There is just something about a pen and paper, that is classic, creative and enjoyable. You get to carry it with you and reference it, add to it, present it to others, etc.
Most people who are around me, classify me as a “tech savvy guy”, thinking that I prefer devices like a laptop or smartphone, to view and edit my documents I’m working through. They’re actually incorrect in their assumptions, however, as I actually enjoy a printed out set of materials to take notes on and work through individually or with my team.
However, I don’t like my obsession with paper and pen so much that it is more important to me than my time and convenience.
Sorry I’m not sorry. I’d rather have more time and be more efficient in my personal operation, than carry around my paper and pen to meetings, take notes, and then at some point, type those notes into live documents, emails or wherever else they might be required for me to send out on the web. It’s double-work that I avoid at all costs.
If my tasks and notes are hosted in the cloud, I can access them on my laptop or smartphone, copy and paste them wherever I need to [into emails, company systems, etc.], and my life is just easier, while I am much more productive.
Thus, I’ve created a cloud-based personal system to manage my tasks, my projects and my notes on a daily basis, that has continuously evolved, especially over the past five years, as new tools have been developed and released (ie. Evernote, Google Drive, Trello, Dropbox, etc.).
I’ve been asked by my team, franchise partners, and various leaders of different organizations that I mentor or consult with, to share this personal system.
For now, I’m going to focus on breaking down my task/project management system and the simple tools that you can leverage to make it work for you.
- Choose a cloud-based app, where you can apply this task/project-management system, and make sure you’ve downloaded it to your desktop/laptop and your smartphone. For me, this is Evernote, but you can also use Google Drive or any type of live document create/edit system that is hosted in the cloud.
- Create a new document [or note] and name it so that you know it is your task/project management system, along with locating it in a folder or notebook (tag) that you create and title, so that you can easily find this document multiple times per day, whether you are on your smartphone or desktop/laptop.
- Inside this document, create a table with three columns and two rows (NOTE: both Google Drive and Evernote have a table icon or menu option, that you can click on to create a table, and then the application will ask for your number of rows or columns, when you click on it).
- Using the first row, name your first column “A – Execute Today”, your second column “B – Execute In The Next 1-2 Weeks” and your third column “C – Execute In The Next 30 Days”.
- The second row is where your tasks/projects will be entered, based on the urgency of each. If its a new item that you know has to be done, but you won’t get to it today, you can put it into the second column (“B – Execute In The Next 1-2 Weeks”) or third column (“C – Execute In The Next 30 Days”). If it’s something you want to get done today, you can obviously put it in the first column (“A – Execute Today”).
- The objective to achieve is simple; layout all of the tasks/projects that you currently have listed in a vertical, linear-fashion on your legal pad, journal or whatever you are taking out and writing on, and move it into one of these three, non-linear columns that will dynamically help you prioritize your tasks. Then you can continuously add new tasks or projects that come your way, by taking out your phone or going to your desktop/laptop, to enter it in the respective column where it belongs. Because you’re entering it into a document you’ve created that is hosted on a cloud-based application, you now have the ability to access your ABC task-prioritized list anywhere from your smartphone app or desktop/laptop.
- The most important part – WORK THE SYSTEM. At the end of each day [this means every single day – from now on], you must be in the habit of moving your task/project list right-to-left and adding all new items that come your way, to this list in its most-relevant column. The end of each day means that time is moving forward and thus, your C and B tasks/projects need to move to the left, so that are eventually an “A – Execute Today” task item. This allows you to close your day out strong, not feeling like a failure because you still have this crazy-long linear list of things you didn’t do yet, which remain listed on this same page of your legal pad or journal. Instead, you can end your day knowing what you did, and you are now ready to “Crush It” on a clear set of items tomorrow! Each new day has a script for you to execute on!
NOTE: For projects that have their own set of tasks, you can create a separate note or document that contains these tasks and even uploaded media (pics/vids), and then hyperlink this note or document back to the listed project on your ABC Task list. This is advanced, and I think you should refrain from doing this at first. However, if you’d like, I can break this down in a separate blog.
Do you want me to actually take my smartphone out in front of people to take a note?
YES. Explain that you are taking a note, and hope that you’ve build the trust where they don’t think you are on Facebook! Otherwise, you are relying on your memory, or pulling out something to write on. To me, it’s not worth you forgetting and there is not much difference in pulling out a notebook to write on in front of them. However, if you are in a formal meeting, go back to the pen and paper so that you can stay engaged and note things as they come, without disengaging. Then, immediately after your formal meeting, type what’s relevant to your task/project note in your cloud-based app.
How does my calendar and any calls, meetings or appointments factor into this system?
Great question. If you want to put calls, meeting and/or appointments into this list, just for context, that’s fine. But ultimately, you will want to put any prep required for a call, meeting or appointment, into the A, B or C columns, with the specific reference of what prep needs to be done and maybe even a reference to the date of the meeting in ( ).
Ok, I get that. But whether I’m keeping my tasks on a legal pad or with your system, how do I figure out when to get these things done, a midst all of the calls, meetings and appointments on my calendar?
Another great question. Create calendar events, just as you have for your calls, meetings or appointments, but call the event “Evernote Task List Block” or whatever you’d like to call it (I call it my “Evernote Wins List Block”) so that you’ll know what it means when you see it on your calendar. Then, copy + paste the specific tasks from your list, which you want to get done in that time block. Paste those tasks into the notes field of the calendar entry, so that it is clear as day, what you have to execute on in that time block. Assuming you have your calendar translating to your smartphone and note just your desktop/laptop, you now have these entries available on demand in a live format from the cloud as well! You’re paperless, organized and calculated!
What about personal tasks?
I put all tasks on here, so if there is a dentist appointment I need to have scheduled or I want to spend time with my daughter going through a test she took, it lives on this list.
What about standing tasks that are repetitive?
I have a top and/or bottom segment of each column for these standing items that will be repeated, such as daily tasks like my morning workout, supplement intake, reading/prayer time (not a task but an important habit), etc.
Why not use an established task management system like Trello?
Those systems are awesome! I feel like they are not as easy to scale to the average individual who just wants a simple, cloud-based document of text to work off of, copy + paste from, and ultimately be able to create, edit and develop regularly. However, if you already use one of those apps to accomplish the objective I’ve stated in this blog, stay with it. Don’t switch to this strategy. You’re already advanced.
Do you want to “get advanced”?
If you want, I can talk about some really awesome spin-offs in a future blog piece. Two examples of this, are;
- My daily journaling system that you can develop off of this daily task system (essentially copy and pasting the tasks you executed on today, before you delete them forever, and making it a journal entry where you tell a quick story of your day).
- Breaking tasks that are essentially there own project, into a separate, hyperlinked document or note, that has media uploaded (pics or vids) along with further notes required for you to play your role in executing on that document.