How many times in your life have you driven a car to fumes only to discover first-hand the obvious truth that cars and trucks will not operate without fuel? I’m guessing not too many unless you’re like me. Yet, after only a handful of miscalculations, I learned cars don’t run on fumes very long. How often do you notice cars cluttering intersections or roadsides because their drivers completely emptied the fuel tank while in use? How could it possibly be true most of us rarely, perhaps never, run completely out of fuel, yet most of us have experienced misplacing our keys to these cars more frequently than we want to know?

Car Dashboard

Automobile manufacturers make your timely refueling success rate extremely high with the dashboard gas gauge. That simple dashboard gauge, divided into fourths, uses an arrow to track the fuel supply from full to empty. With only the effort of a glance, this gauge offers current and reasonably accurate information on your car’s fuel supply. Plus, you receive stronger warnings as the need for refueling becomes more urgent. Perhaps the final 1/8 of the gauge is a red zone, or a lighted gas pump appears as the tank approaches reserve levels. More recent models consistently warn the driver with a mileage countdown to empty. If you persist in ignoring, it finally flashes REFUEL NOW!

Can you imagine achieving your same timely refueling success rate if you ditched the gauge and simply tried to remember when you last refueled?

Without a gauge, perhaps you could:

                 design a fuel buying day, or

                 purchase often to avoid forgetting, or

                 have friends and family on standby to assist when you miscalculated, or

                 risk carrying extra fuel for emergencies.

These strategies may seem silly or even ridiculous when the gas gauge serves as such a reliable tracking tool.

Yet, we rely on similar low-success-rate-strategies when the stakes are high for remembering and tracking important things in our lives. What if you could replicate your timely refueling success rate in other areas of your life?

Imagine that you remember great ideas, appointments, to-dos, meetings, commitments, invitations, birthdays, special occasions, and deadlines with the same consistent reliability that you refuel your car before it’s empty. What area of your life would you begin to apply that same high level of success?

Personal Dashboard:

I strongly recommend using this powerful visible dashboard principle. Of course, the automobile industry will not be designing this for you. And yes, creating the system requires real work and making it part of your life requires new habits, but once you have it—amazing! Having a visible tracking system that is clear, simple, current, understandable at a glance, and provides increased warning with urgency for your professional and personal life is a game changer!

One essential, and easily understood, component is the calendar. The other, less common but equally essential, component is a task manager. Imagine a task manager as a flesh and blood person who manages every detail of your life. But unless you’re a world leader, internationally famed entertainer, industry leader CEO or simply wealthy this isn’t likely an option for you. Thinking about that person, however, helps you conceptualize the value of a task manager, which ideally holds a comprehensive collection of ALL your commitments at both the big picture and next action levels. It is ever-changing, time-sensitive, and easily accessible since your obligations are time sensitive, vary by context, continually change.

If having such a task management system excites you but the thought of creating one overwhelms you, hang on.

  • Ideal systems are aspirations and guides, not necessarily real things.
  • Forget about perfection.
  • Forget about ideal.
  • Take the first step, experience the value, take another one, learn as you go, and watch your system grow organically. After all, this system is about you and for you!

Just as you are not like other people, your system will not be like others. Some will be analog and paper-based, while others will rely on sophisticated digital software like OmniFocus, Nozbe, Todoist, or Trello.

Next week I explore a keystone habit for making all your commitments, ideas, projects, and tasks visible, essential for making your life manageable in an information-rich society.