Task Management

Most of the articles you read about for self-management tools focus on time management. And that’s important. But my bigger problem is task management.

I wear many hats, and I have many interests. And most of those hats and interests generate items for my to-do list.

  • My business has to-dos: invoicing, time reports, networking, professional development.
  • My role as a family member has to-dos: being a parent, managing my share of the tasks around the house, you can all relate to these.
  • My volunteer work has to-dos: as a board Secretary, I have to write minutes and send out meeting notices. As a member, I have to volunteer as needed to support each group’s activities. As a board President – let’s not get too detailed, shall we?
  • Even my hobbies generate to-dos: my quilting requires actually stitching at some point, my martial arts skill is vastly improved by regular practice, and reading? Well, I’m falling down on that one.

Until recently, I generated a daily to-do list. I’d write down all the things that were supposed to get done that day. Each morning I would ponder the needs of the business, the house, and the various folders representing the volunteer groups I interact with. That worked, mostly. Except when it didn’t and I forgot to put things on the list.

I tried using sticky notes to keep track of items that should go on the daily to-do list, using four categories on my wall. New items would go into Upcoming until it was time to move them to This week. Regularly occurring items moved between This week, Done!, and Regularly occurring. At the start of each week I would review all the sticky notes and move everything I wanted to accomplish to This week. When something was completed, it moved to Done! It was rewarding to watch my progress over the week as items moved from This week to Done!  But everything was stuck to my wall, and I still had to write the daily to-do list.

Now I’m using a bullet journal. Ryder Carroll developed this technique, and you can learn all about it at bulletjournal.com.

I’d seen the introductory video a while back and I thought it was interesting. But when the video showed up as a link in my email again in December (add holiday to-dos to the list!), I was ripe for a new solution. I watched the video a couple of times over the course of a week. I also watched some videos of other people’s implementations of the concept. And then I went and tried it.

This system gives me one place to write down all my tasks. All of them can go in my bullet journal. Regardless of what the task is or when it needs to be done, I write it down in my bullet journal. After a board meeting, I can add all the tasks to the bullet journal. Each one gets a task bullet, and when it’s done, it gets checked off.

What I’m not doing is writing down everything I do. If I have a task and I just do it, why waste the space or clutter my list? It’s done.

What parts of the bullet journal do I use? Actually, I use all of the techniques in the video. I have an Index. I create a Monthly log (though I’m still learning how to use this one to full advantage). I use a Future log (two, now, as I need to go further into the future). I think of my version of the Daily log as a Weekly log. So far I haven’t exceeded a spread (the left and right pages together are a spread)for the information in one week. I also use Collections. Most of my volunteer activities have their own spread. One now has multiple spreads, and I use page numbers to refer between them.

And I love “migration.” As I prepare for each week I assess the incomplete tasks in my bullet journal. If they still need to be done, they migrate to an appropriate spread, usually the next Weekly log. But if a task was added to my Weekly log midweek, the task might be migrated to the Future log or a Collection, and hang out there until the right time to do the task.

And what if the task doesn’t need to be done (or, as sometimes happens, it’s too late)? I cross it off. That actually feels good.

I visit bulletjournal.com every month or so, to see new tips and techniques. My way of using my bullet journal isn’t the same as everyone else’s. But you know what? It’s working for me: Stuff is getting done!