Who doesn’t have clothes in their closet that they never wear? It is hard to decide what I will not wear and therefore should donate, but fortunately, I learned a trick that I can turn hangers backwards for all clothing for which I don’t think I will wear. If I end up wearing any of this questionable clothing, when it is returned to the closet, I will hang it with the hanger positioned normally (i.e. not backwards).
After a few months (or however long I want to wait) I can determine what clothing I did not wear because their hangers are still backwards. Clothes that are left on a backward hanger can safely be donated/given away because they are definitely not being worn. This approach allows even a pack-rats the peace of mind to get rid of any unnecessary clothing. The benefit is that I can get rid of clothing that takes up valuable space in my closet, but more importantly, it makes dealing with my closet easier because I don’t have excess clothes to pick through.
I’ve found that my brain is most at ease when my GTD lists of next actions (ToDos) and projects are most abundant because that means (or at least has the feeling) that everything is out of my head and in my system. This allows my brain to stop thinking about what I need to do and allows me to focus on getting things done. However, as my GTD system grows (i.e. more projects and ToDos are added to my system), it seems as if it becomes exponential difficulty to simply scan my context-specific list of ToDos when trying to determine the most appropriate next action.
During the course of my day, my ToDo list is constantly changing. I’m adding items that I’ve identified and removing items that I’ve completed. With just over 350 tasks in my GTD system, it can take several minutes to scan a list of @Computer-Broadband related next actions when the list has over 50 items. Just the thought of scanning through 350 next actions is painful!
In order to keep my GTD system complete, but not bloated, I need to prune my list of next actions and projects from time to time. GTD suggests moving unnecessary next actions and projects to the Someday Maybe list/category. My problem, like with clothes in my closet, is that it is very difficult to make the mental leap that an item is not needed and should be moved to the Someday maybe list.
To combat this resistance to prune an item, I use a similar technique to the backward hangers in the closet for my GTD lists. Although there are many ways you can approach it, during a special, monthly review, I put a trailing asterisk on next actions and projects for which I have not acted upon in at least a month. If, at some point, I act upon the action or project, I remove the asterisk (similar to returning clothing to the closet with the hanger oriented normally).
Once a month, during my weekly review, I review the items with asterisks (see example above). If it has been at least a month since I dealt with the project or next action, I move it to the someday maybe category.
The beauty of this technique is that it helps me be aggressive at keeping my next action list to a minimum. (GTD practitioners will understand that we ignore the someday maybe list except during our weekly reviews). Minimizing the clutter and bloat in my lists allows me to more quickly understand what is truly important. By using this technique, my GTD system is much less bloated and I enjoy scanning my shorter lists easily throughout my day.