I spend a lot of time trying out different task management systems. You name it, it’s lived for a time on my phone. I think a lot of us do this, hoping that THIS will be THE ONE that solves the problem, and ensures that this time you will get your oil changed on time (oh crap! I’d better look into that!).
I’ve learned, though, that in order to find apps or journals that will help-and they really can-you need to first understand just where you need support in the task completion process.
Completing a task that you are not working on immediately has three parts. First, is knowing that there is a task, and understanding what completing that task involves. Second, is remembering that you need to do this task, when it is due, and where it stands in terms of prioritization. Third is actually working on the task, whether it is doing the entire thing at one time, or doing it in parts (in which case you need to understand what parts must be done first).
To find the Holy Grail of organizational systems-or just something that works, most of the time-it is important to know where in the task completion process you find yourself flailing about.
For example, I am fine with knowing that there is a task, and understanding what I need to do. I am also fairly diligent about working on the task. But that can only happen if I actually remember that I need to do something. And that is where it all falls apart, for me.
The area in which I need support is remembering that there IS a task, and paying attention to where it exists on the food chain of my life. Which means that a to-do list, organized according to urgency and importance, can bridge the gap for me.
If task initiation is a challenge, reminders and alarms may be your best friend. And time blocking-putting the task into your calendar as an event-can help you to actually “see” the time to start.
You may be on top of remembering, and getting down to business. But you may have difficulty with knowing how long certain jobs will take, and scheduling too much in one day. Apps that have you plan out each day, and actually warn you when you are doing the Future Overwhelm Dance, might be right for you.
Some people do better with writing it all down, in journals, on whiteboards, with index cards. Others leave their journals everywhere except where they need them, but having access to a digitally based system makes it as simple as picking up their smartphone to see what’s on their plate. And there are those who use a combination of analog and digital.
And some people have an accountability buddy who texts reminders.
There are many different ways one can struggle with the task of doing tasks-and just as many ways to deal with that chink in the armor. Knowing where YOU struggle can help you to find the right structural support. It can also help you to avoid trying app after app after journal after list.
Now let me check on that oil change….