Lists, notes and reminders

My core task is translation and I have no problem getting that done. Translation offers everything my brain needs to shift into hyperfocus: novelty, deadlines, accountability, a challenge, interest and a reward. Routine tasks are another matter. Paradoxically, the easier the task, the less likely I am to get around to it. I’ve had fun with to-do list and note apps, playing with categorisation, colour-coding, ranking and scheduling but have always forgotten or got bored of whatever complicated system I had devised.

Some experts recommend visual cues in strategic locations. I have bought post-its in bulk and spent days designing checklists (one redundant example is attached to this post). I have used red wipeable markers to scrawl reminders on every window and mirror in the house until my home began to resemble a serial killer’s lair. These directives quickly become invisible to me (but not, embarrassingly, to visitors), frozen in time like the archaeological remains of an ancient mental state. A hand-written note ordering me to pick blackcurrants has remained on my patio doors since last spring. I think the birds enjoyed their haul. (Note to self: add “clean windows” to to-do list).

Now, I use Alexa reminders for routine tasks like taking the bins out, taking medication and checking my junk mail. When I’m hyperfocussing on a translation Alexa reminds me to eat, hang my washing out and turn the stove off. I don’t use Alexa’s to do-list as it can’t be synced with Outlook but the option is available for Google, IOS, Todoist, Trello and Evernote users.

For everything else, my inbox is my to-do list and notebook in one. Clients email me tasks, so it makes sense for me to do the same. I use the snooze function to set reminders.

My brain is a beehive of ideas but they buzz away quickly if I don’t record them. A notebook is one more thing to forget to pick up and to refer back to. I can use my phone to email myself from anywhere. If I have an idea while I’m researching a translation, I email myself the details and snooze for later. All future tasks can be seen at-a-glance in the Snoozed Emails folder.

This system is great for personal tasks like returning borrowed items or checking in with friends who are having a rough time. It’s the only solution I’ve found to remembering annual tasks like paying subscriptions, feeding my fruit trees or servicing the boiler. Once the task is completed, I snooze it for the following year. I snooze concert and travel tickets so I can print them off when I need them. Tasks that are behind a wall of awful ( may never get done. For these I use all the weapons in my armoury: Alexa reminders, emails, accountability buddies, rewards and artificial deadlines.

How do you manage your to-do list and keep track of your ideas? (This post is in English.

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