Monday, March 12, 2018 1:00 am
Avoiding lost items
Two summers ago I lost my keys for a full week. As a hyper-organized person whom Freud would have labeled “anal retentive,” this freaked me out.
It was my then-9-year-old daughter who finally found the keys. I had slipped them into the pocket of her book bag while rushing frantically between assorted appointments. The keys had a relaxing week with Kelsea at pottery camp while I sweated and stewed over their absence.
All week long I wished I could “call” my keys as I do my cellphone when I need to find it. So I bought a gizmo to do just that. The product came in two parts: a little fob to attach to the item and a remote control to press so the fob chirps like a homing beacon. I attached the fob, stowed the remote somewhere I wouldn't lose it – wouldn't that be ironic? – and went about my life.
Last fall I lost my keys again. After searching for 20 minutes, I remembered the gizmo. “Yes!” I thought, pleased and proud of my foresight. I found the remote, pressed the button, and ... nothing.
The batteries in the remote, the fob or both had died. I'd chosen a system that required me to remember to change batteries. I had failed both.
Since “smart technology” failed me, I decided to consult a smart person instead: Stever Robbins, a Harvard MBA and former CEO who coaches other CEOs on productivity. Robbins also hosts the “Get It Done Guy” podcast, where I first heard him talk about how to stop losing things.
“Bluntly, a major way to kill your productivity is to have to search for the things you need,” Robbins said. “Ideally, you want everything you're going to use close to your fingertips. If it's lost, you have to move your fingertips to go find it.” Robbins offers three pointers for keeping track of your belongings:
Create a designated place for essentials. Try this: Walk into your home with fresh eyes and look for a place where you can easily and reliably stow your essentials. Every time. If there is no such place, create one. For example, you might install a shelf with hooks beneath it near a power outlet. That way you can place your wallet and phone (plugged in) on the shelf and hang your keys from the hook. Having designated spots for true essentials like this will ward off the bulk of losses.
If you tend to lose things you use less often – say, your tool kit – the same principle applies: Create a specific place you will always keep it and then stick to it. Label the spot, if necessary, to remind yourself.
Create multiple places if needed. Robbins knows our routines can vary. Maybe you enter your home through the back door when coming in from a run but through the front when coming in from your car. Stowing your stuff near the front door when you've just come in the back goes against human nature. So he suggests you create designated spots for your essentials near both doors.
Scan places before you leave. What about when you're out and about? First, Robbins quickly creates a temporary “designated place” wherever he is. At a coffee house, maybe he deliberately places his essential items on the table's right-hand corner: “Then, when I'm going to leave a place, first I scan the area that I designated as my homeless-items place.”
Next he scans the entire room or, at least, wherever he has been in that room. For example, Robbins gathers all his luggage by the door before leaving a hotel room, then walks the room from wall to wall to see if he's forgotten anything. He may “waste” a couple of minutes doing that, but he saves many more minutes – calling the hotel, having his lost items shipped – when he finds something he forgot.
– Elisabeth Leamy, Washington Post