43 Folders

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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

The Beauty of the Recurring Task

There’s a certain kind of to-do list item that can really bite you in the butt: the recurring task. While programs like Sciral Consistency are designed specifically for managing fuzzy-intervaled tasks, MS Entourage has a handy “Recurrence Pattern??? box that lets you define how often and when an item should pop up on your radar screen. This is a feature I love and use whenever I can.

In addition to the common “Every Monday??? and “Every Other Month??? items, Entourage lets you set a manual interval for repetition that’s based on the last time the task was completed. For example, anyone who’s lived in San Francisco knows how inexplicably dusty your house gets. I have a reminder to sweep the bunnies from the hallway every 5 days (regardless of the day of the week that falls on). So if I tick it off today, it automatically pops back up again next Sunday. Then it hangs around, bugging me, until I do it again, and so on.


This is a great feature for handling a lot of stuff you don’t want to forget about—but that you don’t want sitting interminably on your to-do list.

  • Change baking soda in freezer & fridge (every 180 days)
  • Check in on progress of My Bloody Valentine’s next record (every 120 days)
  • Check for price changes on CD-R media (every 90 days)
  • Change water filter in coffee maker (every 30 days)
  • Check email on disused email account (every 14 days)
  • Think about making a new set of 5ives (every 10 days)
  • Call Mom (every 7 days)
  • Sift through spam folder for false positives (every 5 days)
  • Process outstanding Hipster PDA cards (every 3 days)

The thing I like best about this—and I admit that this is a subtle feature—is that regardless of how long it takes me to finish the task, it always re-generates itself with the correct interval. If I don’t feel like sweeping the floor and it takes 7 days instead of 5, no problem. Better next time.

Much nicer than watching a half-dozen, guilt-inducing items pile up behind one another like a traffic jam.

Mike's picture

Oh, that's nice ... and...

Oh, that's nice ... and I prolly would've missed it coming from outlook on the PC, so thanks.

I'm finding great success with a mostly paper-based GTD hack, but this has me thinking about re-examining the electronic route. If only there was a way to reliably sync between Outlook/PC at work and Entourage/Mac at home.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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