I know it sounds kind of strange, but I watch people make lists for a living. 🙂
A big part of my job is to notice how and why people make lists the way they do—and then help them to transition those lists into a system. (We call it our STEP Command Central, and my goal is to have one on every desk!)
Because I really want you to experience the mental clarity, peace, and productivity that comes when your Command Central is in place, I’m going to walk through the “normal” way people make lists—and then compare that with the benefits of creating a seamless system.
#1: A list keeps growing and growing, and there’s never an “end.”
You’ve seen these kinds of lists, right? Maybe it’s a notepad, perhaps it’s a digital note, or it might be a digital task manager with lists and lists and lists that are mostly overdue or out of date or so nebulous that no one ever looks at them.
In contrast, a system keeps the daily focus very simple, and anything out of date—or anything that decreases in priority—is moved to the appropriate location (Someday, Incubation, Calendar Trigger for the future, delegated to someone else, added to a “Next in Line” project list, etc.). That movement or adjustment happens during the Weekly Review, where you honestly look at what’s on your plate, and you de-prioritize anything that doesn’t deserve your attention that week.
#2: A list—even if it is simplified so it only includes what you’re doing that day—leaves a LOT in your psychic RAM.
“Psychic RAM” is a term often used by David Allen, the bestselling author of Getting Things Done®.
And in case you’re not familiar with “RAM,” it stands for Random Access Memory. It’s essentially a computer’s short-term memory, and, unlike a hard drive, it resets whenever the system is rebooted. From what I understand, RAM is particularly helpful in things like computer gaming, so the system runs faster.
Psychic RAM refers to the tasks, reminders, etc. that are floating around in your head. For example, if I asked you to memorize a 10-digit code and give it back to me 5 minutes later, that would be in your psychic RAM. It’s like when you cram for a test, and you don’t really know what you’re talking about, but you have enough in your head that you can temporarily make it seem like you do. 🙂
If you don’t have a system in place, and you only want to work from a short list for the day (like, “I’m just doing these 3 things today!”), that’s fine, but what happens to all those other tasks, projects, ideas, goals, etc. that you’re NOT working on? If they’re not written down, they’re most likely sitting in your head.
However, if you have a STEP Command Central, guess what? You not only know what you ARE doing that day, you know what you’re NOT doing that day. It’s all in your system, and it will come to you when you need it.
#3: A list typically won’t encompass all the “stuff” that’s sitting on your flat surfaces.
We talk about Flat Surface Disease a lot here at LearnDoBecome. It’s incredibly normal, and essentially, it means that you place items in plain sight—on every flat surface—as reminders to do tasks.
That light bulb is there to remind you to buy light bulbs.
That pile of gardening gloves is there to remind you to call your neighbor to see when she’s doing that project you said you’d help out with.
The invitation on the fridge is there so you’ll buy a present and mail it next week, since you can’t attend the wedding.
The pamphlet is there to remind you to take a vacation.
The hydration chart is there to remind you to drink water.
The book is there to remind you to read so you can be a better leader at work.
Does this make sense?
When you have a system, you don’t need the actual items to be your reminders.
You can toss the light bulb and use the 2-minute rule to place an online order—or add it to your errands list.
The gloves can go back into the garage, and you can send a quick text to your neighbor, instead, or add it to your Next Actions List to give her a call.
You can put the wedding invitation in your Tickler File (monthly resources that are linked to your calendar), and a calendar trigger/reminder can tell you when to make the gift-purchasing a priority. (It will then either be a 2-minute VenMo, a Next Action to shop/buy a card, an errand to mail it, etc.)
The pamphlet can go into “Someday” or into your Family cubby for Current Project Support Materials, and you can add “Plan Vacation” to your “To Discuss” section of your Next Actions List.
You could post the hydration chart, if you’d like, OR you can add your daily reminder to your Routines List, which you will review once a week. And maybe you’ll decide to get a new water bottle or something that will make hydration easier.
And the book can go onto a “To Read” section of your Next Actions List—or you can set it where you will most likely read it, and you can add a reading routine to your daily or weekly list.
I could honestly go on and on and on, but the main point I want to make is that it is SO beneficial to build your STEP Command Central. If you like making lists, that’s great—we’ll show you how to make them more optimally. I just really, really encourage you to learn how to build your system and then use it—because even though it feels a bit like learning a new language, it’s going to change your life, you’re going to feel calm and in control (of at least some things…), and you’re going to feel like someone just gave you the shortcut to getting things done.
This month, I’m doing a special class for all our STEP Mastery students! It’s about Personal AND Professional Digital Task/Project Management. I personally use Asana, but if you use Monday, Click-Up, Trello, Basecamp, or any other digital task management tool, the same principles apply. My class is being held on Tuesday, March 21st at noon Pacific on Zoom! We’ll email the link to all the STEP Mastery members!
Are you in STEP Mastery yet? It is truly one of the best groups on the internet, and the resources we have for you in there are incredible.
Plus, this month inside ARISE, my personal coach/therapist is coming to walk everyone through the TEAM-CBT model. He’s taking us through a mood log and helping us understand our self-defeating beliefs, and I know you’ll get a ton out of it, if you want to join us! That’s Thursday, March 16th at 10am Pacific.
But whether you’re part of STEP or our ARISE membership—or following along with the free resources at LearnDoBecome—we are so grateful for you, and we hope you’ll continue to breathe deeply, get more and more organized and calm as you go, and share it with your friends!
And we have three testimonials to celebrate today!
We love this community and are so grateful for the opportunity to work with you!
If you haven’t had the chance to listen to our “The Three-Box Method for Organizing Your Space” podcast yet, you can find the full post and audio here!
Have you had a chance to join our free class that will introduce you to our Steps to Everyday Productivity program? If not, we’d love to see you there! Sign up here!
If you haven’t already, come join us in ARISE and see what this amazing group has to offer! I’ve invited my personal coach/cognitive behavioral therapist to come and teach YOU what he taught me…all about getting to the root of our self-defeating beliefs and getting to the place where we feel totally calm. It’s going to be amazing!
Our Steps to Everyday Productivity (STEP) program with lifetime access helps you build a seamless system to handle all the physical, mental, and digital “stuff” in your life. We’ve already served tens of thousands of members, and it is a game changer.
And here’s the full STEP Command Central image I promised I’d share in the podcast!
I had to stop organizing spaces in my husband’s office to write a comment. Isn’t it sad that so many people get false or less effective, but then maybe even damaging information? I have a PASSION that I love. And what you do it not it! haha – but your vision for me and all of the people that now love you is coming to fruition. Or I’m getting there. For a presenter to say to keep only 3 things on a list per day doesn’t even make sense to me. I am happy because I found LearnDoBecome, joined STEP Mastery (which I feel bad that you’re not continually being paid) and I AM GROWING! I almost have it together to where I am pursuing what I truly love (organizing spaces). I know HOW THE SYSTEM works so well that I don’t have a need for anymore self-help, how do I stop having four 1 foot piles of papers on the floor everywhere and feel like pulling my hair out because of stress anymore! THIS IS IT! I ONLY SEARCH from LEARNDOBECOME. Post is so long that everyone that should read it won’t. I can answer a “yes” or “no” question in 50 words. I can’t help myself!
April Perry says
Michelle, you are seriously the cutest. And I love the thought of you helping others to organize their spaces. Way to go!! You are a gift.