The whole point of having a checklist is so that you don’t have to remember to do things over and over. You do the thinking once, it is captured, and it is there whenever you need it again.
One of the most powerful applications of this way of thinking is the T-Minus list. The T-Minus list gives you the ability to plan out what you need to do before an event, capturing it so you don’t have to think about it again.
Definition Of A T-Minus List
A T-minus list is a checklist of items with a date attached. The date is set relative to the event that is at the end, and you schedule the tasks based on the lead time for the event. For example, if you made a checklist for producing the monthly newsletter at work, the event date would be the publication date, and all dates would work back from there.
The T-minus list allows you to figure out what you need to do in the time before an event in a format that you can use again and again.
One of the most common uses of this list is a pre-trip preparation list. This lists everything that you need to do before a trip so you never have to remember at the last minute that you forgot to hold the mail or schedule the kennel for the dog.
A Powerful Tool
The power of the T-Minus list is in its reuse. You think through the steps once, and the next time you have to repeat the actual event, you have the list to start from. Set your dates, and you are ready to go!
How To Create A T-Minus List
Creating a T-Minus list is straightforward. Sit down with a piece of paper and list all of the things you need to do before an event.
Here is an example of my pre-camping trip list:
- Stop the mail
- Schedule the cat sitter
- Set up the camping boxes
- Turn off the hot water heater
- Unplug appliances
- Take out the trash
- Take out the compost
- Run the dishwasher
- Turn off the ice maker
- Turn off the auto-key sensor in my car (it drains the battery if left without use for a week)
- Lock the garage door
- Pack clothes, toiletries, electronics, chargers
- Pack the food
- Start the refrigerator in the camper
- Put food in the camper fridge
- Put out cat supplies
- Schedule dog boarding
- Empty fridge
- Set up light timers
- Pack bedding
- Water plants
- Arm house alarm
Once I have the list done, I set up the times. I put the days before the task is due in the front of the list. My list becomes:
- (30) Stop the mail
- (30) Schedule the cat sitter
- (2) Set up the camping boxes
- (0) Turn off the hot water heater
- (0) Unplug appliances
- (0) Take out the trash
- (0) Take out the compost
- (0) Run the dishwasher
- (0) Turn off the ice maker
- (0) Turn off the auto-key sensor in my car
- (0) Lock the garage door
- (1) Pack clothes, toiletries, electronics, chargers
- (2) Pack the non fridge food
- (1) Start the refrigerator in the camper
- (0) Put food in the camper fridge
- (1) Put out cat supplies
- (30) Schedule dog boarding
- (1) Empty fridge
- (1) Set up light timers
- (2) Pack bedding
- (1) Water plants
- (0) Arm house alarm
I can then sort the list. The time in front groups things together.
Making It Reusable
Making this reusable involves an electronic task list that doesn’t automatically delete tasks. I use Remember The Milk. There are other packages out there as well that this will work with.
I create a single list in the application called “Trip Prep”. I enter all my tasks, and then set the due dates based on the trip date. If I were leaving on 1/1/2016, the “30” tasks would be 12/1/2016.
When it comes time to use the list again, I go to the completed section, uncomplete all the tasks on the list and update the due dates. Then I am ready to go for another round.
The T-Minus list has saved a whole lot of effort and stress. Whenever I need to repeat something that is time-based, I can set up a list and reuse it as necessary.
Side note: for those of you who are Patreon subscribers, you will receive an ebook on Wednesday on how to set this up, as well as the planning forms to go with it. Not a Patreon subscriber? Become one here.