Happy Tidy Tuesday!

We’re in Week 3 of Review Month, and it’s time to look back at four actions focused on task management. To dig into the detailed weekly topics for what we’re reviewing this month, visit the Tidy ’24 Calendar page and scroll to the list of posts from March.

Review Week 3: Task Management

Task management is one of my favorite areas to dive into and hunt for improvements. If you can figure out how to manage your time even just a little more effectively than you were before, it can help in so many ways–not just digital organization.

So, let’s get into it! What did we cover during the four weeks of Tasks Month?

Tasks Week 1: Clarify Your Commitments

In the first week, we pulled together all the tasks, appointments, and events you need or want to accomplish. Getting this comprehensive big picture is a good starting point because it makes it possible to think about all our responsibilities together and more easily see what’s important, what’s time-sensitive, and what we might postpone or even discard. Here are the action steps from Week 1 to clarify your commitments:

  1. Write down your appointments and tasks from the previous week or month, everything you did or wanted to do, even if it didn’t happen.
  2. Write down your appointments and tasks from the upcoming week or month, everything you need or want to do.
  3. Categorize each item you wrote down as one of three things:
    • Appointment (activity at a specific time and place, easily put on a calendar)
    • Task (activity usually without a specific time or place, just needs to be done)
    • Habit (activity intended to be done regularly, often for self-improvement)
  4. Prioritize each item you wrote down into one of three categories:
    • Critical (bad things will happen if this doesn’t get done on time or at all)
    • Normal (generally good to do, but might be okay to postpone or skip)
    • Trivial (nobody–including you–will care if this doesn’t get done)

These action steps provide you with a functional but messy collection of responsibilities and intentions. You’re not done yet, but at least everything’s in one place.

Tasks Week 2: Schedule Your Anchors

In the second week, we used the master list from week one to put events and appointments on your calendar. We focused specifically on time-bound events that require you to be in a specific place at a particular time. Here are the action steps from week two to schedule your anchors:

  1. First, choose the calendar system you want to use. This could be physical or electronic, something you’re familiar with, or something brand new. Choose whatever feels easiest for you.
  2. Second, review your list from last week. Look over what you wrote down and identify the most important appointments, or anchors, that you can’t change.
  3. Finally, add those necessary appointments to your calendar. If there’s enough room, add any other appointments and events you want to, even if they are less important than the anchors.

Putting stuff on a calendar is pretty straightforward, especially if you’ve already gathered the relevant information. The hardest part here is choosing which calendar platform you want to use. I briefly mentioned many options in the video from that week, including calendar apps built into Android and Apple devices and popular third-party tools like NotionMotionAkiflowSunsama, and others. When in doubt, go with what you know, or what you already have, or what seems easiest. You’re not locked into anything you choose at this stage.

Tasks Week 3: Collect Your To-Dos

During the third week of Tasks Month, we did much the same thing as the previous week, except focusing on to-do items (or tasks) instead of appointments. The difference here, of course, is that tasks are not placed on a calendar (until you decide whether and when to work on them). They need to get done, maybe even by a specific time, but they don’t have to get done at a specific time. As a result, they fit better on a list that you can work against in order, one item at a time. Here are week three’s action steps to collect your to-dos:

  1. Choose the to-do list system you want to use. Physical or electronic, whatever seems easiest
  2. Add every task you can think of to your list. Big projects, little tasks, things for today, things for next month, everything. Don’t worry about organizing or categorizing yet; just get all your currently relevant tasks into one system.
  3. Scan your list and pick three tasks to accomplish in the next seven days. If you can, try to choose some easy ones, but at least one that will take some effort.

As with the calendar system, there are many options for tracking tasks. You could use a paper notepad or planner or choose from among literally hundreds of apps built for this purpose. Two of the easiest and best apps, in my opinion, are Todoist and TickTick; I’ve worked with both for a long time, and I currently use TickTick.

The goal for this week is to set up and begin using a single tool to keep track of everything you want to do. Anytime you think of a new task, add it to that list. Pull from that list whenever you need to decide what to work on. It’s a simple tool that lets you offload remembering what to do. Having one place to store every task that comes to mind without needing to do that task right away makes it possible for you to more easily separate planning from action and cope with changing priorities or unexpected interruptions.

Tasks Week 4: Review Religiously

In the last week of Tasks Month, we discussed a critical part of effectively using the calendar and the task list: regular review. To make these systems work for you, you must go back and look over what’s in them sometimes. That might be for just a few minutes every day, or it could be a longer period every week, or both. Here are week four’s action steps to review religiously:

  1. Decide whether you want to try short daily reviews, slightly longer weekly reviews, or both.
  2. Plan a time to do the reviews. For daily reviews, attach this new short activity to something you already do daily. For weekly reviews, an hour on a weekend afternoon might work well.
  3. Do the reviews. For daily reviews, you should end up with a list of between three and six tasks written somewhere to work against the next day or in your task management app with tomorrow’s date assigned. After weekly reviews, you should be aware of upcoming appointments and perhaps pre-schedule a few critical tasks or project milestones the following week.

The goal for this week is to get comfortable with regular reviews: shorter ones every day and longer ones every week. Practice looking for tasks that might not need to be done anymore due to shifting priorities or interests, and delete them. Pick a few things to get done each day–always fewer than you initially want because it’s easier to throw an extra task on later than to continually postpone incomplete items until tomorrow. Get used to checking what’s coming up on your calendar for the next week. Practice using that one master location for all your tasks and appointments until it’s second nature.

Summary

That wraps up our review. As always, if you’d like to explore any of those topics further, be sure to check out the original posts or videos from each week.

If you have questions, comments, or ideas about task management or the solutions discussed above or in more detail during March, comment below or send me a message.

Happy data-taming!

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