“Yeah, But I Remember the Important Things”

This sentence is said perhaps thousands of times per day by someone who has just forgotten to take out the garbage, pay a bill, return a phone call or send an email with that phone number you wanted.

It’s the kind of phrase that a novice in time management (or White belt) often says in response to one of those daily situations in which yet another one of their time demands has fallen through the cracks.  In their minds, it’s not a problem, because they are better at remembering the more important things.

This is a myth, but why so?

In the first place, the speaker doesn’t realize that they are over-depending on their memory to get stuff done.  They think that their ability to execute depends on their ability to remember, rather than the quality of the practices in their time management system.  They don’t know that the very way in which they conceive the problem they are facing is fundamentally flawed.

Secondly, it’s true that they remember the important things, because those are the things that loom large in front of them, and therefore get the most attention.  It’s more accurate to say that they get the most urgent things done, because the items that are not urgent are gradually making their way to the cracks because they are not on their immediate horizon.

The inevitable result is that a person comes to feel haunted and overwhelmed, simply because the combination of their memory and their  attention does not provide enough capacity to get everything done.  The haunted feeling comes from knowing that while I am busy on this urgent item in front of me, somewhere else I am forgetting to do something of importance that  I will only find out about when I get into trouble.

This happens  to everyone in their career at some point. Some get to this point earlier than others, simply because they either can remember more items (some people are truly gifted,) or because the number of time demands remains at a low level for some time.

All this is not to point the finger at White Belts, because we have all wanted to feel as if we are not screwing things up that badly… because “at least we get the important things done.”