Task/Personal Management for Managers

I am convinced that the correlating factor that determines whether or not someone is an effective manager is whether or not they’ve figured out how to track their in-progress projects, team, and todos.

It’s something that managers should discuss with their direct reports in order to prep them for future management.

The Optimization Trap

Deciding how and where to organize yourself involves tradeoffs. For instance:

  • I would like to be able to store my tasks on one device that syncs everywhere
  • I would like to be able to modify my tasks when I don’t have internet access
  • I would like to not pay a monthly fee to track my tasks
  • I would like to be able to quickly write my tasks down
  • I would like a note system that allows me to draw diagrams

I frequently see people get stuck in this death-spiral of testing personal productivity apps only to drop them after a short period of time due to not having “the perfect implementation of feature/attribute X.” Pick a tool that gets you there at least 80% and forget about optimizing after that. Task management really only pays off if you stick with it; the “sticking with it” is where the value is, not the tool.


What we want:

  • not to drop/forget an assigned task
  • meetings that continue to pay off
  • ideation that actually materializes
  • to track employee and team performance
  • to create a feeling of accomplishment

Get Yourself a Notebook

My process is a hybrid of the Bullet Journal method and Get Things Done. Due to the former, I recommend using a Moleskin, as the Bullet method is basically a framework for how to mark up tasks in a journal, using themed-pages and symbols.

Here’s my framework:


I always write the topic at the top of the page, centered. For instance:

  • Product Roadmap
  • In-Progress Tasks
  • Thu Dec 1st
  • Sam 1–1

Always at the top. If you run out of space on a page, move to the next available page and rewrite the header with page X appended to it.


There are symbols for items that go in the book:

  • a dot for a task/todo
  • an X through the dot of something that was finished
  • a strikethrough through something that was cancelled/dropped
  • an arrow through the dot of something that was rescheduled
  • a triangle for a task for someone else
  • an arrow for a something to talk with someone about
  • a hyphen for a note
Symbols for the system

The symbols aide in understanding what to do with items later.

The Idea Page

I keep a page for product and business ideas I have. Regardless of the category of idea, any idea you have that you think has value, you should write down.

It is OK to have one page with all your ideas; it is OK to break an idea out and give it its own page and iterate on the idea.

Give the page[s] a title, and if you run out of space, just move to the next available page.

The In-Progress Projects Page

I define a project as a multi-day — frequently multi-week — effort. If you have more projects going on than can fit on a Moleskin page, I think that is a red flag. My taskset includes both management and actual project work, so I personally use the size of the page as a limiting factor in terms of how many projects I can work on. Maybe if I was purely managing I could have multiple pages of in-progress, don’t know! Previously I’ve used post-its that I put in my Moleskin as the limiting factor. Remember that you do quality work when you focus and when your employees focus, and that work without quality is eventually worthless. Force yourself to pick things that are worthy of your focus via restricting what gets in, wait on the rest.

So the in-progress page is just a list of the high-level projects.

The Day Page

Every day you create a page with the date as the header.

Things that go on your day page:

  • the todos you didn’t finish yesterday’s day page; start your day by copying them over
  • notes for meetings that occur daily (like standups)
  • tasks/todos that employees are todo
  • notes of accomplishments

I define a task/todo as an item that is under a day’s work.

How you start your day page:

  • again, X or > out any tasks you finished/rescheduled from the day before
  • strikethrough any tasks that you’re cancelling from the day before
  • for the rest of the tasks, copy from yesterday’s day page the tasks you didn’t finish (the dots)
  • send follow ups for people who had open tasks (the triangles)from the day before that you don’t have a meeting with later that day

Nothing gets dropped!

Example of a day page

Be sure to write down things that you accomplished or discussed. It’s great to be able to look back and see accomplishment!

The 1–1 Page/Meeting Page

This style page is appropriate for any non-daily repeating meeting.

We can talk about employee projects here. I start by placing a date on which the meeting happened.

The format of the meeting is:

  • Discuss what the employee wants to talk about and take notes on it.
  • Read what you talked about in the last meeting and ask follow ups where appropriate. A follow up is appropriate for anything you wrote down in the previous meeting! Your todos — did you finish them? Their todos — did they finish them?
  • Walk through your in-progress projects list and make sure that you talk about each one that impacts that team or person.
  • Record what was discussed so that you can do the same in the future.
Example meeting/1–1 page

By talking about what was decided to be done and discussed the previous meeting, and continuing to iterate on it by talking about it in the next meeting, we keep track of priorities that were decided to be executed against and establish consistency and focus.

Also, if you have a thought for an upcoming meeting, feel free to put in on the page in advance with the “talk about later symbol” — the >.

Here’s a secret: have extra time? Talk about what’s on your ideas page.

You would be surprised at the number of things that get done only because you started talking about them. Really. It’s kinda shocking.

That’s it!

What we get:

  • not to drop/forget an assigned task
  • meetings that continue to pay off
  • ideation that actually materializes
  • to track employee and team performance
  • to create a feeling of accomplishment
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