It is crucial to having work-life balance to have a handle on what needs to happen when. More specifically: which of our tasks should be done now, and which can be done later – if at all. Below is the task management system I use when I feel that I have lots going on and I am in danger of going into overwhelm. Below is a simple recipe I use to avoid overwhelm and make task management a doddle!
1 List as long as your arm
1 Thinking cap (or turban in my case)
1 cup of tea
Multi-coloured Pens/highlighters to taste
First and foremost, grab yourself a cup of tea. As I’m British, this is a requirement. I already have my Earl Grey, therefore I will wait.
If you haven’t already, create a list of all tasks you need to complete. These could be all related to one area or multiple areas of your life or multiple projects.
These tasks now need to be divided up into categories – or layers as follows:
- Red Layer: ‘A’ tasks
- Orange Layer: ‘B’ tasks
- Yellow Layer: ‘C’ tasks
- Green Layer: ‘D’ tasks
- Blue Layer: ‘E’ tasks
Let’s explore these a little more and define what goes into each section. Feel free to use some highlighters or coloured pens to mark up your list.
‘A’ tasks are tasks that you Absolutely Must do right away. These tasks cannot wait another few days or a week. Go through your list and put an A next to each of the tasks which fall into this category.
‘B’ tasks are those which are Best to do soon, such as within the next day or two. These tasks won’t ruin your day if you don’t get them done, however they cannot be left for long before they become ‘A’ tasks.
‘C’ tasks are those which you can Choose to do now or leave to later. Typically you need to do these from 2-5+ days from now, but you do need them done.
Tasks which fall into this category are those which much be Delegated. They need to be done, but it doesn’t need to be YOU who does them. You may also notice as you go through some of your other tasks, that some of these – although being both important and urgent, can be delegated. In this case, they become ‘BD’ or ‘CD’ tasks etc.
This is my favourite layer as it involves tasks which you can Eliminate. These tasks are a distraction from what is important right now. They are of low importance, and if you spend time doing these, you’re taking time away from doing you’re A-C tasks.
Reviewing your ‘big list’ of tasks should be done weekly, although you will probably review it throughout the week as you will hopefully be referring to it rather often.
Hold the Oven!
“But CJ, what if I have too many ‘A’ tasks? Which one do I do first?” I hear you ask! Very good question and thank you for asking. You win the prize for best question asked all blog post. Here’s where our old friend Pareto comes in to help us sort the wheat from the chaff. The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, comes into play here to help you decide which task should be first. Decide by looking through your ‘A’ tasks, which one would have the biggest impact on your goal right now. Mark this task A1. Ask yourself the same question again, excluding that first one. This next one becomes A2, and so on…
Now you have a nice layered list of tasks. You may well write them out again in the new order you have placed them in.
The Icing on the Cake
Here’s some icing for your layered cake. You can speed up this whole process by using an app which I thoroughly recommend and use for all my to-do lists (among other things) – and that’s Evernote.
Evernote is one of my favourite productivity tools and it can synchronise across all your devices.
I’d love to hear from you and know now your Task Management Cake turned out! And if you’re still having trouble juggling all the hats, call me now on 07988630004 and get your time back once and for all!