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We have to remember to...

Have you ever been around someone (e.g., a significant other, friend, or workmate) who regularly says something like "Remind me to ____"? You fill in the blank: "finish the report," "fix the bug," "make the appointment," etc. I had this happen this weekend while taking a day trip with another family. We were all in the same car, and I noticed that one spouse repeatedly brought up things as we travelled, including "We have to remember to pick up the pictures," and "Don't let me forget to install the snow tires."

Hearing this, and being a student of David Allen's Getting Things Done, I felt compassion for the person, having been there myself. I think what happens is she knows it's important, and also at some level realizes that her mind doesn't have the ability to remember when she needs it. So instead she resorts to verbalizing it repeatedly, in essence externalizing it (i.e., spreading it around) in hopes that it will "stick" somewhere reliable. In other words, it's a plea for help. This can be frustrating if you're the recipient of these; after a while I can start to feel like it's time for the person to just take care of it, not keep talking about it.

Luckily, there's a solution: Write it down on a list, and check it as often as needed to make it happen. Allen takes it further by encouraging us to:
  • Write to-do items that are both small and concrete enough to make them realizable,
  • keep all to-do items together on a single list,
  • and to keep them up-to-date.
There's more to it (get the book for details), but I've found that doing this is a great start at curing the "We have to remember to..." blues.

Reader Comments (2)

Now that my girlfriend has figured out how reliable I am, she does this to me all of the time. I've started prodding her to get organized now when she does it.

December 7, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterBrock Tice

That's a good one, Brock. I've also experienced a "I know you're organized, so I won't put it on *my* list," i.e., trying to give responsibility to me because I'm relatively more organized. However, I'm usually pretty clear about whether I take something like that on for the person or not. (In this case it was a job lead, so I said "Sure!")

December 7, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

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