When my dear, old friend (we go back to kindergarten) asked how other entrepreneurs keep their tasks organized, it was time to share. One, the question just keeps coming up. Two, I've been a productivity geek since middle school. So, this is how I do it:
My task list is largely digital.* Really, it's my digital brain. It lives in an application called Remember The Milk that is always an open tab on my mac. Plus, it syncs across all my other devices. There are all sorts of apps that do this, but again, this is how I roll. The advantage: I have my list wherever I am. The bigger advantage: I can tag tasks by location and see them when I'm in that location.
There are 8 sub-lists. While it may sound a little confusing, it actually keeps me more focused when I'm juggling the different hats I wear. Here goes:
- Energy boosters: A list for the most non-negotiable things set to repeat daily: move your body, meditate, practice French. This list also includes ideas for when my energy is flagging and need a short break. Examples: Scribble in my journal. Power nap. Flip through a magazine. Reach out to a friend. Take in some art.
- Kara: This is where I put one-off personal items. Examples: Review our personal budget. Pick up deodorant. Take car for an oil change. Exciting, right?
- Craig: A list for things I've asked Craig to help with. He'd probably say it makes me a very efficient nag, but it's more so I'm not walking around wondering, "Did I ask Craig to do this already?" We're on the same team; we might as well be on the same page. Bonus: I can share the list with him. Example: Run credit card report. Sell our old TV.
- Play: Things to see/do that are fun. Yes, I organize fun sometimes. Example: Visit the Mutter Museum. Finish knitting hat. Make-out with Chris Hemsworth. Just kidding, I wanted to see if you were still with me. When I have unexpected downtime, I have options to pick from…or can freestyle. Whatever.
- Stimuli: Resources for things I want to learn. I realize I can't learn everything at once. This is where I add books, movies, online classes, so I don't have to hunt them down. When I need some mental stimulation, I head here.
- vital corps: Every single one-off project related to my health + lifestyle strategy practice. If I think it, it gets recorded. I don't want to waste brain space reminding myself to remember something later. Examples: Rehearse talk on stress. Close your books.
- 33k Task List Project: This is for all the tasks related to collecting 33,000 task lists and shifting how we think about obligation and desire. Examples: Pitch myself for so-and-so's podcast. Apply for grant.
- Le vital corps Salon: This is where all the tasks related to creating a twice-monthly podcast live. There are many. Examples: Prep Sally's interview. Set show to live for RSS feed.
Generally, each task takes under 30-60 minutes. If it takes longer than that, it has to get broken down further. For example, plan dinner party would be split into make guest list, design menu, etc. I want to feel like I accomplished something each day.
Each task has a date and priority assigned to it.
- 1 = mission critical. Generally limited to 3-5 things across all of my lists. TOPS. What needs to get done immediately?
- 2 = important, but not urgent. What needs to get done this week?
- 3 = somewhat important, but won't slow me down if it's not done What needs to get done this month or quarter?
- 4 = important enough that I don't want to forget it
I chunk time/batch tasks on my schedule. Daily stuff gets done daily. Duh. Weekly stuff often gets done on Fridays. Today, I gave myself a 2-hour block to crank on my vital corps list. Also, I carve out time based on my current Level-1 priorities. This works because I've trained myself to review my list:
- Before I ever open that smack-habit also known as email
- When I start my workday
- When I finish those (3-5 max.) Level-1 tasks and am looking for what's next
- After I take a break
- Anytime I'm thinking, "I've got to remember to..." or anything like that
- As I'm ending the workday (but not too close to bedtime)
*When I'm feeling incredibly unfocused or overwhelmed, I will write down the next 2-3 level-1, mission critical things I need to do on a 3x3 post-it. Then, I close my Remember The Milk list until those few items are done. Everything I want to accomplish is safely backed-up, but it's cool to take a break from looking at it for a few hours.
It sounds like a lot of time to maintain, but it really isn't. Creating the system that works for you takes time. The initial brain-dump of all that tasky mental clutter takes time. Then, it's just tweaking it based on new information or new ideas.
Again, this is what works for me. What works for you? Please do share in the comments below.
[This categories in this post were edited in January 2017.]