• Your brain can’t remember all things all the time
  • Operating memory limits how much you can remember
  • Don’t rely solely on memory; use reminders to stay on track
You’re neck deep in grunt work and trying to keep up with all the various tasks and to-do’s for all of your projects. Jumping from one task to another while getting sidetracked on urgent requests is your normal daily routine. You’re only able to address the most immediate thing. It’s really like playing the whac-a-mole arcade game.

As you’re scanning your inbox between tasks, you get a follow-up email from your boss about a specific task from a couple of weeks ago.

Oh, shit!

You totally forgot about this.

You reply back that you’re working on it and almost done (yeah, right). Now, you’re scrambling to get all the info and put it all together in the next few hours. It’s a mad dash now.

Your heart rate and stress levels jump as you slap all of the information together and do final checks. It’s not perfect and you know it. However, it’ll do for now.

You submit the information just barely before the deadline. You sigh in relief but at the same time, you wonder to yourself, how the hell did you forget about this?

You don’t want to be in this situation again and end up dropping the ball on an even more critical task. You can’t let this happen again.

Why & How Shit Falls Through The Cracks

Every week there’s at least one task or to-do item that you forgot to take care of. It’s inevitable that something always gets lost in the shuffle. But, have you ever wondered why this happens so often?

The main reason is that the human brain only has so much mental operating capacity. It’s like the random access memory (RAM) storage on your computer. It can only do so much at the same time. Anything that’s not important or urgent gets pushed aside and placed in another less accessible part of your brain.

This 2-minute clip helps to visually explain the concept a bit more.

VIDEO: Why Do We Forget Things?
YOUTUBE: Life Noggin
LENGTH: 1:45
One of the most common ways that shit falls through the cracks is when you’re slammed with multiple projects with overlapping deadlines or putting out fires at work. Basically, when you’re super busy, this is when things get lost and forgotten.

You’re focused only on the most important and critical things that need to get done. This is when you gotta stop fucking around and get shit done. You have limited mental capacity. So, only the top tasks are being addressed.

Less important tasks or items that have deadlines that are further off, you just put those out of your short-term operating memory. And once it’s out of your current memory, it can easily be forgotten until a trigger brings it back.

Another common reason is when you put the task on the back burner simply because you don’t want to work on it. It could be that it’s a real pain in the ass task or maybe you’re waiting on an unresponsive coworker to get you the info you need to start or continue the task.

Whatever the reason, the item is put off to the side and you do other shallow bullshit work instead. This distracts you enough to stay busy and once you get in the zone with busy work, then that side task just gets forgotten until your boss asks about it.

How To Stop Shit From Falling Through The Cracks

You have a ton of shit to handle and take care of at work. Is it possible to remember every single thing all the time?

Yes, it’s possible, but not realistic.

What you need to focus on is to ensure that the key tasks that are not top-of-mind and/or urgent at the moment don’t get lost or forgotten. These are the to-do’s that are important but don’t have high priority urgency.

You can’t rely on your operating memory to keep track of this because remember, most of that mental capacity is being used for the current pressing needs.

So, here are a few simple hacks that you can use to keep track of tasks and to-do’s.

Keep An “In Your Face” Task List

Sometimes the tried and true old school method works best. Get a sheet of paper and write down each key task that you don’t want to forget. Make it like a checklist.

Then, here’s the important part - put that task list in your direct field of vision. This could be right next to your monitor or just above it. This is so that it’s pretty much in your face at all times.

When you complete a task, check the box or cross out the item and give yourself a high five. You gotta celebrate small victories and make this an addictive positive habit to keep your momentum going.

Use Outlook Flags & Reminders

Everything is on email now. Every bit of communication, doc sharing, scheduling and of course, CYA actions, etc are all done via email. For a lot of office workers, Outlook is the default company email program. It’s got a lot of powerful tools that most people don’t take advantage of.

One little hack is to use the available reminder flags and to-do list functions. When you get a request via email that you don’t want to forget about, you can simply flag it with a set date for reminder. You can also just create a task on the to-do list.

Here’s a short video clip explaining how to do this.

VIDEO: Outlook - Allocate time for Flagged Emails
YOUTUBE: Chris Menard
LENGTH: 3:19
Using these email flags and having Outlook automatically add them to your task list is key. It all starts with getting in the habit of flagging the key emails. Once it becomes second nature, you’ll be able to clear shit out faster.

Schedule Task-Specific Timeblocks

It’s unavoidable that someone will put a pre-meeting or some other review session on one of the few open slots in your day. In order to protect your work time and prevent back-to-back meetings all day, you need to get in the habit of setting up meetings with yourself.

This is more commonly known as timeblocking. However, this takes it a step further by blocking your calendar so that others can’t use your time. Use this dedicated slot as a task-specific timeblock to do that specific task.

Give It A Deadline

A lot of shit that falls through the cracks is because it’s not top of mind due to the fact that there’s no deadline attached to it. Thus, you keep pushing it back. This ultimately leads to the crushing effects of procrastination.

One way to keep it in mind is to put a self-imposed deadline on it. Give yourself a realistic deadline to complete the task, not too aggressive and not too lenient and far off. Find the right balance to give yourself a bit of positive pressure to get it done.

Have Accountability Work BFF

Having another person holding you accountable for the task can work too. It’s kinda like having the same kind of pressure from a micromanager boss but without the negative aspects of it.

Ask your work BFF to be your accountability partner. Have them check in about the task and keep tabs on you. This will give you positive pressure and reminders so that it doesn’t disappear from your radar. Be sure to do the same for them too so that it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Stay On Top Of Your Game

Things get crazy busy at work, especially when shit hits the fan and you’re scrambling to fix and address all sorts of top priorities. And we all know that everything can’t be number one on your list of to-do’s. Some tasks just need to be put off until the chaos settles.

Don’t lose track of these other tasks. Otherwise, you’ll just be creating additional stress for yourself. It’s hard enough managing work stress with what you’re dealing with now. No need to make it worse.

Use the tactics, tips and tricks that work best for you to keep key tasks top of mind and prevent them from disappearing. It’s not going to be easy but once you get in the habit, shit won’t fall through the cracks anymore.

Feel Better,

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