What was I doing? I know I should be doing something right now? Oh, that was due yesterday!? I forgot?!
We’ve all had these thoughts at one point or another. I use to have them on a near-daily basis. I’ll be honest I still have them every once in a while, but since I started creating strategies for maintaining my schedule I have been having them a lot less.
Disclaimer: This is what works for me. Everybody will have a different way of doing things. This is not meant to tell you the correct way, it’s meant to get you thinking about your systems and why they may or may not work.
I do not use a physical planner. To-do lists and calendars are meant to remind you to do things, so using paper as a way of tracking tasks is the way of the past. Using a planner just adds one more thing that you need to remember to do (check the planner), and there’s no way to remember that other than to just hope you remember on your own. The advent of calendar and to-do apps that will give you alerts has rendered paper obsolete.
Do you have a meeting that you need to be at a specific time? A phone call that has to happen this afternoon? A date at a specific location tonight? All of that goes in your calendar.
Calendars are very simple. If the task or event has to happen at a specific time it goes in your calendar, if it can happen at any point in the day it doesn’t belong here.
Honorable calendar app mention: Fantastical Fantastical is great because it has a dark theme (one of my favorite things), but also because you can type in plain English. It also syncs perfectly with the Apple Watch.
Anything you need to remember to do but isn’t incredibly time specific goes in your to-do list. If you’re using your brain to remember things you’re using it incorrectly. Don’t try to remember anything, just put it in your to-do list. I have everything from important work projects down to “take vitamin” in my to-do lists. My favorite method of managing my to-do lists is the Getting Things Done method. Tasks should be grouped into projects and contexts. Think of projects as the overall theme, some of my projects are “Work”, “Chores”, and “Wedding Planning”. You can have as many projects as you need, but every task should fall under a specific project. Once you’ve got your projects nailed down, you have to assign a context. A context is the specific thing you need or place you need to be to do a task. Some of my contexts are “Home”, “Computer”, and “Phone”. This allows me to look at my to-do list when I have some downtime and say “I’m currently sitting at home with nothing to do, what can I get done?” and filter my to-do list down to tasks that can be accomplished at home. My favorite app for this is OmniFocus:
For a long time I used OmniFocus for all of my tasks, but I found that seeing certain tasks that didn't matter as much as others with tasks that were important bothered me. To fix this issue I brought in another to-do app, called 2do:
As you can see, there are things in this app that are overdue. That’s because I’ve now compartmentalized my to-do lists. I put all of the incredibly important things I need to do in OmniFocus, which usually means that by the time I leave work that app no longer has a badge. Anything else that needs to get done at some point, but isn’t world-ending if I take a little while to get to it goes in 2do. Things like “charge shower speaker” in the picture above do matter, I like to listen to music in the shower, but if I forget to do it or don’t have time the worst thing that happens is that my speaker dies in the middle of a shower and I charge it later. 2do will often be completely emptied by the end of the day, but if it has an app badge when I go to bed it doesn’t stress me out because I know that tasks in that app aren’t the most important things.
The Moral of the Story
As I said at the very beginning, this is just my way of doing things. There’s really no right or wrong way to tackle task-management, as long as your tasks are being completed. That being said, I’m a huge advocate of things that mean I don’t need to remember something and that my phone or computer will remind me. My brain power is much better spent on problem-solving than remember things, not to mention that it makes it easier to relax at the end of the day when I can look at OmniFocus and definitively know that I’m not forgetting anything and that all of my important tasks have been accomplished.