Archive | September 2014

From Paper to Electronic: Switching My Task Management System

Wow.  When I said I was going to take a break from writing on my blog, I didn’t mean this long!  I guess it happens, right?  It is definitely time for an update.  I have 3 goals that I’ve been focusing on for the year 2014.  It is three quarters of the way through the year and I now can say that the one goal that I have been the most consistently driven to work on has been “managing my time better.”

Except I don’t really think I am managing it any better!  Instead, my true focus has been on getting more organized about my work.  I guess I have been feeling that once I accomplished that, then the management would more naturally follow.  I’m not sure that everyone agrees with me, but I’m pressing on with my theory anyway.

So, with that in mind, my big focus lately has been in switching over from a paper system to an electronic one.  Following are the steps that I have taken so far to accomplish this.

Step 1

I convinced my husband to buy me a Kindle Fire.  It is the first “mobile device” I have ever owned.  I just have a simple trac phone pre-paid cell phone that we purchased for emergencies, and it is so ancient (7 years old, lol) that all it does is make phone calls and text (and even that is very cumbersome to do!).

I’ve seen people with their ipads and other things, and they looked very interesting, but I never felt like I could justify spending my own money on one.  But in July I became so fed up with my efforts to track what I need to do on paper, I finally decided that I wanted to try using a calendar on a “mobile device” to see if that would be any better.

But next came the tough task of convincing my husband that it would be a worthy purchase.  Since he doesn’t make or like “to do” lists, and the calendar on the fridge has always been good enough for him for appointments, making the case that I “needed” one for this purpose was a tough sell.  But finally he conceded and so step 1 to my efforts to get organized electronically was complete!  Horray!

Step 2

I downloaded a gazillion calendar and to do list apps.  Seriously.  I thought it would be so simple to find one!  I had no idea that there were so many or that I would find something that bothered me about every. single. one!  I spent so much time on this in the first few weeks that I was very afraid of my husband regretting the purchase.  After-all I wasn’t being more productive, but less!

Step 3

I finally chose Calengoo because it had so many options to customize and I could put my task list with my calendar.  Then I got to work putting in every repeating task that I could think of, and organizing them the best that I could.  I really liked it for about a month, but one day I woke up to a cluttered mess for my to do list.  I was just as overwhelmed by what I saw on my Kindle as I had been with my paper systems.  At first I tried to just “clean it up,” but then found myself looking at the other apps I had downloaded to see if, with the passing of time, I liked any of them better.

Step 4

I switched to Tick Tick, which is not a calendar, but simply a “To Do” list.  I realized that I did like this better after-all and that it had some useful features that I had missed when I looked at it the first time around.

Step 5

In my efforts to get organized once again, I felt the need to return to David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” system, which I have talked about before here and here.  His system is not very simple (at least it doesn’t feel so to me) and there is a learning curve that goes along with it.  This is why I keep abandoning it.  But I keep returning to it because of 1) the encouragement to capture everything that is incomplete in our life and put it into a trustworthy system and 2) the emphasis on writing things down in an “actionable” way.  So no more feeling like I’m missing something important or looking at a list full of stuff that I can’t do anything about at the moment!

Habit RPG

This is where I am now in the process, but I know that two of my sisters are wondering, “hey, which step is ‘Habit RPG?'”  Well, the answer is that I don’t know which step it is, but an explanation of it definitely belongs in this post.  Habit RPG is a fun little game that I found in my searching for the perfect “to do list” app.   Basically you record habits you are working on, daily tasks you need to complete, and to do’s.  Then you get rewarded with coins that you can use to upgrade your character when you complete tasks and you are deducted health if you don’t complete them.  The game has lots of levels so as you complete your stuff, then you level up and if you lose health, you face the possibility of dropping a level and losing some gear (a.k.a. “dying”).  This game can be played in groups and so my two sisters and their children as well as my children have formed a group.  We cannot see each other’s tasks, but I can see their characters and watch them as they level up and down and choose different gear and even pets.  We can also chat, which is fun!

But I am having a little trouble keeping up with two “to do” lists and sometimes I feel like trying to manage both is complicating my life.  So I don’t know where “Habit RPG” fits or even if I can make it work within an on-going system.  But my kids were disappointed when I said this to them last night.  They really like tracking their tasks on it, and they like the “group” aspect of it.  My daughter even said, “but Mom, you have a flying pig! You wouldn’t want to give up your flying pig!”  So with that kind of encouragement, I figure I’d better try a little longer to make it work 🙂 .

Final Thoughts

In writing this I realize that I’m in the middle of building a system, so I’m not really reporting any success.  In fact, what I am reporting is that I still don’t have it completely figured out.  But one thing that I do have figured out is that it is OK to spend time and energy working on this!  I know that a lot of people feel it is wasting time to read about task management and creating to do lists.  As I heard one person say, “why spend your time reading about ‘getting things done’ when you could be using that time to actually ‘get things done?'”  And my answer is that “I have so many different things that I’m responsible for, I could work the whole day through day after day with no breaks, and still easily miss something that is really important.”

For example:

  • I could spend my time washing the dishes and cleaning the house and still not have anything ready for dinner at the end of the day.
  • I could spend my time planning wonderful meals, shopping for, and preparing them, and leave no time to work in the garden.
  • I could spend my time working in the garden and trimming the bushes and fail to take my kids to the park or the library.
  • I could spend my time taking my kids to the park, library, pool, and other fun and interesting places, and then show up to church on Sunday without my lesson prepared.
  • I could spend my time preparing a wonderful lesson, or an event at church and meanwhile my house is getting overrun with clutter.
  • I could spend my time diligently decluttering my house every day and fail to do my Visiting Teaching for the month.
  • I could visit every sister on my Visiting Teaching route and then go over budget because I didn’t take the time to record my spending.

And the list goes on…but you get the point.  It doesn’t work for me to just roll up my sleeves and get to work because I have more to do on any given day than time to do it.  In my opinion it is necessary to spend time thinking about and planning work.  As David Allen says, “you have to think about your stuff more than you think, [but] you don’t have to think about your stuff as much as you’re afraid you might.”  Knowing what needs to be done is the very first step in deciding what to do!

So, for me, one thing that I have succeeded in doing over this past year is defining my work.  I’m more clear than ever on what is expected of me and what I expect of myself.  I’m also more clear on how much I can expect myself to accomplish in any given day.  And so, yes – I’m still in the process of figuring this out, but I am certain that I am on the right path and that my efforts are not wasted time.

Do you have a special system you use to track your tasks?