Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Getting things done - Using memory where it is actually needed

This post of my previous roommate got me interested in GTD (Getting Things Done). Being the lazy guy that I am, I didn't get to read entirely of the concept and how to use it, but during a quick glance at wiki there was one statement that caught my attention. "If you could do something in less than 2 minutes, you must do it immediately. Procrastination is not going to help you. Another thing of interest is the fact that you should spend your time and brain in what matters the most, in doing things, not in remembering them or in thinking about what needs to be done.

This got me thinking and I realized that I spend more time in recollecting similar things again and again and many times end up not doing it. For example, whenever I do my laundry, most of the times, I forget to put my towels for laundry along with my clothes, and I usually end up going for a second round that is actually not necessary ending up paying $2 more. Not only that, every time I visit Walmart, I spend more time thinking about what I need to buy, than the time spent in finding the item or in getting it at the counter. Inspite of that, I end up missing something or the other making another trip all over again. Then I thought about how my Mom used to do it when I was young. She kept a book and before going to the grocery store, she would think about all the necessary items, make a list of it and take it to the store thereby saving the time to think of things at the store. I wanted to follow this approach, but there is still a problem with this approach. Every time, you will make a list, and during the making you spend your memory thinking of all the items that might be necessary. A small but significant amount of memory is being wasted in this process. Also there is a chance of losing that note book or if it was maintained in a excel sheet, maintaining a lot of them and tracking them is an issue. I thought about this for a little while, and I zeroed down on an approach and this has been working pretty good for me.

Here it is..

List down all the items you would ever buy from a Walmart or a Target in an Excel sheet or even better in a Google Spreadsheet. Look at your past couple of months receipts if you think you are forgetting some. Spend some time in preparing this list, since its only a one time task. Once you feel that your list is as complete as it can get, keep it handy. Every time you visit a Walmart or Target, check against the list and note the items that you are currently out of.. What does this save you. It saves you the cognitive process of recollecting what items you are out of, since you have all the items that you need in the list and you are checking against it.. This does save considerable amount of memory that you could probably use for some other tasks :) This was my approach. If you think of a better approach or you have a better approach that you follow, please don't hesitate to drop a line in the comments..

This is not applicable to just the Grocery list. This is applicable to anything and everything. For example, you can make a list of all things that you would ever need to take to a laundromat, and when you get ready to go there, check against your list, and you know what you missed... If you are a consultant and keep shifting frequently, then make a list of all the places that you need to change address in. The next time you shift, all you have to do is to check against this list. Google Docs is the best place to save this information because, your computer might crash or you might change your system but you will still have all your lists safe. If you are thinking, what if Google goes down, then all I could say is, (though I don't believe this would happen in the near future) Bad time, you need to prepare your list one more time...

Also you can apply this to your goals in life. Make a list of all the things that you want to do. If you could do something in less than 5 minutes, don't list it, just go finish that task and come back. Once you have set up your tasks and goals, arrange them in short term, medium term and long term and also based on their priority. When you have some time to do things, you should use that time to do one of these rather than in 'thinking' what to do at that point of time. This does matter because time saved is time spent effectively.. After all, it makes no sense in spending time in thinking of the same things redundantly like preparing a list from the scratch everytime.... You might come up with a rapidly different approach to your issues, but at the end of the day, the idea is focusing on the tasks than in thinking about the tasks to be done over and over. Good luck...

6 comments:

Anurag Srivastava said...

I can see a management guru coming up :P

Saagar said...

@Anurag: Well, if not a management Guru, I will be really happy if I manage to manage myself in this lifetime effectively :)

AnneK said...

Hey, this is cool you wrote about that. R and I have a google spreadsheet list of all these and more except for the grocery list. But I do have a master menu list and two week menu list. When you are keeping home, the google spreadsheet tab keeps getting longer and longer-I can assure you that. WE have cleaning list, things to do list, places to go list, interesting articles link list, books to read, movies to watch, music to listen list. It is never ending. And to top it all, I have a memory list as well. And most importantly we have a learning tab- What we learn from our mistakes. Okay sorry to ramble on. :$

Saagar said...

@anneK: Hmm so many lists to maintain once u r married huhhhh.. Now I am so glad I am single, but when I start a family, I will take tips from u on all these lists :)

Steve Ballmer said...

Nice Blog, however I find the best way to get things done is to tell other people to do it and time them.

http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com

Saagar said...

@Steve: Thanks fake Steve for stopping by, your comments fit very well into the personality that you have adapted for yourself :)