There are two camps when it comes to working through your daily tasks:
- People who like ticking off a list of items ✅
- People who like using their calendar for bookings and events 📅
In your digital information management system, lots of stuff gets thrown at you.
To make sense of it all, everything needs a home.
Calendars vs. To Do lists
The key difference:
Things that would go in a calendar are things that will happen at a certain time: e.g. meetings or calls.
A to-do list is for tasks you can do at any time.
The fundamental problem: (almost) infinite tasks, but finite time.
So, what can you do to help manage your workload without writing endless lists or overloading your calendar?
“I’m not a calendar purist. I like to take a hybrid approach. I don’t plan too far in advance, so that there’s leeway to work on any events that might carry over to a different day. If you plan things too rigidly, one unexpected task throws you completely out of sync.”
Yusef uses TickTick to categorise his events, appointments and meetings, ticking them off when they’ve been completed.
He tends to use just one date system: DO date, rather than DUE date.
You can use Ticktick for:
- tasks OR events
- due dates
- viewing your calendar and to-do list side-by-side
- setting the duration of a task
Jonny also doesn’t plan too far in advance, and uses projects and lists to help see what the next task will be.
“The way I view it is this: There are things that are definitely going to happen in a day, or in a week or a month. And then there’s space in between that could be filled by things like appointments and bookings. If I’m planning to work on something specific, I block out dedicated time.”
- Jonny puts tasks or events in his task management system, and adds everything else that needs to be actioned (but with no specific due date) to his to-do list, using an ‘any time’ view.
- Recurring tasks are treated as a daily checklist at the end of a day, to make sure that he’s not missed anything.
Once the recurring, most urgent, tasks have been completed, he’ll then use any free time to work on a few things from his ‘any time’ list.
The ‘any time’ list will be broken down by priorities for a year, week or month.
Find what works for you
There are drawbacks to any system, but the most important thing is to find what works for you.
There are three lenses to view your calendar:
- How do you do the most tasks in a day?
- How do you ensure you’re spending the time doing the most important tasks?
- How much stress do you experience from running and maintaining the system you use?
The downside of using a calendar
There isn’t anything wrong with using your calendar as a to-do list, but beware of over-scheduling.
One downside of a calendar is that there’s all this white space to fill with tasks.
If you cram it with tasks without having any system for organising them, it can be hard to tell how long everything will take, or whether you’ll end up having to move half of it around if something else suddenly takes priority.
There are software solutions that attempt to get around this issue.
The Motion calendar uses AI to figure out the best times to do certain things. Yusef tried this and wasn’t a huge fan, but thinks there’s potential for improvement in the next few years.
Shopping lists 📝
Jonny and Yusef probably both make the same number of decisions, just in slightly different ways.
Yusef has a ‘shopping list’ of tasks with no assigned dates, and will view this list side-by-side with his calendar to help him allocate suitable time blocks to each task.
Jonny will have a list of projects that he’ll probably work on in the next month, which are added to his ‘Someday Maybe’ list.
Both approaches have their own problems.
If Yusef hasn’t done something from his list, he has to decide when he’ll fit it in, whereas Jonny has to make the decision of which task to do on the day.
The question is: Which issues would you like to have?
Try both approaches to see which one allows you to get more done.
Ask yourself whether you enjoy the system you use and whether it works for you.
More on Productivity
There is loads more stuff on our Productivity playlist and on our podcast that shares both of our perspectives. You can find our productivity playlist here and also subscribe to the podcast here.
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