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"Park" an Action Step
David Allen, famed productivity coach for executives, adds one extra piece of advice. Writing down the item is step one, he says—for example, "Mom's birthday"—but "Mom's birthday" will creep up again if you don't, within a very short period of time, make some decisions about what exactly that means to you. Are you going to give her a birthday party? Are you going to send her flowers?

"If you're trusting your psyche as your organization system," says Allen, "that part of you doesn't seem to have any sense of past or future. It thinks you should be dealing with Mom's birthday 24/7." So you need to consider what the next action is (it could be as simple as "buy and send Mom a card") and "park" that task on your shopping list until you have time to complete it. "Your mind is for having ideas, not for holding them," says Allen. Once your idea—and the action it requires—is in a safe place, you can think about other, more important or immediate concerns.