3 techniques to manage your time & tasks

It happens to everyone someday. Too many tasks and too little time. How can you keep track of everything and still foresee if you will have time to do it?

I elaborated a system to manage all the demands I have during the day which helped me a lot, maybe it can help you too.

Calendar

This is my agenda! It has a lot of blank spaces, I know. I like to keep it minimal. Too much information tends to overload me. I fill it only with important events for me and that I don’t want to forget, such as meetings or habits.

The blank spaces are there to signify the times that I am doing something, which are not necessarily registered. As I have less interruptions during the day, I manage to keep my focused time under control during these blank spaces.

But I agree that some people have a lot of interruptions during the day, making it difficult to have 1 focused hour to work properly. Scheduling events for focused time might help to avoid interruptions.

The anxiety of not doing something that I planned in my calendar is already too high with the few events that I schedule. I can imagine how I would feel if my whole planned day is off track. So I decided not to do it and keep my agenda clean.

I schedule 1-hour lunch every weekday. I wasn’t forgetting to eat though. The event is there to make me avoid to decide which is the best time to lunch everyday. It was always an annoying part of my day. Now it is scheduled there and I don’t have to worry about it anymore.

Some of the events I use to incorporate habits in my life. I schedule a reading time during morning while I drink coffee, meditation time during the afternoon and learning or out teaching activity during the evening. All of them are events that are there to remember me what I think is important in my life and want it to be part of who I am. The events not only remember me but encourages me to do it.

Finally, I have 1 event related to cleaning my Inbox that I wanted it to be flexible. Mainly to avoid over managing my calendar. I am using the goals feature in the Google Calendar app. I setup the activity to be done at least 5 days a week and Google schedules the events for me automatically.

If I can’t do it at the time scheduled, I can defer the event and Google will reschedule it for later without a hassle. This frees me to think about which is the best time to do it, which is nice.

TODO List

I have a list of tasks that I need to do in a plain text file (vim + vimwiki plugin; take a look). I use it as my personal backlog of activities. When I need to know what to do next quickly, this is where I come to. I separate the tasks in 2 groups, the ones done in 5 minutes (not actually 5 minutes, but quickly) and the others that demand a more focused time (denominated huge things).

The huge things are usually work stuff or some personal project. Some of these tasks I usually do during the blank spaces in my calendar. I like to group them by projects and then fragment them in smaller tasks.

The process of fragmenting a project in smaller tasks is very important, because it makes it easy to get it done, I can see the project progress and how far I am from finishing it.

About the “Done in 5” minutes tasks: Do you know that time that you have 5–15 minutes to the next appointment and it is never enough time to finish something properly? So this is the moment that I pull something from the 5 minutes list.

With this list, I putted an end to my frustration of leaving things half done because of another appointment and now, instead of wasting that time I do more with my day.

The tasks are ordered by importance. The ones in the beginning are more important and have priority over the others. What usually happens with TODO lists is that they get very long very quickly.

It happened to me and will happen to you. So ordering it, helps a lot to keep focus and understand what really matters to you.

Bullet Journal

Bullet Journal is the way that I found to make sense of my annotations. I like using paper to take notes during meetings, talks or anytime at all, but I was always frustrated to go back and don’t understand a thing that I have written.

It seemed pointless to take notes that way. By using part of the Bullet Journal mechanics made me add meaning to the notes which helped me go back and check them much easier.

I basically use the rapid logging part of it. Bullets can be tasks, events or notes and to add more meaning to them, I use signifiers that help to easily find specific notes among the others.

Now, go back pages of notes, understand and remember exactly why I have written them is a pleasant and hassle free experience.

There is a spottable overlap between my todo list and bullet journal. My process usually is natural, some tasks are in the notebook others in the TODO list.

When it is a task, I prefer to add it to the TODO list, because there it is quicker to search then the notebook. But I often check my logs during the day to see if I didn’t forget to do anything.

Bullet Journal saved my annotations, which was always an annoying thing for me. I couldn’t bare the confusion that it was and I never went back to see what I have written.

By using bullet journal rapid logging I could make sense of the notes and now I quickly scan through them and understand what they mean.


Do you have some other ways to manage your tasks & time? I would like to hear from you. :)