Decide Which Method is Best for You
You’ve identified your recurring tasks now let’s dive into deciding which method is best. Do you work best with a tight structure or a loose structure? Do you need to be directed or do you rebel against too much direction; even if it’s self direction? Do you prefer high tech tools or low tech tools? Do you spend a lot of time at your computer? The answers to these questions will help you decide which tools to use.
Let’s talk about the low tech tools first.
The paper based Planner pad is an awesome low tech tool that I used for years. It has the whole month at a glance and then the week at a glance. It is a combination calendar and task master. It is unique in that it lets you assign categories to tasks. Planner pad can be a tight structure tool or a loose structure tool. It is highly customizable. Follow this link to the planner pad website to learn more about this tool.
A paper-based tickler system is a tightly structured low tech method for handling all sorts of tasks. A tickler file is made up of 43 file folders. You have 12 monthly files and 31 daily files. You place the current month folder in front followed by folders for the days of the month. The remaining monthly folders go behind the 31 daily folders. Let’s say for example you have a weekly recurring task: Drop off recycling. You have decided that you will do this task on Friday. Place a sheet of paper with “Drop off recycling “written on it into daily file # 9 which for the Month of July in 2010 is a Friday. After you complete the task rotate it to daily file # 16 which is the next Friday. You simply move these recurring tasks through the system as you complete them. I especially like the Alpha Omega Organizer by KC Streamline Concepts. Follow this link to learn more about the Alpha Omega Organizer.
Now for the high tech tools.
If you spend a lot of time on your computer and keep your calendar on the computer and/or your phone or PDA, then you will probably be more productive with task management using high tech tools.
My favorite task manager is the excel spreadsheet that I created when I realized that somehow, some time, I had turned into a computer geek and my Planner Pad was no longer working for me. My customized spreadsheet is digital to-do list and contains recurring tasks, next actions for projects, random to do’s and a someday-maybe list. The recurring actions are printed in red and I have a strike-out function on my tool bar. At the beginning of the new week I copy the sheet from the previous week and edit it for the new week. This Digital TO-DO List will work for people who need a loose structure as well as those who need tight structure.
Another way for handling important recurring tasks is to enter them into Outlook as either a recurring task or a recurring appointment. I have Outlook open most of the time so these reminders are truly in my face. It is a high tech “tickler file”. I use Outlook Tasks for scheduling important tasks that are in the future. One of my favorite uses is to remind me to refill a 90 day supply prescription. Outlook tasks work well for people who need a tight structure or loose structure. The benefit of Outlook tasks is that the task stays on the list (and turns red) when you ignore it. In other words it stays in your face until you do it.
Some people like a lot of structure to their day. In this case tasks can be scheduled as recurring appointments on your Outlook calendar. For example, if I liked structure then I would block off 2 hours every Thursday morning from 7:00am to 9:00am to write the blog post. Occasionally if I have a strict deadline for something then I will use this method. The disadvantage to scheduling tasks on your calendar is that if you fail to do them you will not be automatically reminded. You can however manually reschedule them.
I have described working with tasks in Microsoft Outlook. Google has similar tools in their Google calendar and tasks and so does Apple in the icalendar.
This completes the recurring tasks series. You now have the information to help you identify your recurring tasks and choose the best method or tools for staying on top of them. Remember that you are building good habits and habits take time to develop.