Task management my way – pen and paper

Previous posts in this mini-series are Be productive using pen and paper and The back-to-paper movement.

My old concept was using several to-do-lists, kept at home, and small notes. It has worked for me for many years, simple yet good enough. I have used emails to/from work to keep track of things to do or what has been done. Before I basically had two main areas to keep track off, work and private.

During the coaching course I got the need to manage my coaching clients, preparing and keeping track of notes. And since I started blogging more seriously I got more things to keep track of. It made me realize that keeping my lists at home was not always the best way for me to be as effective as possible.

Now and then I have tried computerized ways of working but I always fell back to my trusted pen and paper. And I have tried several time management calendar systems but none of them worked for me. That leaves me with the option of creating my own system.

As you can see in my previous posts I have been doing research. Then I started being creative and have created a system of my own. It is simple, based on pen and paper, and flexible since there are no sheets to buy or print, I use standard notepads.

My new solution is three parts that work together.

  1. At home I created a binder for my own projects, to-do-lists, ideas and notes. That is my backbone for what to do.
    Update. I have skipped the binder and use folders instead. Having each project in its own folder means it’s easier to single-task, I only get the things I need for that project.
  2. As usual I have my calendar to keep track of appointments and meetings, that says when to do things.
  3. To tie these two together I created a new “action list calendar” which is done using a standard notepad.

Each Sunday I shall create a set of pages for the coming week. First I write a page with things to do during the week that are not tied to a specific day. This list will be short, what is left after the workweek has to be done during the next weekend. Then I create one page for each day of the week apart from Saturday and Sunday that share one page.

On the daily pages I have two lists, things to do daytime begin from the top of the page, things to do after work start from the bottom of the page going upwards. I can easily see when I need to do things.

Each evening I check status for the current day. Items that are not finished are either moved to another day or dropped, nothing shall be left open at the end of the day.

I think this system will work for me, simple and flexible yet complex enough to cover several areas and interests. My game plan is to test it during 3-4 weeks. The good thing is that it is low cost, just ordinary A5 notepads (handy in size) and a binder I already had.

This was originally posted at Forty Plus Two, another blog of mine.

The back-to-paper movement

Part one in this mini-series is Be productive using pen and paper.

I continued my reading and went to Why techies are leading the back-to-paper movement. This is an excellent article by Douglas Johnston of DIY Planner. Since I already am using pen and paper I am not really part of the back-to-paper movement but it is nice to know others are heading that way. I see no need to rewrite what is well written from the beginning so here are some quotes from that article:

Not only does using paper planners, storyboards, index cards, whiteboards and flip charts allow us to see and experience things from entirely new vantage points, they force us to re-examine the execution and importance of the task at hand. It’s the break from the worn-out tech-centred paradigm, with no restrictions to hinder you, not even battery life.

While we’re on the topic of focus, paper does help slow down the world, if only for a mere moment, and collect your thoughts.

Throw off your shackles, take up the torch, grab yourself a nice little organiser (you can make your own customised D*I*Y Planner, if you wish) and a Pilot G2 pen, and try an analog productivity system for a full week. Use it to manage your tasks, keep track of your appointments, take notes during meetings, brainstorm, and even doodle aimlessly in the pursuit of inspiration.

Bill Westerman writes about gsd (getting sh-t done) and has pictures at Flickr, Time-management software — offline version. I really like his solution with a task list and a time bar.

I also found Mike Rodhe who writes about Back to Paper: Should I Ditch My PDA? and Creating a Custom Moleskine Planner. Mike also has pictures at Flickr, Mike Rohde’s Custom Moleskine Planner, which makes it really easy to see how his solution works.

To those that prefer layouts to empty pages there is the D*I*Y Planner. I love the introduction:

We are a community of people who see the value of paper as a medium for planning, productivity, creative expression, and exploring ideas.

Moleskine and Miquelrius are mentioned frequently. Many seem to pick notebooks from one of these companies for their selfmade task managers and planners.

This was originally posted at Forty Plus Two, another blog of mine.

Be productive using pen and paper

Even though I have worked with computers for 35+ years I still prefer to manage my own tasks using pen and paper. I have a paper calendar, not any high tech solution and when it comes to my to-do-lists I am writing lists – by hand. At work I use the calendar in Outlook for reminders, I wear no watch, but the paper calendar is my backbone since it covers all my bookings.

Today I came across a post at Success from the Nest titled How I Gained an Hour a Day by Ditching My Productivity Tools. I like this one, it goes in line with my own way of working. The post ends like this:

I never thought I’d be a productivity minimalist, but it works for me. Just by simplifying how I track my work I’ve saved on average an hour a day.

Through a link in the article above I arrived at “To Do” Gone Wild. This is a long but interesting post. I am not keen on the full solution but I intend to pick pieces from there. One simple but nifty trick is this one:

On the left hand side of each day’s entry pages, I have two lists, one beginning at the top and one working its way from the bottom up. The top list is for work tasks, the bottom is for personal.

I like that one, keeping work and private things apart in an easy way but still having all within the same view.

This was originally posted at Forty Plus Two, another blog of mine.

Writing lists – by hand

Penelope Trunk from Brazen Careerist is guest blogger at JibberJobber and has posted about Writing Lists. She writes I am a list writer. I do it by hand. Every day.

I write lists by hand too, it makes me think more about what’s in the lists than when I just enter something into a computerized list. Penelope puts it this way:

You know those things that you keep on your list forever but never get to? You face reality much sooner if you rewrite by hand. The repetition of rewriting something that will never happen starts to get to you. You leave it off.

Writing lists by hand naturally helps me with one key issue, to decide what is important and what is not.

This was originally posted at Forty Plus Two, another blog of mine.

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