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I have a problem with working off my todo list (which is a canonical GTD next-action list in digital form.)

The problem is that I never remember to look at the list for determining what to do next. I just pick anything that I recall I have to do, and do it, or stoop into procrastination. Small, 'miscellaneous' items get forgotten and not done.

It still helps to have a next action list as I will look at it during my review, but I know that I get tremendous amounts of work done when tightly focused on the next action list, and want to spend more time in that mode.

So what scaffolding can you put in place to build the habit of looking at your todo list when you decide what to do next? (and maybe actually noticing that you do need to decide that, rather than going with the flow of the urgent and the mundane?)

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I got the same problem before. When I was starting to do sth, I always forgot to check the to do lists for the next time and hard to follow them. Then I tried to use some to do list organizer to help me write down them ahead and set the reminder to alert me. Much better than before. :P – Joyce Smith Jul 28 '14 at 10:02

How do you remember to work off your todo list?


I have a problem with working off my todo list (which is a canonical GTD
next-action list in digital form.)

The words in bold are the problem source.

The problem is that the TODO list is in a file in computer. So it will be before
your eyes only when you actually open it. Once you minimize or close that file
it will vanish from your sight. And there goes a saying "Out of sight is out of

The solution is to write the TODO list on a sheet of paper and stick it on the
wall near wherever you sit. You need to keep that sheet of paper in such a place
where your eyes will find them always. You shouldn't be making an effort
to search for the list.

Next, take a red colour marker and a green colour marker.
When you complete a task from that list, colour out the whole sentence describing
the whole task with green colour, and the ones which you could not complete
colour them with red at the end of the day.

This way I think you will be forced to see the TODO list and will also see things
getting done.

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I have found that in time, even something right in front of your face becomes invisible. We tend to react to change rather than constancy. Habit is key. – jontyc Apr 28 '15 at 0:39

I'm using a combination of personal kanban and the pomodoro technique. The particular program I use is Kanban Flow, although I'm sure this could be done with a physical board and a physical timer. Both Kanban and Pomodoro can be used in conjunction with GTD. While I don't do GTD per se, I do have a color code for Important AND Urgent, and for Important, not Urgent tasks.

Since Kanban Flow is a web app (also Chrome) it's visible in my browser. During times I'm working with it, I only allow 3 tabs open - KF + 2 others IF they are directly involved in the task in progress.

The timer noise from the pomodoro (bell like chime at end of 25 minutes and at end of break) reminds me to check what's on my board. Part of this is just building the habit. The sound gradually gets associated with time to check the list/board. Even if nothing else here suits you, you could learn to set a reminder (sound or popup on computer) to remind you to check what's next.

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I sometimes find the Pomodoro Technique paired with my GTD lists to be helpful. Working in 25 minute sprints with 5 minute breaks provides a natural point to remind myself to look at the appropriate list before starting the next sprint. This depends on the size of the tasks to be done, of course, but is useful when I notice myself slipping.

I will also sometimes put a mid-day reminder on my calendar to send an alarm about "look at lists".

And I try not to agonize over it. As you note, just looking at the lists in regular review is very helpful in getting the right stuff done.

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I try and link the tasks on my to do list. Essentially, amalgamating several tasks into a few 'groups' of tasks that need to be done. Often, I will get the smaller mundane/routine tasks done first.

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I will tell you what I used to do to make sure I remembered, until the habit was created and what I do now.

Years ago, when I moved from paper based planner (that was always in front of me on my desk) to digital is I would write a big note on a piece of paper. Something like "Check ToDo List" and I would put it leaning against my monitor. To remind me to check it.

Today what I do is I have two monitors and I just always have my GTDNext list showing on the secondary monitor.

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