My system for never forgetting the small things

Bryan Harris —  Bryan Harris /

checklist

Somedays I get to lunchtime, look back on my day and wonder what happened.

  • Writing
  • Accounting
  • Filming
  • Editing
  • Managing
  • Designing
  • Support
  • Sales

On a normal day all 8 of these happen before noon. When I was working at my corporate sales job, life was simpler.

Show up, clock in and start calling new clients.

Now, I have to do everything. If I’m not directly doing a task I have to oversee the task to make sure it is done correctly.

This causes me to forget to do the little things that have to get done everyday like budgeting, categorizing bank transactions, clearing out my email inbox, setting weekly and monthly goal.

Me and Bill quickly started having something in common.

Frustrated Bill Cosby

Frustrated Bill Cosby

I wanted to simplify things. I’m a simple dude and the easier something is the more likely it is to get done.

Now, I start everyday with the exact same task.

download (4) FInish Daily Checklist

That’s it.

Everyday, before I do anything else, I do my daily checklist.

Anytime I find a small recurring tasks that needs to get done, I throw it into the checklist.

It is my starting line everyday.

If I had a crazy weekend and everything is blurry on Monday morning, I start with the checklist.

If I traveled the last 2 days and I have a million emails and fires going everywhere, I start with the checklist.

If I crushed it the day before and everything is going great, the next day I still…start with the checklist.

Download a copy of the current version.

I use a tool called SweetProcess to manage the checklist.

It makes it easy to manage the different lists I have and gives you a super nice UI and editor to maintain and add to it.

You can embed videos, pictures, include links and make notes under the item. This is what it looks like:

Sweet Process in Action

Sweet Process in Action

The point isn’t to use a specific tool.

The point is to stop relying on your own memory to get things done and start building easily replicable systems that can become habitual.

Want to start your own?

Here are 3 steps to get going:

Step 1: Brainstorm a list of items that you want to do every morning. Use my checklist as a starting place. Keep this list to items that take less than 15 minutes to accomplish. Here are a few of the original items on my first checklist:

  • Pray before doing anything else
  • Check my bank account. Categorize Transactions
  • Write down 1 new blog post idea

Step 2: Choose the medium you want to store your checklist in.

I started with an Evernote note and then it evolved into using a SweetProcess checklist over the next several months. You can use any of these to get started

  • Paper (tape it to your desk)
  • Evernote
  • Google Docs
  • Word
  • Pages
  •  SweetProcess

Step 3: Set a calendar reminder and an alarm on your phone.

I start work everyday at 7 am. I setup my Google Calendar to send me an email reminder for “Do your Daily Checklist!!” every morning at that time.

I have a daily alarm set on my iPhone as well. You are all set. What you have created is a living document.

Add to it and take away from it. As you see new tasks that you need to be more consistent at on a daily basis, put them on your checklist. When you notice things that you don’t need to get done anymore, take them off

PS:  Owen over at SweetProcess offered a 28 day Free trial (double the normal length) to anyone that would like to try out their program.

Click here to get started.

  • Nice recommendation Bryan. I prefer free stuff for to-dos, so I use Lift, Any.DO or just my ios reminders app. (and sometimes just a piece of paper)

  • Dustin Riechmann

    Great stuff, Brian. I do something similar – I personally use (real) paper for the morning ritual to-do list. Then I use Any.do for my larger, non-repeating tasks.

    Dustin

    • I keep a handwritten notebook as well. My first entry each day is “Daily Checklist”. That keeps me from having to write down the same 20-30 tasks every day.

  • Owen McGab Enaohwo

    Bryan, thanks for featuring SweetProcess in your article and thanks for also being our customer.

    I am one of the co-founders of SweetProcess and I am available to answer any question that the readers of your blog might have regarding how to document procedures and/or systematize their business.

    So if you are reading this comment and have a question, go ahead, leave it as a comment and I will respond with an answer.

  • This is bomb. Going to test starting tomorrow: Pray. Get coffee. Write 2 autoresponder emails.

  • Derrick Horvath

    Hey Bryan I found writing just 3 things to do for the next day at the end of the day is more effective. In other words at the end of your “work day” write the top 3 things you need to accomplish the next day, and don’t be too detailed. So if you want to write an article and that’s the most important, that’s number 1. Don’t get detailed and say research x, interview y, outsource z, just one thing, and get it done the next day. Doing this you may find you never get to #2 or #3. But it’s much more effective on your focus.

    • Totally with you Derrick. I do that as well. These are recurring task instead of one time things. The whole lists takes less than 30minutes.

  • Great post. 15 min total or 15 max per task?

    I’ve been doing 1 key task (30 min) every morning. But this would help with a lot of loose ends. Fear is it will expand to a 2 hr checklist session every morning. (esp if email is on the list)

    • The entire checklist takes me around 30-45 minutes. If a task takes too long I’ll put it on the list as a reminder to write it in my notebook to tackle later that day. (Example: Clear Evernote & Gmail.)

  • Alain Marine

    you always bring it.thanks

  • Great post Bryan. I just found your blog via your email building article on OKdork. Very impressive.

    Can you tell me what tool you’re using for creating the animated gif images in your blog posts?

    Thanks!

  • Not only do I actively work from a to-do list, but once completed I move the item to my “completed” file. This helps me track my activities and gives me reinforcement seeing a concrete representation of a job well-done. I’ve also taken to telling Siri many times a day to add to my to-do list and provide reminders while I’m on the fly. I have definitely started using my iPhone to capacity.

  • This is a great daily ritual to have. Thanks for sharing. I’ll have to check out Sweet Process. I switched from Evernote, to Nozbe to WorkFlowy. I love WorkFlowy for making lists.