The Goal of your task list is to remind you to do the things you need to do.
Let’s talk about how your technology can support you as you do the things you need to do.
Set a planning day and time
A task list is only as good as the thinking and planning behind it. It is extremely important that you set a time to regularly review your priorities and make sure you are doing the things you need (and want) to do.
Planning time is one of those things that most productivity coaches agree on and vehemently argue about.
Sunday morning, Friday night, once a week, once a month, daily, these things don’t matter. Whatever it is for you, do it regularly. This is your Planning Day.
Stephen Covey, the great father of effectiveness (Author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) recommends once a week. I agree.
Personally, I do my planning on Monday mornings, after numerous books and experts spouting the importance of doing it a different day or time, I have experimented with changing it, but for me, Monday morning works best. It works best because this is when I want to do it. My planning energies are highest on Monday morning.
Figure out where your planning energies are strongest. Pick a day and try it for a few weeks, if it doesn’t stick, pick a different day.
TECH TASK: Put this on your digital calendar as a recurring event and set a notification. You can use the description field of that task to make notes on how the time should be spent. Start with an hour and see how it feels.
Add tasks as you think of them
Make sure the task manager you choose has an easy way for you to add new tasks. Add whatever you think you should remember. Anything you want to do. Anything you need to do. Just add it. If it doesn’t need to be done within the week you are in just set the due date for one of your future planning days. You can think deeper about the task during your planning time. Unless the task is actually “Due” within the week think of the due date more as a “Reminder Date”.
During your planning time, when you are in planning mode, you will give those new tasks a quick look over and do the deeper thinking required to decide if and when you actually want to work on it. Set a date for when you want to start or when you want to be reminded of the task.
TECH TASK: enter your tasks into your task management program.
(Need a task management program?
Check out GAME SPACE: Choose a Task List System)
Now – Not Now
We really only have two-time options for tasks, NOW and NOT NOW. You CANNOT do everything all at once. Things take time. During your Planning Day, choose the tasks you want to accomplish between planning periods and date them accordingly. Choose a reasonable number of tasks in a reasonable amount of time.
For the tasks that don’t make the cut, set the task due date for a planning time in the future.
Example: Next Monday or 3 Mondays from now. (no need to get too specific with “NOT NOW” tasks)
Most task management apps have a “due” date. This seems reasonable, but isn’t the “due” date when the task should be completed? Unless your task manager program has a “start” date capability I usually consider the due date to be the date and time I need to “DO” something, not when it needs to be complete. Let’s follow this rhythm:
- Acknowledge the task.
- Think about the task
- Act upon the task
- Remember that the task exists
I generally notate the firm due date (when it NEEDS to be completed) in the notes field of the task. If I need to, I can shift the date in the “due date” field of the task manager to a day where I have room for the task.
TECH TASK: Set “due” dates in your tasks for when you want to “DO” something about that task. Even if it is just to think about the task.
Check your tasks: do your tasks, or push the date
We usually can’t get EVERYTHING done when we want to get it done. We get a bit optimistic at times. That is ok. Do a little work on your important projects to move them forward, make a note on what you need to do next, and move it to the next day or to your next Planning Day.
You can do this monthly, weekly or daily. If you find you keep pushing a task to the future you may want to take a deeper look at it and decide if you actually need to do it. It is ok to take some things off your list.
During your planning time
Here is the general idea of what you will actually do during your planning time.
STEP 1: Gather
Go look in all your various inboxes; Email, the box on your desk, your handbag or purse, your kitchen table, your calendar, the notebook you carry around all the time, anything you use to capture the things you may or may not need to do eventually. Get everything together in one place.
One really great task you can add is to “Rescue your Digital Office”. Taking the time to make sure your computer is organized in a way that supports will save you hours of pain and frustration.
Check out the FAVE article: Rescue Your Digital Office
STEP 2: Plan
Evaluate the things you need to do, or think you need to do. Which ones are urgent? Do they have a due date? Do you know what actually needs to be done? Which ones are important? Can they wait? What is the next thing you can do to move it forward? Which ones are just good ideas? During this time, you can sort everything into NOW (Something needs to happen this week) or NOT NOW (Something needs to happen next week or after)
Take a look at your NOW list and think through the actual things you need to do and schedule times to actually do them. You can be as rigid as you like “Tuesday from 10:30 – 11:15” or “Sometime on Thursday”
Take a look at your NOT NOW list, adjust a few obvious things and set it aside to review again next week.
STEP 3: Maintain
On your list, you will find admin type things that you need to do each week to keep your life running smoothly. Do them now and your planning time will feel super productive. Ideally, once you complete this 3-step process you will be able to look at the rest of your week and just do the work. Less thinking, more doing.
As you go throughout your day you get good at adding your tasks as you think of them. You can set the due date to your next planning day so you can think more deeply about them at that time. This strategy gets them out of your head and captured into a system that is designed to remind you about them when you actually have the time and bandwidth to deal with them.
For more detailed ideas and strategies for managing your task list check out these books.
Getting Things Done – David Allen
7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey
Mini Habits – Stephen Guise
Checklist Manifesto – Atule Gawande
Make sure you are very comfortable with how to use your task management system from both your smart phone and your computer.
It all began when my grandmother asked me to help her learn how to use the computer. She was 80 at the time and it is because of her (In a variety of ways) that I am doing what I can to help anyone, no matter their technological skill, get control of their technology situation. She encouraged me to share my ability to take complex topics and break them down into simple steps and normal language.
My mission now is to help professionals gain the technical skills they need to grow their business and focus on their vision. Luxcentric is dedicated to training, using practical strategies, in the area of the core technologies. Email - Files - Calendars - Contacts
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