I’ve got a challenge for you.
Are you up for it?
Seriously, it’s going to take some guts.
Go to your Downloads folder. Click on it to see all the contents. Hit CMD + A to Select All.
Now hit delete.
How does it feel?
Chances are you couldn’t pull the trigger.
After all, that downloads folder has some gems in it.
A 1099 for your upcoming tax return.
Your half-completed application to renew your driver’s license.
And a video your mom sent you of the kids.
So the files just accumulate. Unorganized. Un-searchable. Clogging up mental bandwidth.
Meet the Zeigarnik Effect
There’s a quiet tax to this digital hoarding. It’s called the Zeigarnik Effect. Simply Psychology describes it as:
The tendency of the human memory to remember interrupted or incomplete tasks more easily than completed ones
The inability to delete the Downloads folder means that you have incomplete tasks (or actions) hiding in that folder. And your brain subconsciously clings to them.
At RadReads, we’re big believers that “open loops,” whether they’re tasks, projects, messages or files are a latent source of stress. Which is why we created a playbook to manage and eliminate anything that “hangs over your head.”
Meet the Weekly Review Checklist
The Weekly Review should be used as an anchor to any productivity system. It’s a simple checklist to eliminate any open loops and then set your plan to do your most important $10K Work.
Here’s a checklist you can steal from our Life Operating System (LifeOS) that we designed in Notion. It’s a simple process that can be conducted in under 25 minutes on any task management system.
Step 1: Delete your aged tasks
One of the quiet stressors of modern task management is your aged tasks. The digital nature of our lives makes it easy to add something to the list – yet never act upon it. So here’s an easy antidote:
- Go into your task list and sort by incomplete, oldest first
- Look at the dates, yes there’s going to be some old stuff in there
- Create a rule (i.e. “If it’s been there for more than 3 months, delete”)
This simple step will release a tremendous amount of cognitive load – and again – can be done on any productivity system.
Step 2: Review your Projects and Domains
The biggest challenge with traditional task management is that many activities don’t fit neatly into project lists. Activities such as “be a good dad” or “learn a new language” or “eat better” – the proverbial Important, but not Urgent – are ongoing and don’t work with fake due dates.
Our $10K Task Management philosophy creates two types of lists: Projects and Domains. And as part of the Weekly Review, we recommend you review all the tasks in these two lists.
Step 3: Who owes you stuff?
One of the biggest sources of anxiety is keeping tabs on who owes you something. It could be:
- A direct report owes you an analysis
- Your boss owes you edits on your proposal
- Your accountant owes you your estimated taxes
These tasks present a conundrum: They can’t be marked “complete,” yet you don’t need to do them.
The solution is using a tag (or in GTD-terms, a Context) called Waiting On which gets checked every week during the Weekly Review.
Step 4: Who do I need to contact this week?
One of the most beautiful (and natural) ways to create serendipity in your life is to cultivate your weak ties. This includes “networking” from a place of generosity, sending mutually beneficial intros and random birthday videos to your friends.
Here’s where a simple system to stay connected comes into play. It’s not meant to be slimy, transactional, nor forced. Think of it as a serendipity engine to accelerate your good intentions:
Step 5: What’s my $10K Work for the week?
Next, you want to set your intention for the week. One of the primary learning outcomes from Supercharge Your Productivity is that all students do 25 minutes of their highest-leverage, highest impact $10K Work.
Once again, you can use a tag (the LifeOS calls it Task Value). Next, instead of using Due Dates we recommend setting Do Dates for your $10K Work. The Do Date probably won’t work in most task management systems (as it requires a custom field). An alternative would be to use a task corresponding to each day of the week.
Here’s the corresponding calendar view for the LifeOs:
Step 6: What awesome things happened this week?
Now time for the cherry on top. When we’re so busy on the hedonic treadmill (chasing the when-then-trap), it’s easy to move the goal posts on the great things happening in your life. A simple remedy is to document your wins – both small and large in your Jar of Awesome.
Then, whenever you’re ever feeling down or you you want to experience gratitude, it’s right there.
And the last step?
Delete your downloads folder.
Actually, I forgot one last step.
Wipe down those screens with some disinfectant. Cuz you know, they nasty!
Get our Black Friday Practical Productivity Bundle
We created the Practical Productivity bundle (valued at $792) which includes The LifeOS plus:
- The Ultimate Productivity Tool-Kit
- How to Build Indestructible Habits
- Using a Digital Calendar for Effortless Execution
- Master your inbox (without the stress or burnout)
- Reach Inbox Zero Everywhere (RIZE)