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Task Management Pointers

Task management is a slippery beast that is hard to tame and harder to master. I have spent years on my personal journey with task management and even more coaching others on theirs. The first key is to understand there is no silver bullet, like many things, task management is unique to the person. However, there are some great pointers to learn that will help you get started or back on track.

  • Email is not a good task management tool! It is a communication tool and typically a distraction from getting things done. Email creates stress reactions in most individuals. Because of that, we tend to set up barriers to that stress. Using email as a task management tool encounters those barriers and over time task management systems break down.
  • Identify, setup and process your inputs. Let's go back to email. It is not a good task management tool, but it is an input into your chosen task management tool. You should be able to easily process your email into: Do, Archive, Delete. For the Do emails, send them to your task management system of choice. For Archive, set up an archive folder and archive out of the inbox. For delete do just that. Your goal should be to reach inbox zero at the end of each day. Identify other inputs such as meetings, phone calls, and hallway conversation. Facilitate the creation of tasks from those situations. For example, put a paper pad and pencil by the phone. You can easily write down a task item and then later translate into your task management system.
  • Have an Inbox for your task management system. It isn't the same as email, it's an inbox where you will process your tasks. A few times a day you will label, set priority and define due dates for those tasks. The goal is to get it off the paper or out of your head as quickly as possible into your task management inbox. The hard part here is creating the discipline to process those tasks.
  • Keep it simple. There are a lot of task management systems that can get highly complex. I once coached someone that was spending more time managing their tasks then completing them. They felt productive, they were constantly touching tasks but never solving them. Your task management system needs to be easy to get tasks in, move them around if you need and solve them. Moving them around is important, every task management system will be challenged by the stresses of everyday chaos.
  • Create labels that help you organize your life. There is no reason you cannot use a task management system to manage personal and work. If you are a leader that has many hats, your system should reflect that. Create labels that make sense to you: energy levels, roles, mindset like creative or GTD, leadership style, etc. Labels are powerful tools that help organize tasks the way you need them too.
  • Constantly challenge your task management system. If something doesn't work, change it or ditch it. Someone I coached was using the Eisenhower Box to prioritize tasks. She was constantly working on Q4 tasks, prioritizing them over Q2 tasks. The system didn't work for her but she was reluctant to change, she saw that as a failure. The reality was she was failing at keeping tasks management. We changed to a simpler P1, P2, and P3 tagging method and things fell into place for her. You need to constantly reevaluate your approach and make changes when needed.

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