Task management articles range from tools to specific recommendations on time management. I don’t know about you, but after a while, we lose all the tools and techniques in the task management maze never to be seen again.
What’s missing is some perspective on task management work. The tools don’t matter much as long as you use them consistently. The techniques don’t matter much as long as the techniques work for you. In other words, there is a need for task management principles that you can use as a Cubicle Warrior.
I am a proponent of the Getting Things Done method by David Allen. This method uses a framework for task management. And while you might not use the Getting Things Done method, the principles still apply to what you do use. Here is my take on a few of the principles of task management that have meant the most to me:
Not just work tasks. Not just project tasks. All tasks. Home, work, project – everything. The reasoning is that you can’t know what to do next if you haven’t moved all of your tasks out of your head and into an objective task management platform. In my experience, unless it is out of my head and into my tools, I lose the task. Losing tasks is poor performance whether it is a task to support your manager or one to support your spouse.
You use task management tools in plenty of places that have nothing to do with your office desk. Going to the home improvement store to pick up stuff for your home project (was that everything we needed?) requires accessing your tools just as much as knowing if you have time on calendar during a meeting for an appointment arising because of the meeting. Your task management tool needs to be with you as much as your wallet – because you use it more.
Self-management comes down to these two excellent ideas from the Getting Things Done method. Control means knowing all that you have to do, no matter how much it is. Perspective gives you the reasons you are doing the tasks on your lists. If you don’t know why you need to do a task, you need to move up the perspective horizon for the answer. Is the task part of a project? Part of your work or personal responsibilities? Part of your goals? Part of your reason for living? Somewhere on those horizons, you should find your answer. If you don’t, then you seriously question the need for working on the task.
Usually, we simply add on tasks to our workload as we get them. And all of us Cubicle Warriors know what it is like to have work thrown at us. Too often, however, we let all the tasks pile up into a disorganized mess that makes us question the power of the tool we are using. Consistently reviewing our tasks (say, weekly or, if we are feeling out of control – now…) gives us the perspective we need to remove tasks, question the need to do tasks or help prioritize our work that makes sense right now.
No matter what tools you have for your task management, consider these principles to help your tools meet your needs. There are hundreds of cool and interesting task management tools out there for you to use. There are few principles that help you use them.
What other key principles of task management would you add to this list?