Why I use task manager

Explosion

Over the last couple of years there has been an explosion of different swiss-army-knife applications. These are the programs that blend tasks, notes, clippings, ideas, etc. all in one place. Perhaps this is a good approach as you have everything in one place, easy accessible and easily searchable. It’s minimalistic approach that has a merits but taken to extreme can hinder the effectiveness rather than help it.

My preference is to keep tasks and project list separate from other elements of my system as and it’s not because GTD principle says so.

Modes

Having a dedicated system/application to manage task switches my brain into different mode a doing mode. When looking at all the item in my Remember the Milk account I focus on the outcomes and completions. I purposefully look for items that I want to accomplish in a given moment. The items in my RTM account mostly relate to specific actionable things, there is no more thinking required.

One place

If I decide that I need to do something then it can only go into one place – my tasks manager. Although I use other tools like Evernote or Moleskine notebook they have completely different purpose. I see them as containers for my thinking, notes, scribbles and sketches. But once an action has been defined it will end up in RTM.

Structure and binge

Task manager provides a solid structure for managing tasks and actions that I or others have committed to do. Rather than chase things around places, I have one location to refer to.

From time to time I like to tackle a large number of small actions that have accumulated in my lists. I call it a binge action day. A dedicated task manager is perfect for such occasion.

Not all work

As I try to keep every tasks and action there I always come across a variety of things todo. Just work would not be too encouraging and I’m pretty sure I would avoid the application like a plague. Instead I have fun, tricky, odd tasks which make the process of using RTM much more pleasant experience.

Things we never include on daily to do list

When we build our daily todo list we pretend to live in a vacuum where:

  • We don’t need to eat
  • We don’t take a (coffee) break
  • Never experience low energy
  • No one ever calls/texts/IMs us and interrupts our current work
  • No manager drops by and puts something new, important and urgent on our pile
  • There are never crisis situations with a customer

Sven from Simplicity is bliss writes about his experiences with daily to do list. He also shares some tips on how to make the daily list a bit better.

In my experience the daily list comes very handy, provided it’s short, which means maximum 5 items.  This is just a base line, things I really have to do. Setting a list with just 5 items helps me make sure I can progress some projects and at the same time gives me enough flexibility to get engaged in other things throughout the day without feeling guilty about my to-do list.

Just this week I took a more conscious look at what I wanted to achieve and the combination of daily to do list and saying “no” to few things yielded great results!

As follow up there is also an interesting HBR post on how you can leverage calendar over the to-do list. “To-Do Lists Don’t Work