How Relying On Visual Reminders Leads to Clutter & How To Remedy It
Often I’ll meet with a client whose desk or other surface is strewn with papers, bags, packages, objects of all sorts. When I ask them about the individual items, they explain that each has been left out because it requires various action, whether it’s returning, mailing, repairing, dropping off, etc. They want to ensure to remember– or more accurately, to not forget–to attend to whatever task is associated with the physical item. Fearing that if it’s put away they won’t get around to it, they keep it all out in plain sight.
This isn’t necessarily a failing strategy in principle; a visual reminder can be hugely helpful. The pitfall comes when these reminders accumulate, which, almost inherently, they seem to do. The result of those good intentions is a whole big pile of seeming clutter, not one of item of which is distinguishable as an individual task, let alone a priority.
The remedy is, as all the best ones are, the most obvious solution. Rather than keeping the thing itself out on your work surface, add the required action associated with it to your to do list. Add as many tasks as you have onto that one list, go wild. In the end, you’ll still end up with only one paper sitting on your desk, a comprehensive reminder list. Keep that list right square under your nose, and your individual tasks will not only stay in the forefront of your mind, you’ll be able to instantly discern one from the other, rather than having to rustle through a whole pile in order to find the one you’re looking for (which hello, you probably won’t be looking for at all, seeing as how buried under all that other stuff you’ll have forgotten all about it entirely).
If, for instance, you have a question about a piece of paper– you need to make a call to verify some details pertaining to it, go ahead and keep that paper in its file, rather than pulling it out. When you actually do intend to make that phone call, fetch the paper from its file, make the call, cross it off the list.
In other words, bring the physical item out of its storage space and onto your work station at the moment you are going to take action, and not before. Until then, trust in your reminder list to capture the tasks associated with the items.
Got any tips or tales of your own on the subject of visual reminders? Do be a dear and share them with the class.
Image credits: Bobby Kelly, The Everygirl, Martha Stewart
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