I am a very visual person. I get a lot of satisfaction out of writing a list and crossing off items as I accomplish them. A paper list in this form does not work for everyone, though. It has taken me a long time and many unsuccessful methods to come up with a system to keep my to do lists organized.
I like to write everything down so that I do not forget it, but also so that it does not take up my brain space. In David Allen’s Getting Things Done, he talks about writing down everything that you have to do, in some fashion. This activity can take many forms, and is different for everyone – from writing out physical lists to organizing tasks on a productivity app. The idea behind this method is that you get the tasks out of your head and are able to focus on actually doing the necessary work. Many of us, including myself, have constant mind chatter. By getting tasks out of your mind and into a system that you have created, which works for you and that you maintain, you are able to focus and be more productive.
I currently use a website called Asana. This platform allows you to organize multiple projects and lists within those projects. There is also an Asana app, which is helpful when it comes to noting things when I think of them and not later at my computer.
This was not the first website or system that I tried. I went through several Excel documents and other productivity and task management websites before I found one that works for me. I like Asana because under each project you can create either columns with tasks under each one or a list that you can add section headers to. I use both formats, but for different projects. I have a project titled “Clients,” and in this project I have columns for each of my current clients. Under each column are the tasks that I am currently working on for each client. I use the list format for my personal tasks; under this format you can create sections to organize the tasks. I use headers such as “this week,” where I put personal tasks that need to be accomplished this week and “next week” or “someday” to note tasks that are to be done in the future. You can set due dates for each task, and if you are working on a team project, you can also assign tasks to other people.
Another key is that you need to make sure you are checking your lists regularly, adding tasks to your calendar or setting reminders to ensure that you remember tasks and when they need to be done.
It is not always easy or quick to find a task management system that works best for you, but you need to start somewhere. A few popular task management websites and apps are Asana, Evernote and Wunderlist. Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets are also really great tools. My advice is to start with one tool, see what you do and don’t like about it and then try another to compare.