I have been giving a great deal of thought to my constant problem of ending up back in chaos and have come to the conclusion that one of the reasons is not having fool-proof simple systems in place for every area of my life and adhering to them. A simple system for getting things done and remembering what needs doing is one of the hardest to create. Getting things done is like keeping all the plates spinning at once and just as doing the laundry is a constant and ongoing process it is the same with tasks – as soon as one task is crossed off the list there will be another one to add-on.
I often find that I put far too much on my daily list and I need to limit myself to 5 items to make sure I get them all done. This will require making skilful decisions about what is a priority and what can be done tomorrow or another day – maybe not one of my strong points.
My list yesterday had 8 items and I only completed 2 of them. This suggests that either the two tasks I did complete took much longer than I thought they would because they were more of a project than a task or that I did things that were not strictly on my list. Well the truth is a bit of both.
I made 3 cards a task which was on the list – a Valentines, a birthday and an anniversary but as I found out this was really an afternoon’s project rather than a task. A point to bear in mind – always identify what is a task and what is a project. A task is a single activity a project is a collection of tasks. During the morning I became sidetracked (another of my weaknesses) into writing and answering numerous emails that were not on my list for the day. I also had to enter some additional financial transactions before I could complete my task of printing the account balances for the month.
However, on the good side I feel I have developed a system that I am happy with for recording all the items I need to do. It has been a process of continual change over the last few months and will probably be subject to a few more minor changes as I go along. So how do I cope with all those endless To Do’s?
Firstly, I have a section in my planner for a Master Task List where I record everything that I need to do – it is a list I compile in Microsoft Office Word so that I can delete the completed tasks each month and then copy over the remaining to the next month.
I record my tasks in sections with headings such as ‘most urgent tasks’, ‘financial and paperwork tasks’, ‘cards and letters to send’ ,household tasks’, ‘health and self’ and shopping items’ and so on. The headings may vary from time to time depending on what I am doing – so for instance if I am going to an event such as a wedding I would add in a new section of tasks to be done.
Everything I need to do is recorded here with space at the end to add new tasks that come up during the month. At the beginning of each week I then compile a list of tasks that I need to do for the week from my master list. I do this in Microsoft Tasks – Projects – a useful programme that allows me to add a new main task with sub-tasks below. Each evening I then prepare a To Do Today list ready for the next day and try to limit myself to only 5 or 6 main tasks. Again I do this in the Microsoft Tasks programme. I can then print this at A5 size and put it into my planner alongside the weekly one or carry it with me in my handbag when I go to work.
This system seems to work well for me – I just need to be more careful that I don’t put down more tasks than I can easily accomplish in a day and become more skilful at identifying what is essentially a project that needs breaking down into smaller easier tasks.
This month I have been particularly focused on getting my finances in order and the office / craft room organised and so far I have managed to complete about two-thirds of the tasks on my list for the month. I reckon this deserves a treat – perhaps a trip to one of my favourite stores like Muji. Normally I might have treated myself to a new book or magazine but I have been very good so far this month and managed to walk past all temptation.