I struggle with staying organized. My email inbox receives between 50-100 emails a day, and meetings typically occupy over 6 hours of a typical work day. Each email and meeting generates new tasks that join my ever long list.
ActionAgenda running on my iPad
When that list becomes too long, I retreat into a mentality of doing the item most on fire, that thing that maybe lingered forgotten on the bottom of the page. On-fire task management is no way to stay ahead of those things I need most to do.
I have tried a number of different systems, apps and tricks to tame the tasklist monster over the years. Several years ago I used David Allen‘s Getting Things Done (GTD) system with some success, and I’ve recently come back around to it with the help of a couple of great apps.
GTD helps you organize without due dates. With this system, I organize tasks into a number of contexts (Home, Office, Errand, Phone Call, Email, Blog, etc.) and priorities (Low, Middle, High, Top). At the beginning of each day, I’m supposed to review the entire list and identify the top handful of things that need to happen that day. This review process keeps items from languishing at the bottom of a list; they naturally rise to the top at the appropriate time.
I use Toodledo.com to update my list in any web browser. Built around the GTD system, the site makes it easy to organize tasks into the necessary contexts and priorities. I easily move an item from one context bucket to another and see what requires my attention most today.
ActionAgenda (available in a free and paid version on the iTunes app store) ties nicely into ToodleDo. I use it to quickly enter new tasks on the fly and keep myself on-track mid-day when I’m away from my laptop.
It feels a little weird to write about staying organized when I’ve gotten so far behind on things the last few days. GTD and these apps will not magically make every task disappear, but when I use them on a regular basis I find myself focusing more on individual items and stressing less about the overall list.