Think It Through Once: The Repeating Task System
by Dr. Frank Buck
Each summer, the anticipated start of a new school year finds both teachers and parents planning for the year ahead. Some of those plans involve new projects and new ideas. Other plans involve thinking some of the same thoughts we pondered last year. What tasks do we need to perform to be ready? What materials will we need? What are those "big events" that happen during the year?

Let's move outside of education. What are those projects in your work or in your home life that repeat? What are the single actions that you have to perform the same time every year, every month, or even every week?

What is the consequence for forgetting any one of those "to-dos." Staying on top of the details is enough to give a person a headache - literally. The huge percentage of doctor visits for stress-related issues is living proof of how overwhelming our lives can be.

The good news is we need not reinvent the wheel every time one of those projects comes around. The first time you tackle a big project, little "to-dos" will occur to you at the most unlikely of moments Ñ in the middle of a walk through the neighborhood, during lunch, or even during the Sunday morning sermon. When they occur, the habit of capturing them with pencil and paper will keep that good idea or essential detail from disappearing.

The news gets even better. Handle a project once, and you should never have to rethink any of those details. Never again should you sit with a blank legal pad three weeks before the start of school or other major repeating event in your life and try to pull a list out of your head of what you need to be doing. The truth of the matter is the details you are going to handle on that project this year are the same ones you handled last year. The trick is having a system that helps you remember what they were.

Setting Up a Repeating Task System

To make your life much easier, let a Òrepeating task systemÓ handle all of the details that recur each year, each quarter, each month, etc. I offer two options: one for those who organize with paper and one for those who organize digitally.

Index Cards and Tickler Files

Keep blank index cards close at hand. When a Òto-doÓ comes to mind and you realize it is one that will repeat, jot the task on a blank index card. On the next line, write down how often the task must be performed. In a previous article, we examined Òtickler files.Ó Throw the index card in the tickler file for the appropriate day and forget about it. When the card pops up, do the task, and re-file the card for the next time it needs to be done.

Digital Reminders

A wide variety of digital to-do lists are available for our computers and mobile devices. Whether you use Outlook, ToodleDo, Remember the Milk, or any of the rest, look for the repeating task feature. Enter the task, set a due date, and tell the software how often the task is to reappear. You enter the task one time, yet you are reminded each time it needs to be done.

The time spent identifying all of your repeating tasks will be recouped many times over not only in the time you will save, but also in the stress that will be relieved. With all of your tasks captured in your repeating task system, you will not have to worry about what may be slipping through the cracks. Why reinvent the wheel each time you repeat a project? Let your list handle the details while you free your mind for more creative activities.

Frank Buck is a retired educator who writes and speaks on organizational techniques.
© 2013