My Brain Is Slow, AKA Argument #37,488 In Favor Of Paper Planners - Repetitive Tasks | Giftie Etcetera: My Brain Is Slow, AKA Argument #37,488 In Favor Of Paper Planners - Repetitive Tasks

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My Brain Is Slow, AKA Argument #37,488 In Favor Of Paper Planners - Repetitive Tasks

Critics of paper planners often point to repetitive events and tasks as a main reason to rely solely on technology and avoid paper planners. The point that they say out loud is that they don't want to recopy something AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN.

The part they rarely say out loud, that I believe to be true, is that they are more comfortable with technology and the way it makes you think. It's the natural way to schedule for them. I fully support and respect that. You should plan in a way that works for YOU, not anyone else. But a silly little problem like repetitive entries in a planner is no reason to avoid paper. I know, I know. I sound like this is war, but it isn't. I love my techno peeps. I just think they are a little crazy. But who isn't? :)

Ways to Deal With Repetitive Tasks:

1. Establish routines.

If something happens again and again, many people naturally start to create routines to get those things done. If you struggle with creating routines, though, go ahead and make a list of the routines in the appropriate place in your planner.

I struggle with two routine problems - household daily chores and remembering the morning routine when school restarts every autumn.

Daily chores are an ongoing problem for me, so I took a business card holder and use my frixion pens (which write just fine on the plastic with a tiny bit of pressure and erase completely) to check off chores as I complete them. I keep this reusable page next to my receipts at the end of each month. Since I am constantly shopping and writing down receipt totals, this forces me to look at this page. If the chores are not all checked off by Sunday, I either need to do them on Sunday, delegate them to someone in my family, or actually schedule them to get done during the next week in my weekly pages. (My weekly pages are sacred and, apart from true emergencies, mostly get done.) (Mostly. I didn't add that word in the first draft of this blog, but honesty is important, yes?)

School day routines are hard to remember only because we take a break from them every summer. I made a quick schedule of everything that needs to be done before and after school and just keep the page in my files (filed under OLOM, the school's name). It includes a list of things that need to leave the house with us. (Note the list of chores each kid must do every afternoon. The kids are 4 and 7 years old. Some young spouse will thank me someday.)

2. Circle repeating items.

If an event is going to repeat, I fill out my monthly calendar and circle the event the last time it is listed. For example, I do carpool only on certain days but on the last day of the month, I need to schedule carpool days for the next month.  You can see that CP (for carpool) is circled on the 27th. When I get to a circled item and complete it, I reschedule it for the next time it will occur.

If a task is going to repeat, I circle it on my weekly pages. Next week, I have to check Edline (once per week to find kid's homework), grocery shop (once per week), and take out the trash (every week on Tuesday night). Again, when I get to a circled item and complete it, I reschedule it for the next time it will occur.

3. Box yearly items.

Birthdays and anniversaries get a box around them to remind me to put them on my Future Planning page as they occur. (You do have a future planning page, right? If not, make one immediately. You need it. Just trust me.)

4. Recopy as you go.

You have to teach yourself to recopy repeating information whenever you see a circle or a box in your planner. The value of doing so is that you are forced to learn the pattern. Recopying the trash every week means that even if I don't actually look at my planner on Tuesday night, I tend to remember, spontaneously, to take out the trash. I remind myself, after all, each week when I recopy.

Caution: Don't use circles or boxes to highlight very important items. If I need to remember something that won't repeat, I use doodles instead.

5. If you are recopying without completing the task, it's time to find another way to get it done.

I sometimes find that I am recopying something when I do my planner review and never getting it done. If that happens, I either a) delete it and no longer try to accomplish that (clearly useless since I was never motivated to complete it) task, b) delegate it (putting away laundry eventually got assigned to each family member because it was overwhelming to do alone and the kids were not learning to be responsible), or c) dedicate myself to doing it, usually by "eating the frog," setting an alarm and deadlines, and completing that task first each day until it becomes a habit. I had to do this with my new maintenance asthma inhaler, as not taking the medicine or having someone else take it was not an option. (See, sometimes I use technology!)

People who let Outlook or Google tell them to do repetitive tasks lack the tactile experience of writing the task (and therefore encoding it in their memory), the active decision making of prioritizing or dropping the task if it is not getting done timely, and the visual cue of seeing all normal, routine responsibilities listed when they are planning abnormal or one-time responsibilities (allowing them to plan with balance and reasonableness). That is fine, as long as you don't need those crutches to make your brain work.

My brain is slow. I need the extra input.



Songbird said...

This is interesting. I know a lot of people use sticky notes for repetitive tasks & just move them forward, but this post makes a very good case for re-writing. Hmmm.

RobbieKay said...

Since I began reading your blog I have begun using the circling recurring tasks tip and that has helped me to remember to rewrite it at the next occurrence. In the past I have tried the Post-It method that Songbird68 mentioned and found several problems: too many recurring tasks creating overwhelming visual clutter; doesn't completely address the issue of rewriting because you can only move the stickies so much before the adhesive gives out; the stickies were obscuring other important information in my calendar.

I have been using the Lotus Notes calendar at work and you would not believe the trouble I've had getting it to handle recurring tasks. So even technology doesn't always handle this well.