Everyday planning and tasks management tools and tips

Oct 15 08:30 2009 Antony Banin Print This Article

The article features basics of everyday planning - advantages, GTD principles, tips for effective time management, popular software.

Our life is about goals. Rare person lives without an ultimate aim or a dream bird fluttering somewhere over a horizon. But reaching this goal implies performing thousands of petty tasks,Guest Posting everyday chores, meetings and actions. Planning these activities effectively is what time management is about.

Actually, time management is not exactly a right word since we cannot manage or control the given time but can only manage ourselves, our actions to fit into the time limits. That is why some prefer "life management" or "tasks management" terms.

Basic idea of tasks management is to organize your daily life so that you could easier and quicker reach your ultimate goals. However, only a bunch of disciplined minds manages not to lose their hearts dealing with complex time organizers, schedulers and heaps of papers. The majority of common people consider them an attribute of corporate life while still too boring and time-consuming thing to implement in a daily routine.

But here's another idea: no day without planning. The main reason for this is that human memory abilities are very limited in terms of simultaneously stored elements. It was found that most of us can hold no more than 7 (±2) objects in a short-term memory. Which inevitably means that we have to put some of our thoughts or tasks in paper or type in a computer. Thus, we free the brain from burdened need to remember irregular stuff, for example, that August, 12 is your aunt's wedding anniversary.

Another reason for daily planning is that it dramatically saves your time. The idea of GTD (Getting Things Done) is getting very popular nowadays because thousands of disorganized workers and housekeepers have found their peace and harmony only due to the free time not spent on planning and memorizing. They now have got a chance to use the time more effectively on creativity or just having a rest.

Getting Things Done is a method created by David Allen and described in a book of the same name. GTD rests on the principle that a person needs to move tasks out of the mind by recording them externally. That way, the mind is freed from the job of remembering everything that needs to be done and can concentrate on actually performing those tasks.

Here are the basic principles of GTD:
  1. Collect your ideas: capture everything (stuff) that is necessary to track, remember or take action on and put it into a so-called "bucket": a physical inbox, an e-mail inbox, a tape recorder, a notebook, a PDA, a desktop, etc. This will make your head off-loaded and prevent information overflow in a situation of abundant choices, tasks or events.
  2. Process the stuff: determine whether some action needs to be taken or not. If a task is doable (i.e. takes less than two minutes): a) DO it immediately, b) delegate it, c) defer it.
  3. Organize: if a task does not require action: a) define next action, b) file it for reference, c) throw it away, d) keep it for possible action later, e) put it into "someday/maybe" list, f) wait for other actions or events to complete.
  4. Review ("tickler filing"): all outstanding actions, projects and 'waiting for' tasks should be reviewed at least once per week, making sure that any new tasks or upcoming events are entered into the GTD system and that everything is up to date.
To-do lists: advantages and tips

Generally, to-do lists are lists of paper or computer files where you write down tasks, planned activities in relation to a certain date or a period of time. To-do lists provide a number of important benefits to your regular planning:

- organizing your life: increase efficiency and therefore productivity, allowing more time for leisure.

- setting priorities: in to-do lists you may focus on the most important tasks and items to improve productivity and achieve more goals much faster. Prioritizing allows to give the most important tasks more attention, energy and time. Having your tasks prioritized also means that you know exactly what will you do next when this or that stuff is done.

- coordination of similar tasks: avoiding repetition of labour. For example, if you have to bring a document to some department and inform its workers on planned meeting, these two tasks can be done altogether.

- tracking progress: mark off the tasks you have completed. This can be especially important when you are engaged into some self-development trainings or processes that involve several concessive steps.

- reminding: being placed on your refrigerator (in case of sticky papers) or featured with audio notifications (in case of electronic devices) it will remind you on all important tasks beforehand.

10 Basic tips for tasks management and creation of to-do lists:
  1. Find the right method of keeping your to-do lists: some people like putting tasks down by hand on tear-off papers, daily planners or A4 lists while others use Excel spreadsheets, Outlook bars or special software tools that can create tasks, track their performance, play sound notifications and perform other useful functions.
  2. Prioritize tasks: put your tasks in order of importance/urgency and give higher priority to the tasks that get you closer to your goals.
  3. Be realistic: check if you can really accomplish the task you are getting into. Be also sure that the task is actual for the planned period of time.
  4. Be specific: each item on your list should be an understandable, short and measurable task.
  5. Break down complex tasks into smaller manageable pieces and focus on one at a time.
  6. Group and categorize similar tasks: for example create several to-do lists by categories - purchases, meetings, events, etc.
  7. Delegate your work: if there are other people available who can help you with your work, ask them to help you.
  8. Be flexible and not too much detailed: remember that the tasks may sometimes be interrupted or delayed, so allow some variations or reserves for them.
  9. Leave spaces for unexpected activities: you may not know exactly what you'll need to do, but if you plan the time to do it, then other important things will not get pushed out of the way when the demand arises.
  10. Make to-do lists a daily record: at the end of the work day, take the time to review the day's accomplishments, cross them off of your list and plan your work for the next day.

Many time management experts advice to introduce a system based on a carrot-and-stick principle: think of a reward you'll get in case of accomplishment and sort of punishment if a task will not be completed by the end of planned period.

It is also a good idea to evaluate regularly how you are spending your time. In some cases, the best thing you can do is to stop doing an activity that is no longer serving you so you can spend the time doing something more valuable. Consider what you are giving up in order to maintain your current activities.

Popular tasks management software:
  • Remember the milk: web-based to-do list manager with an emphasis on simplicity and integration with popular third-party applications.
  • TaskPilot: extensive task options; supports folders and task hierarchy; import / export from Outlook.
  • FusionDesk: hierarchical folders, customizable filters, time reports, sync with Outlook and other PCs.
  • Swift To-Do List: hierarchical tree structure, drag & drop tasks, attachments to tasks, multiple to do databases.
  • VIP Task manager: client/server software for workgroup collaboration and task management by multiple users.
  • MindDecider: project management and decision making software with extensive tasks management tools.
Advantages of MindDecider's task management tools:
  • easy creation of to-do lists
  • setting priorities for tasks (GTD)
  • arranging tasks in order of importance and selection of the most important tasks (GTD)
  • adding comments, pictures and hyperlinks
  • applying attributes for tasks for measuring and monitoring
  • easy placing of tasks on a timeline and tracking their progress
  • unlimited number of tasks (GTD)
  • categorization of tasks and subtasks (tasks tree)
  • preset checks, question and other marks
  • zoomed in/out calendar showing periods from hours to years.
  • David Allen, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, Penguin (Non-Classics), 2002.
  • Morgenstern, Julie. Organizing From the Inside Out, Owl Books, 1998.
  • Marc Mancini, Time Management: Business skills express series, McGraw-Hill Professional, 1993.
  • To-Do Lists: the key to efficiency (MindTools.com)
  • Getting started with "Getting Things Done" (43folders.com)
  • A Primer on Getting Things Done(7pproductions.com)

Visit MindDecider’s web-site www.minddecider.com to download updated versions of MindDecider, view projects and read management-related articles.

Source: Free Guest Posting Articles from ArticlesFactory.com

About Article Author

Antony Banin
Antony Banin

Antony Banin,

MindDecider Marketing Director

View More Articles