My personality means I like to learn and make improvements, this means I usually have an interest in new things (although I consider if they offer worthwhile improvements to my current methods or items before investing time or money in them). This has resulted in changes to how I plan my day since I last wrote about it in June 2007. It has actually been a gradual process for me, but compared to four years ago the differences are significant.
1. Review my notebook / daily log
My first task is to review my notes from the previous day. This enables me to add missing information to my notes (for instance I was interrupted and didn’t finish what I was writing), identify actions for other people as well as myself and categorise my notes. This provides a real sense of control that I am not going miss anything.
The actions are:
- read through notes and in left hand column write a category for notes and actions (in red)
- transfer actions for me to my task list
- transfer actions for other people as future follow up reminders in Outlook
- add the category and page numbers in the notebook index.
2. Review Outlook tasks
My Outlook tasks list is a reminder system including repeating tasks, reminders for tasks in the future, tasks I’m waiting for from other people and tasks associated with emails (these are also on my paper task list, but I find it easier to find the email if I drop it in to a tasks called the same as the task).
I’ve set my tasks up according to Micheal Linenberger’s Total workday control using Microsoft Office system, so new tasks appear at the top and are underlined. This means it is easy each morning to identify new tasks and transfer them to my paper task list.
3. Start work using paper task list
My paper task list is my ultimate task list bringing together tasks from my notebook and Outlook, as well as tasks I pick up during the day. To manage my task list I use Mark Forster’s latest productivity system SuperFocus.
If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know I’m a big fan of Mark’s ideas on productivity, as provided in his books Get everything done and still have time to play and Do it tomorrow. Over the last 18 months Mark has been releasing his new methods on his website for free and these have culminated in his latest SuperFocus. I’d recommend you read the instructions on his site as I’m going to talk about my use of the system and not explain the methodology here.
I like the simplicity of the system as you create one long task list written on the lefthand of the page with all new incoming tasks , for example from steps 1 and 2 above being added to the bottom of the left hand side (the right hand side is used only for urgent / important / unfinished tasks). You then move through the list working on tasks that ‘jump out’.
There are two features that make it different to a normal tasks list and means it works for me
- right hand column is used for urgent or important tasks meaning you reach them earlier than if they were added to the bottom of the left hand list. Tasks you start and don’t complete are also added to the right hand column of the next page ensuring you don’t lose momentum even if you practice little and often. As you have to complete everything in the right hand column before changing pages it means you focus on these tasks helping you complete tasks.
- Dismissing tasks can be a problem with most tasks list as you add tasks quicker than you complete them so the list keeps getting longer. In Superfocus there is an inbuilt review to assess whether you still want to do tasks you haven’t completed and if not they are removed ensuring the list remains relevant to what you wish to achieve.
How does it compare to my old system
So although there are some advantages to my old system I like the control and simplicity of my new one. However I don’t find it perfect in all situations and on days with lots of urgent tasks I tend to return to another of Mark’s methods of rotating through specific tasks.
How do you plan your day? Have you noticed it changing over the last few years?