I love "GTD." As our society gets progressively more hyped on technology and endlessly busier, we need to organize the barrage of "things" that get thrown at us on a daily basis. "To Do" lists are too general and don't help us separate the the truly actionable items from the multi-step projects. Yet, everyone writes them out every time they feel overwhelmed. How many times have you created a "To Do" list that never gets done? Simply listing tasks may only work if you're doing one thing (i.e. going to the grocery store). But we Americans love to multi-task and a linear "To Do" list falls apart at the seams when it comes to managing an influx of multiple, yet separate, projects.
The Paper Task Manager is a unique, three-column design that breaks down a multi-faceted work flow into three separate parts. First, you have your "Next Actions." That is the very next action, whether it be a phone call, signing up for the gym or getting the oil changed. It is only ONE action and does not require any other steps to complete. An Action may be part of a bigger project. As a part of a project, the "Next Action" should progress the "Project" one-step toward completion. The middle "Waiting For.." column is for a piece of information or contribution from someone else that you are waiting on to further the current project.
How to use... Let's say your Mom nominated you to host July 4th festivities this year. Even if you're getting it catered and having butlers serve you hand and foot, this is still considered a "Project." So write, "July 4th get-together" in the Project column. Problem is, you're not a very good cook, but you want to impress your Mom by making Grandma's Famous Red Bliss Potato Salad. Your "Next Action" would be to call Grannie to ask her the recipe. If she has to get it in her cookbook, but can't seem to find it at the moment (oh, that forgetful Grannie), she will have to call you back. Now, you're "Waiting For" Grannie to call you back with the recipe. Now that you've written it down, it is safe to move on to another action, like Googling a local catering company.
How to get your Paper Task Manager sheets : click on the thumbnail images of the sheets in this post. A separate pop-up window should come up with the .jpg image of the paper. Download it or print it directly from your web browser.
There are two types that I've come up with : The full-page version for many tasks and projects, and the 2 half-page version, which is ideal if you have a work / home division (which is good) that you would like to see at the same instant. The idea is to have a high altitude to see all of the "stuff on your plate" at any given time.You can print these pages on any normal inkjet or laser printer. I would recommend color copies because....well...it's pretty. If you need to, you may have to select an option to "shrink to fit page." Print as many as you'd like, but you will probably need one for the moment and then have backups when you've made progress on all of life's complicated tasks.
Sit down with this page and think of all the open ends in your life. Alternatively, take a walk around your home or office and you may be quickly reminded of a project that was never quite finished, situation that went unresolved, etc. Write them all down in the "Project" column and figure out the very "Next Action" that needs to happen to move the project toward completion.
The Paper Task Manager also works exceptionally well in a notebook, whether it be 3-ring binder or a Levnger Circa (I prefer the latter). Put it at the very front of your organizer so when you first open the cover, you will see where you left off from yesterday. When I get back from a meeting or a long phone call, I always check back with my sheet to see what can be worked on next.
So, if anyone gets the chance to try out the system, please drop me a comment and let me know how it worked for you and if there are any suggestions to make it better. Hopefully, it will help some poor, Post-It dependent, To-Do lister out there make a more comprehensive assessment of their tasks.
Republished with permission from www.tomoddo.com