Ask 10 people how they approach task management, and you might get 10 different answers. Not so much philosophically, but rather physically: how do you store or keep track of them?
Over the years I thought that software would solve my problems with the sheer convenience of it all:
- I can sync tasks between my phone and laptop
- Less context-switching when I’m working
- Quick to tap/type out new tasks
- Categorisation of tasks
Not trying to be dramatic or anything, but many of these advantages became problems when I applied it to my work.
When I was starting out as a developer, I was hungry to learn and prove myself as a capable worker. Not bad things at all. But, when the day is done, it’s hard to switch off when anytime you pick up your phone you can see tasks waiting for you. I was thinking about the tasks waiting for me tomorrow, and going over what I worked on that day.
This went on for a few years, and it got exhausting. It’s my own doing; no-one asked me to bring my work home with me (usually), and sometimes it’s necessary. As time went on I started working smarter and setting realistic expectations. This gave me some breathing room to think about task management, and I decided to switch up my approach.
For my personal life, I still use software. I moved between Wunderlist and Todoist before settling on TickTick. They all do much the same thing. This works great for the features listed above, mostly for portability and access on the go. I keep track of shopping lists, article ideas, housework etc…
For work, I use a physical journal. I use it to break the “conveniences” - everything stays in the journal, nothing leaks out. It’s like a quarantine of sorts. I appreciate that it makes me stop and think about what I’m doing, and I enjoy writing as well. Keeping up legible cursive writing is something I enjoy, especially when I write out a nice “f” - that can make my day.
It also gives me a routine. I start every day away from the computer going over what waits for me. Once I check my emails and talk to people I’ll append new tasks to the list. At the end of the day, I’ll do up my tasks for tomorrow and carry over anything that didn’t get done. Closing the journal signals to my brain that work is done.
I have a few journals filled up now, and it’s fun every now and then to look over them and see what I was up to this day 3 years ago. I can laugh at some notes I’ve written, or wince in pain at the tasks of a nightmare project. It reminds me how far I’ve come.