Physical vs. digital to-dos

I got a speeding ticket recently, which hasn’t happened to me in years. Even though there was no flashing camera (it was a highway with “trajectory control”), I knew I would get a fine the moment I drove there and looked at my speedometer. Whoops. Sure enough, I received a letter in the mail, ordering me to pay to the Dutch authorities. Not a huge amount, but still, it sucks.

This was already weeks ago, yet that ticket is still lying on the kitchen table, still unpaid. Why do I keep it on the table, rather than filing it somewhere?

First of all, I’m a messy person. But the main reason is that this piece of paper is my ‘to-do’. It is my physical reminder of a task that lies in the future. As long as I see it lying on the table, I can’t forget that I haven’t paid it yet. If I do forget, the fine will increase and it will cost me even more.

So why didn’t I pay it right away, you might ask? Simple: because I don’t have to. The deadline is February 25, which is weeks in the future, so why pay sooner? My car budget for January was almost empty, so I was waiting for my next paycheck. (Which I got this week, so I guess now I should pay it. And keep my fuel consumption low, as it is going out of the same budget.)

Do I like keeping mail on the kitchen table? No, I hate paper letters and bills! But to me, there is no good digital alternative for money-related tasks like this one.

I can think of one though. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could manually add future payments to our banking app? I already know I will have to pay this bill. I also already know from which account (I have a separate account for car/transportation expenses).

If only I could add a ‘to-do’ to the same screen where I see all my other transactions. That would be the digital equivalent of keeping the paper bill in my daily field of view. Or better yet: what if the fine (or another bill from the government) arrives straight in my banking app, rather than go through my physical mailbox?

But then again, I’d rather not get another speeding ticket at all. If anything, a fine is a reminder to prevent future bills.

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