Get Your S@!T Together – Matt’s Guide to Task Management

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Before we go any further, make sure you bookmark this page so that you can come back to it as needed.

If you’re here it’s a good bet you’re interested in getting yourself a little more together.

The secret to doing this is actually pretty simple. Here it is: Find a reliable way to get everything that needs done on consistently reviewed lists. 

Really that’s all it is. Task Management is list management. You want the comfort of having to-do lists that you can quickly review, and you need to know these lists are accurate. Now before I start, I want to give credit where it’s due: a lot of what you’ll learn is gleaned from writers such as David Allen. It’s just my own (mostly simplified) take.

I think it works. Find something that works for you too!

Are you ready to get started? Here we go . . .

Step One:

First things first, you’ve got to get a general sense of where we are headed. Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything in the video below, but it will give you an idea of what my overall system looks like:

Step 2

Write down everything you need to do, want to do, might ever want to do. Anything that’s bugging you. Stuff you want to thing about. People you need to call. Everything. Don’t worry about categorizing it. Don’t overthink it. Just get a piece of paper and write.

This is called a “brain dump” by the way. If you want more information on it, read this post.

Step 3:

Divide things into groups. This can be easy to overthink. Remember, you’re going to have to revise your lists many times in the process, so don’t worry too much about getting it perfect at first.

I wrote a detailed article on exactly how to divide up all your stuff here. You should read it.

Step 4:

Take all your stuff and start putting it on lists!

For my lists I use the free app Evernote, but you aren’t me so you might enjoy a different system. Just remember that you’ll be refining these lists over time, so get crackin’.

To read the specifics of my lists, check out this detailed article.

Oh, and by the way, make sure one of your lists is for stuff you’ll never do. It helps, I swear.

One more important tip: distinguish between tasks and appointments. Appointments are things that go on your calendar, such as meetings and deadlines, not on your task list. Although you might well have a task that involves something on your calendar. For example, all of my student appointments are on my calendar and not my task lists but “make a lesson plan” would go on a task list.

Step 5:

Review step 1. That’s right. Now the video will make a lot more sense.

So, you might be asking. How do I stay on top of everything? Well it’s not hard, you have to do two things:

1 – Set reminders in your calendar to review your lists, and . . .

2 – Actually do this.

  • I have a reminder that pops up every Sunday for me to review my lists. I go through them all except for things like the “Would Be Nice Maybe Someday” list. If something needs moved from one list to another, I just move it, and I try to keep all of my lists short and balanced.
  • At the beginning of each day (or the evening before) I plan out my upcoming day. Including my one main task and any smaller ones.
  • I also have reminders set to do bigger thinking and planning, such as periodic review and thinking about my big goals, a day or so each year for planning out the coming year, etc. Of course I rearrange my priority lists based on any changes in these bigger priorities.

It’s really that easy. It takes some refinement, but over time you’ll get the hang of what works for you.

Here’s why this is such a powerful method: Everything you need to be focused on right now is on the top-priority list. Everything else is on another list. This means that everything is kept track of, but you’re only concerned with the stuff you ought to be doing right now.

I hope you find this method helpful. It’s simple, yes, but it’s also extremely powerful. This method of managing tasks has helped me relieve a lot of stress and manage an incredible number of projects efficiently. I hope it gives you great success.