If your life is anything like mine, then you probably have days when you think your business card should include “Task and Idea Juggler.” For many of us — myself included — it can be difficult to remember to pick up groceries on the way home, let alone recall the dozens of tasks that we delegate to our employees at work. Written to-do lists just aren’t efficient anymore. Oftentimes, in the time it takes you to find pen and paper to work with, your idea is gone.
There are plenty of online tools and apps to help you keep track of your to-dos and projects — such as Trello and Basecamp. But these apps only work if they become daily habits. They need to be tools that we automatically rely on and go to when we have something to remember. For the busy sales professional — we really can’t spare the time to create new habits.
The same issue applies for the Bullet Journal. Their no-nonsense analog system is super useful for logging daily, weekly, monthly, and long-term goals. Again, remembering and finding the time to physically write everything down can be hard.
And there are certainly good books and approaches including Brian Tracy’s “Eat that Frog” and David Allen’s “Getting Things Done.” But I want to share a simpler solution that addresses the day-to-day stress of remembering what you need to do or how to not lose that great idea as you pull up to your home at night.
My solution to this dilemma is the Email To-Do List. Email is already a part of all of our daily routines. This way you don’t have to create a whole new set of habits in order to use it reliably.
Really- there’s just two steps:
Step 1: Create a Code (or use mine)
In the subject line of an email to myself, I type three letters. These letters are an easy-to-remember code for three categories of important reminders: to-dos, ideas, and delegated tasks. Personally, I use “TDX” for to-dos, “IDX” for ideas, and “DDX” for delegated tasks — but it can be any combination of three letters you want. “DDX” in particular is useful in that it allows you to quickly see what you’ve asked other people to do for you.
Three-letter codes are both easy to remember and quick to type, which makes them perfect for jotting down an idea before it slips your mind, or creating a discreet reminder in a meeting.
Step 2: Create a Filter
The second step is to create an email filter, so that each of your codes sorts into its own folder. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to access all of your important to-dos, ideas, and delegated tasks (as well as whatever other categories you want to set up) in the same place.
Create a folder for each of your three-letter codes in your email. Then create a filter for incoming mail — so when you receive the messages to yourself, they will automatically sort into the folders that you designate for the subject line.
See the following links for instruction on how to set up an email filter in Gmail or Outlook. Filters can only be set up online — they usually can’t be created on a mobile device – but once created, the filtered folders will be available on your phone or tablet.
There is no Step 3.
It really is as simple as that. All you have to do is complete those two easy steps, and then you’re ready to start using your own Email To-Do List. I’ve found this to be an indispensable tool for staying on top of my hectic day-to-day life — personal as well as business. Whether you’re stuck in traffic on your morning commute, sitting in a meeting, or walking through the grocery store — the Email To-Do List is always accessible to you on your phone (unlike pen and paper).
Two quick warnings, though:
- ) This isn’t going to give you a fancy GANTT chart or dynamic assignment ability. It just gives you a quick way to get that thought or task out of your head and into a safe place. Of course, having a process to get stuff done is still useful. So, don’t think of this as anything than what it is… a productivity hack, that’s real helpful in and of itself.
- ) Also, it’s easy to start down this path and say, “Wow, I can create more codes and filters for other stuff!” DON’T! The reason this works is because it is simple, always available and reliable. Keep it simple and the hack will work for you.
Taking the time to turn to-do list apps into daily habits is simply not an option for most of us. Use email to send yourself reminders about important ideas and tasks.
- Do you have a system for remembering everything you need to get done?
- Have you ever tried to use an app like Trello or Basecamp — and found that remembering to do so is a problem in and of itself?
- Is email already a part of your daily routine?