Why My Memory is Least Trustworthy and the System is Most

Why My Memory is Least Trustworthy and the System is Most

For the last few years I have struggled with task management tools. It takes a long time to come to high gear from a regular job mindset. As anyone can guess, I started with GTD by David Allen. This book is a classic and should become part of core curriculum in middle schools all across the world (besides “rich dad, poor dad,” it goes without saying).

Reading GTD is easy; applying it to real life is not. I tried almost everything, including RTM (Remember The Milk), Omnifocus, Basecamp, Google Tasks, Pocket Journal, etc. Each one of them proved to be effective to a certain extent. Finally I started trying Asana, and so far it’s going good. Omnifocus was also good except for the lack of sharing capabilities and no web interface.

What makes this whole ordeal interesting is that we need all these tools because we cannot trust our brain to store information. It’s so surprising how we naturally tend to trust the least trustworthy. When it comes to processing information and providing insight, obviously nothing can beat the human brain (or human collective intelligence with the help of machines).

Let me also qualify what I meant by switching gear. While you are doing a job, you are working on a limited set of job duties. When you are running a company, your job duties encompass everything. In this case you need to have a “mind like water” (courtesy: David Allen) all the time.

It needs being alert and productive 24/7. Anything less would be detrimental. Yes, there is delegation and building a winning team. But still, as CEO, one should ideally always think about the future of the company; your tasks always remain endless.

While trusting our brains is our natural tendency, trusting the system is what we need to acquire as a skill. It also takes some validation. For example, when I am meditating with a timer, I see I can focus more than meditating without a timer.

It’s easier to trust the system for meditation, it’s tougher for task management. What makes it tough is that if you have kept 999 tasks in the system and one task in your brain, your brain will not trust the system. Your subconscious is very fair and it only trusts the data, nothing else. If it sees evidence of something stored in the brain, it knows the system cannot be trusted completely. And when it’s not trusted completely, there’s no way to keep track of two systems and the brain goes back to it’s old habit of keeping everything in memory.

I learned this lesson the hard way. Many years back I was in the final stage of my Green Card processing. At the last step, I got a fingerprinting notice and I completely forgot about it. When I was sitting for meditation one day, I got a weird feeling and I felt that something bad was going to happen. Within moments I knew what was wrong and the next day I went for fingerprinting.

Here meditation came to my rescue. But it cannot every time. The only thing which works every time is the system.