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Wednesday · January 11 2006

How do you keep track of the things you need to do? Here's a quick list of possibilities I can think of.

  • Paper
  • Palm
  • Online (Outlook, Yahoo, etc)
  • Gigantic whiteboards and posters
  • Tell my partner and hope he/she reminds me
  • In my head
  • Post it notes

I'm only asking about a system that you use and works for you. Not the idealistic attempts I have made with nearly all of the all above only to find 3 year old lists filled with things I didn't really need to do in the first place.

I'm convinced no system will work for me, but I'm curious if any system works for anyone.

What you had to say:
January 11 2006

The Palm system has worked most reliably for me. Now I have a Treo and --- I AM LOVING IT !!
Even though I can now get distracted by my to-do list by my email being downloaded ... the Palm task list usually keeps me on track.

January 11 2006

Long-term, I use a Treo synched with Outlook. Useful for keeping track of meetings (particularly recurring ones), travel, etc. I used to use the task list, but I've reverted to a simpler system that works almost perfectly for me. On Mondays, I draw six columns on a piece of paper-one for each weekday, plus one (unfortunately) for the weekend. On Monday morning, I first write in any meetings on those days. Then I start going through all my various projects and filling in the work I hope to accomplish each day, everything from little details (call so-and-so-back, reserve a conference room for a meeting) to big, vague stuff (have a plan on XX by the end of the day).

The keys to making this system work? 1) I write down work I have to get done (no matter how small) the _second_ that I think of it. That way, I'm less stressed out that I'm forgetting something. 2) It feels good to cross things out, so I'm motivated to get through the crappy stuff. 3) When it becomes clear that my plan for a day is unrealistic, or that a given piece of work has declined in priority, I move stuff to different days. 4) When I've crossed the last thing out, I go home. No guilt.

January 11 2006

Hmm... I'll try that next.
I'm with you, Jason. Nothing has worked for me yet. For my new job I've needed to carry around a little book to take notes at meetings. Lots of people do that here - I'm not sure why it's such a trend. I tried to keep the list in there, but it get's buried. A colleague keeps two books and action items go by themselves. I'm trying that this week. Maybe I'll add Chris' chart.

January 11 2006

Outlook for work, the Designated Coffee Table for personal stuff. The only way I make Outlook work is by religiously cleaning out my inbox. No more than 3 projects in there at a time; otherwise I create a file with a rediculously descriptive title like "follow up with for 1-20 training".

For personal stuff I pile crap on the coffee table where I keep my keys so I know I will see it at least twice a day.

This works for me, but I think some ppl just can't keep track of stuff. It is just not in their nature. Jason, you don't strike me as one of those types though.

January 11 2006

"This works for me, but I think some ppl just can't keep track of stuff. It is just not in their nature. Jason, you don't strike me as one of those types though."

I keep everything I need to do in my head. I imagine a 2 week rolling calendar and that's where things go. For things farther out and dates like birthdays, I put them in the Yahoo calendar that Stacy and I share, and then transfer it to my imagined 2 week calendar when it gets close.

For work, I write things down in a notebook and cross things off as I complete them.

Things around the house or personal stuff get done as I remember them. Some things definitely get left out, though.

January 13 2006

As someone who frequently bites off more than they can chew, I have a simple solution. I write some stuff down in my Outlook task list and then I pretty much ignore it. Sometimes I follow it, but mostly I don't worry about keeping lists. As long as I am getting stuff done, and not forgetting really important items, I'm not going to obsess over lists.

List making is actually a sign of chronic procrastinating - I recently read an article on the subject. Apparently this is a growing subject in psychology. Since I have the procrastinator in my personality, if I ever find myself rank ordering my task I know I am screwed and about to find myself in a spiral of procrastination.

January 14 2006

This is an easy one. Jill remembers everything. As for how she does it...I think she's magic. Seriously.

January 19 2006

My new company uses the outlook calendar properly, so that allows me to keep track of meetings.

For projects, I keep the stack of relevant materials to each one in seperate folder or tray or, at least, a distinct pile. And I keep them somewhere out in the open on my desk so I don't forget about them.

Everything else, I just keep in my head or write a big note to myself and tape it somewhere where I won't miss it. Sometimes I write things on my hand. That doesn't always work, because I forget about it and accidentally wash it off.

In order to not lose really important things, like my phone, wallet and keys, I have an antique fishing creel hanging by my apartment door. Everything important goes in there the second I walk in. If I have something I need to remember to take with me next time I go out (like the checkbook) I throw it in there.

© 2006 Jason Keglovitz