Life Hack: Using Unsaved Documents as Reminders

More than a few times, I’ll shut my WorkTop down for the day, only to remember I had something I wanted to get done first. I have to boot back up, perhaps log in to some systems, then take care of the task. Worse, sometimes I only realize the following morning I didn’t take care of it.

I came up with a “life hack” to help prevent that. I always do a full shutdown of my WorkTop at the end of the day, to delineate my work time from my personal time. If an application has a dialog open, it will create the opportunity to abort the shutdown.

For most applications (the Microsoft Office suite in particular), an unsaved document or email will create an alert. So, my new habit is, if I have something I want to get done today but not right then is to leave something unsaved and open. This might be a Word document, or a draft email to people I need to send something to. I’ll type a few characters (after whatever real text is saved), then leave it untouched and unsaved. When I go to shut down a “Do you want to save this document” dialog appears if I haven’t addressed the issue, and I’m reminded that it hadn’t been dealt with.

(Best to test this by creating such an unsaved document/message, then exiting the application. The MacOS Mail program does not prompt you when exiting–it saved the draft, and has it open the next time it’s launched.)

This did create a minor issue: Outlook is always open, and I can get a blank place to type by just creating a new message. Sometimes this becomes a quick scratch pad. Earlier this week, I had a keyboard issue I wanted to try to address. I started typing in a blank mail message. It happened to be one I had my boss in the “To” field, as I needed to reply to something he sent. Still, no big deal.

Except I clicked send.

There was nothing too bad in it, and I explained the situation. However, it was a bit embarrassing for me. I can easily see a scenario where a work in progress that’s written over the course of a day could fall into a similar trap. I made a mental note to be very careful about that.

A coworker, intentionally or not, showed me how to put a “safety valve” in that. I noticed she had a draft of an email to me–the minutes/agenda for a call we had. She had a few random characters in the “To” field. Prior to sending it, she removed them. I tested it–had I sent it with the bogus characters, Outlook would prompt to clarify the recipient.

So, that’s the second part to the trick: when I keep a draft email open all day, I’ll put a few characters in the address line, to keep it from being sent before I’m ready.