around your neck (like I do when I drive), it’s easy to grab it and record a memo about the thought without having to take your eyes off the road. When I first started GTD I had a lot to clean out of my head and many of those thoughts happened while driving; my voice recorder was my most critical capture tool back then.

    If you’re regularly getting (and losing) ideas and thoughts in the shower, go to a dive shop, buy an underwater writing slate and hang it on your shower wall. Grab it and write down those ideas as they come to you, then dry it off and toss it into your in-basket.

    FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Where are you getting and losing ideas because you can’t capture them? While cooking? While driving? While in the shower? While on the toilet (not kidding)? What tools do you need to put in those locations so you capture those thoughts outside of your head?

  2. Catherine says:

    My ubiquitous capture tool is my mobile phone. I always carry it in my pocket and I use the to-do list to capture ideas as I think of them. Obviously I can’t use it when driving or swimming, but otherwise I use it all the time.

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