The Value Of Mind Sweeps, Plus My Updated Trigger List
A trigger list contains a large selection of keywords. Whenever you are doing a weekly review or just want to clear your head, the trigger list is there to do exactly as its name implies and trigger those thoughts and ideas floating around in your mind. GTD fans will understand the significance of this as it strongly encourages you to capture pretty much everything in your head into a trusted system.
When I first tried to do a mind sweep I struggled. What could I write down? I quickly jotted down the obvious stuff, most of which was already on my radar, but then I got stuck. The brain often needs some sort of clue – verbal, visual, etc. – before it will unlock its doors. For example, it will only remind you to buy batteries when it sees the dead ones in the remote control.
This is where the trigger list comes in. Just glancing at one or two words will typically remind you of something you like to do, something you’ve forgotten about or something that needs dealing with. The first time you do a mind sweep you may be surprised by the amount of stuff that comes up. Don’t be put off by this. It’s better out than in, as it were, and just because you’re jotted something down doesn’t mean you are now committed to doing it. Your brain will feel the relief of not having so much to remember and you’ll now be able to judiciously plan and consider what you’ve actually got going on in your life.
The trick then is to do a mind sweep regularly so stuff doesn’t seep back into your brain. However this is much easier to do if you regularly jot down any thoughts, to-do’s and ideas as they occur to you on a notepad or PDA. Get into the habit of carrying a pen and paper around with you!
I’ve never personally found the trigger list David Allen provides to be as in-depth as it could be, so a few months ago I greatly expanded on it. However, as is the nature of these things, I kept thinking up further keywords to add. So today I’m releasing a vastly updated version, incorporating these extra words plus a few more from Making It All Work. I’ve also compressed it down onto one page so it can easily be pinned to a board or stuck on the wall (let me know if you don’t like it this way). Hope you find it useful, and if you have any further suggestions on how to expand and improve it, please let me know!