a mass of post it notes

To list or not to list, that is the question! Some people hate having a list of everything they must do. They find it depressing, or demotivating.

Hate It

A lengthy list is exceedingly difficult to manage. Difficult tasks end up forgotten, or ignored, at the bottom of the list. Everything that needs doing gets poured into the list. The bottom of the list ends up clogged with tasks you don’t want to do. The ‘must do’, the easy and the quick tasks get completed before they fall to the bottom, usually.

Love It

There are people who love lists. They feel in control, they love crossing off tasks as they get them done. They can look at completed tasks at the end of the day and say they are achieving a lot.

Even though the list is loved, they may end up with the same problem as people who hate the list. It’s clogged with unwanted tasks.

Managing Your Tasks

In both above scenarios it is the list that is managing the person other than the other way around. To be productive and effective you need to be in control of your tasks. You need to be clear that you’re doing the right task, at the right time.

To help you with this, your personal productivity system needs a task management tool.

Basic Requirements of a Task Manager

  • It needs to be accessible everywhere.
  • It needs to be easy to add tasks.
  • It needs to be able to handle multiple lists.

Nice To Have Features

  • It would be great if it integrates with your calendar.
  • You can back it up.
  • It can handle subtasks.
  • You can set categories, or tags, to group and sort across lists, or within each list.
  • Sharable lists or individual tasks.

Choosing Your Task Manager

It’s possible to use a paper or digital task manager. The pros and cons are the same as in my post about choosing a calendar. I would recommend that you’re consistent in the choice here. If you’re going to use a paper calendar system, then stick to paper for your task management.

There are a vast number of digital task management tools available. Some are complex and take a lot of effort to learn, others are simple but may not have what you need.

As for your choice of calendar, you may already be invested in Microsoft, Google, Apple, or your employer may dictate what’s available to you. Don’t despair, even if you’re limited to lists in a spreadsheet if you set it up with clarity of your process it can make a good task manager.

If you already have it a task management tool that meets the basic requirements, and this is not the time to change, then that’s great. If not, have a look at what’s available, bear in mind your thoughts about choosing a calendar whilst you do so. It will make life easier if you choose from the same ecosystem or check that they can easily transfer individual items, normally from task manager to calendar.

If you are interested in seeing what can be done in a spreadsheet, you can download a free action tracker for meetings. It may spark some ideas.

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