This is the 1st of 5 posts in the series Note to self.

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As a teenager, I spent countless hours playing golf. During all those hours, I pulled clubs out of my bag several times on every hole.

If you’re a golfer, you know that it’s not unusual at all to find stray clubs on the course, especially around the greens, where you often have a wedge and a putter. One club will be on the ground at some point while you use the other.

In all the hundreds of rounds of golf I played, I lost lots of things: golf balls, money, my sanity plenty. But I never lost a single club. Not one.

I figured out early on that if I always left my putter, wedge, or other club on the ground between me and my most probable future path, I would either see it or trip over it.

Are you ticklish?

My golf club strategy worked, but it wasn’t that novel. The concept of ticklers has been around quite a while.

The idea is to put important things in your way so you’ll come across them when you want to. In a way, it’s sorta like writing a note to your future self and putting it in a time capsule. No electronics needed.

When I want to make absolutely sure that I won’t forget to take objects with me when I leave my house each day – whether it’s dry cleaning, a book, whatever – I put it in front of my door. Again, I’ll trip over it before I leave it behind. Simple, but effective.

Too much tripping bloodies your nose

In this century, we have no shortage of reminder systems and devices that ding, vibrate, and chirp at us at predesignated times. And we tend to abuse them in at least four ways:

  1. Misunderstanding of what a task due date should be
  2. Bad prioritization
  3. Setting tasks that aren’t actionable
  4. Failing to bundle similar tasks

These problems can be remedied by putting more scrutiny around task setting. Ideally, task setting should closely mimic putting physical objects in your pathway.

Why? Because I think I, for one, tend to exercise more care when I put a physical object in my most probably future path. They tend to be things I really need.

With virtual objects and tasks, I think we can quickly clog our future path. If I’m going to trip over something, I want it to be important.

Too many hurdles, and you’re doing a face-plant every five minutes. If you’re goal is to get nowhere with a bloody nose, this is the right approach. If you like the idea of progress, probably not so much.

Getting better at this

How do you make sure that the tasks you set are consistently worthwhile so that your past self doesn’t lose credibility with your future self?

In the coming posts, I'm going to talk about the four pitfalls of task setting I outlined above. You can see all the posts in this series by clicking on tag: note to self.