I am still working on the concepts in this post. I still work daily to feel satisfied with the amount of things I get done in the day. I am coming from a place of disorder and (more than) slight chaos stemming from health problems with which I’ve struggled for the past few years. So, my solutions for time and task management come from that particular place. This solution is a good place to start when one hasn’t been tracking (or in some cases, doing) tasks for an extended time: like, months or maybe even years at a time.
I keep track of everything I do in a paper calendar. J, my husband, can keep track of everything “in the cloud,” through apps on his phone, but I do best when I can take a pen and paper and keep track of everything… physically marking off tasks as the task is completed. I feel more successful after each check mark. At the beginning of the year (or when they are first on sale the Fall prior to the beginning of the year), I buy a calendar. Matters not what format the calendar takes. Mine is a simple one that only has one line per date, with no actual day even marked. It works for me, wouldn’t work for everyone. Find one that suits you.
If you prefer this method of tracking tasks on paper, the calendar can be as fancy or as plain as you like. I have tried homemade calendars in the past, but I have found that it is much less bulky to just buy the calendar, within an appropriate budget, than to buy all the supplies for making a calendar and putting it in a big, bulky binder. The binder and supplies ended up being equally and in some cases, more costly than just the one-time purchase of a pre-made, relatively plain calendar. This may not be true or suitable for everybody. It has just been what I find works for me.
Next, I keep a separate, additional notebook. I prefer simple, unmarked, small, bendable ones that fit in my purse. My notebook is not spiral bound. My calendar fits inside the small notebook, so I can always keep them together and access them whenever I need to do so.
So, anyway….tasks get listed on lines…one page for each single day, in the plain notebook. As I complete a task, I check it off. Simple as that. I look at the calendar once or twice a day. That’s it, at this point.
I don’t track time with my task list. I used to schedule out, by the hour, various tasks and I found– for me– tracking my time is a recipe for feeling like a failure. That having been said, my meetings and appointments are scattered few and far between at this season of my life, so the way I budget my time is far more relaxed at the moment. My style is likely is not the case for a lot of people.
Even so, I have found that not watching the clock as I complete a task is actually a recipe for success. Back when I was tracking time with my task list, I’d get so caught up in keeping up with the time that I didn’t pay adequate attention to the task at hand. Or worse– I’d feel like a failure when I didn’t fit all the tasks into the time frame I had set aside. I wasted years of low self-esteem in large part due to this method of time and task management.
The important takeaway, for me, with task lists has become this: it is, indeed, okay if I do not complete every. single. last. task on my list. I can’t predict the future, so I can’t predict what unexpected things may come up in my day to make it such that I cannot complete a given line item on my task list. When I don’t complete a task from my list, it simply gets moved to the task list for the next day until it is completed.
There are different schools of thought as to what order tasks should be done, such as most difficult task first. However, I always put some leisure and hobby activities on my list along with the chore-type tasks. I see results a little more slowly than others might and I still put the difficult tasks on my list to be done. I see the leisure and hobby-type items, such as my crochet projects, as a sort of reward for doing other tasks less, well, fun. However, the reward does not always follow the chore-type task….sometimes I’ll crochet first thing in the day. My own energy levels and the types of chores on the list for the day determine in what order my list-conquering activities occur.
Also: I don’t worry about completing my list in the order that I make it, nor do I try to predict at the outset of the day the order of the tasks in which I will complete them. At my stage of goal-related work, I am simply trying to complete the list in any way possible. My method for task completion is going to be flexible as I get better with finishing tasks.
My goal, besides getting things on my list done: to be gentle with myself through the entire process. I want to push myself in order to grow, but I do not push so much that I get discouraged and give up on the task list completely. Feeling good about the process is key, for me, to lasting change.
I hope some of these ideas give somebody, somewhere, some hope. Behavioral change is, indeed, possible… I am living proof that such is the case.