The Check List

At the top of each of my 12 outlines in ActionOutline is a check list.

Check List, ActionOutline

(You may need to backtrack. This is a series of posts about organizing all my lists in one place, ActionOutline.)

The check lists are comprised of things that I need to look at regularly. One outline, one check list per day. If I did them all at once I’d be right back where I was and my head would explode.

Since most recurring things are already on my calendar, these are just a few odd reminders left over:

  • 0.Inbox
  • Email
  • Google Reader
  • Review


This means the specific category folder inside 0.Inbox that sits at the top of My Documents where I toss downloads and screenshots and things like that as I’m going along.

Inbox, My Documents


You might wonder how anyone could forget to check their email. But it’s not so much about remembering it; it’s about recognizing it as a commitment. Except for the junk mail, it’s something I’ve agreed to. So, either be there or end the relationship.

It’s going much better since I split it into categories.

Inbox, Thunderbird

I can handle one box per day. I do it and it’s done. I don’t have to keep going back every two minutes to see what else might be there. This saves a lot of time and a lot of distraction. As it used to be, probably an hour a day being indecisive; looking at it and then deciding to not look at it. I used to have email dated months ago. Even as far back as 3 years.

Google Reader

You guessed it. My RSS subscriptions are also split into 12 categories. So I scan through my category of the day and see what the rest of the world is doing.

This is redundant because I keep a few sites, including this one, bookmarked with the login set to remember me. It saves me the time of going back and forth logging in. That must have been at least an hour a day wasted.


These are simple documents covering every aspect of my life and my computer. Health issues, financial, legal, what’s on my computer, what I’d like done with it. In case I get hit by a bus tomorrow.

Out of the 325GB of personal files on my computer, 200GB of it is family history.

I started writing these several years ago so now I just scan through and update them. One category per day. It’s amazing how much can change in a couple of weeks. There are 24 of them and I used to try to update all of them once a month. It was too much.

ReadMe files

Other Reminders

Under my 3 blogs there’s also a note about updates and backups telling me exactly what I need to do.

Under the PC TOOLS category is also a note about updating software.

So, they’re not all exactly the same but that’s the general idea.


Review means to scan down the whole outline and remind myself of what’s there and notice anything that’s changed. If I have free time I might pick something optional and change the flag to green. Of course, it’s my list so I can also change my mind and turn the flag back to yellow. It depends how things are going.

Life can change on a dime so it’s imperative to have a system that’s focused and open-ended at the same time.

I suspected I had a problem when I heard myself telling a friend, “If I stay focused I might be able to get through my Inbox by the end of 2013. And it wasn’t even 2013 yet. I’d killed off all my dinging-around time and where’s the fun in that?

This turned everything around.

Commitment Commitment

If you know what your commitments are you’ll know if you have time, money or energy for any more.

Optional Optional

My optional lists go on forever. None of us are getting out of here without a to-do list.

Reference Reference

Keeping reference items in the same outline as the to-do’s means I don’t have to go very far to find them. They might be URLs, custom code used on my website or how-to instructions. It runs the gamut.

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