To-Do Lists and Task Management

Before I start talking about task management, I want to preface that I am by no means a productivity expert, I don’t have any training on what is truly productive in most scenarios. I’m just here to say my journey in personal productivity, and what I have learned along the way.

When I first started trying to be productive in my every day life I had a simple system. I just had a to-do list with everything on it. No organization, just a list of tasks.

Then I tried breaking up these tasks according to my classes, and that worked decently well. But overall it wasn’t the best for long term goals or anything else.

So I drew up a long term goal to do list, one that would be the goals for the entirety of a semester. With these two different sets of tasks I was able to manage long term goals as well as short term goals. But it didn’t end there. Now I wanted to start forming habits.

To do that I started with an excel spreadsheet and for a whole summer that listed every day as a box, and I marked when I completed a task every day. This was great and rewarding. So I kept adding more things to do every day. And then I got bogged down.

Then I cut down on what has to get done every day and converted some of those tasks to weeklies. Tasks that might need to get done a few times a week, but don’t have to be done every day.

By this time I had a whiteboard, and I found it pretty simple to convert my dailies from excel to a whiteboard checklist. From there I kept my weeklies as a checklist and I update my progress every day.

As far as tasks that aren’t repetitive I started using a kanban which is a fancy word that pretty much means structured to-do list. I’ve separated out all of my classes, my miscellaneous activities, and even some longer term goals on one of these kanban boards.

I’m by no means a productivity guru, but I can say everything that I have learned. First of all, it is really easy to have too may dailies. I only record things as daily tasks if and only if I can do them every day, no exceptions. If I can’t do them every day but I want to do it consistently a couple of times a week, then I make them a weekly.

Everything else can be considered a long term goal or a non-repetitive task. Out of these you have to determine what should be considered urgent and important, urgent and unimportant, not urgent and important, and unimportant and not urgent. This will determine which tasks need to be done now, and what tasks can be done later. As a rule of thumb, urgent and important should be significantly higher ranked than not urgent and not important.

For the tools I use:

  • Simple whiteboard checklist for daily activities.
  • Printed excel checklist for weekly activities.
  • Personal Trello board for non-repetitive tasks.

And that’s really I all I have to say. Good luck being productive, it is a tough goal, but a worthy one, that will definitely make life work out much smoother.