The value of the persistant reminder

They say a visual reminder of a goal will help you acheive it. My experience is that placards with my desired weight taped here and there in my house have done nothing to reduce my weight, but perhaps the visual reminder needs to be more actionable.

We all have things we want to get done but resist our efforts. These are usually (hopefully) things that we should do but can live without doing. They sit there, wanting to be done, but undone. Sometimes it’s that the item isn’t really actionable – like a number taped to my mirror – but often times it’s all too actionable, there’s just some barrier. The strongest barrier is that the price to be paid for not doing it is simply not very high.

As I adopted David Allen’s Getting Things Done system for my personal life, I’ve found the value of the persistent reminder in dealing with these items. Even the most intractable item will eventually be conquered, if I just have a persistent reminder of it. Rather than if, it becomes a matter of when.

For example, I need to fix the oil cooler on my wife’s minivan. The van is famous for leaking oil at the oil cooler, and while it’s not a serious leak it’s enough to spot the driveway and it needs to be fixed but it’s the kind of thing one can live with fairly easily. It’s been on my todo list for ages.

Today it finally succumbed as I was going through my projects, got to that one, and asked myself “Am I really going to write this one on another next action list? Or, should I just get off my ass and do it?”

So a few dollars later and I have my new oil cooler seal.

This isn’t the first such item I’ve been able to deal with this way, and it took me a while to realize that it is really just a matter of there being a persistent reminder. David’s system certainly provides it, but it could be done in other ways. Regardless, if I see that item every day it will become an imperative to do it.

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