Using Things

In college, I was one of the few people at Florida State University to use a DayTimer.  My particular DayTimer of choice was the wallet version.  It came with a small file-box with twelve monthly calendars.
Today, I’ve given up the printed DayTimer and use a digital solution that syncs my task list across all my devices.  My tool of choice is a mac program called Things.
Now I don’t believe that digital is always better.  There’s a lot of personal preference in play here.  For example, I still prefer turning the pages of real, printed books – the Kindle and iBook option has passed me right by and I’m okay with it.  I know a lot of people still prefer hand-writing lists, and that’s okay.
But I chose to take my tasks online for one big reason:  I’ve got my task list everywhere.  Because Things syncs with my phone and other devices, I’ve got all my lists at my fingertips no matter where I am.  
If you’re not a Mac person, don’t worry.  There are great tools available to you as well.  Action Method is a web-based tool, as is Remember the Milk.
When it comes to selecting task management software, don’t look for the perfect solution.  The tool you use is better than the tool that promises new features.  The system that works for you will probably work better than the new tool with features you’ll never use.  Make a choice and stick with it.  Like Ron Pompelli said, “Set it, and forget it.”
Create recurring tasks
If you commit to a digital task manager, you will soon find you have a great system for keeping track of things you need to do.  With a good system, you don’t have to use your email inbox, scribbled notes or clippings to serve as reminders of things that need to be done.  Whenever you think of a task, or one is assigned to you, put it in your task list straightaway.
But a digital task list becomes even more powerful when you take advantage of recurring tasks.  Recurring tasks are things that you have to do on a regular basis.  Whether it’s every day, every week, or every month, these things happen on a regular schedule.  
I’ve set up things with several recurring tasks, meaning that they automatically appear on my daily list at the interval I select. When I complete it, I check it off.  But it’s back whenever it’s due again. Since a lot of my work is repetitive, recurring tasks helps me get things done on a regular basis.
If you want to work on a project for thirty minutes a day, that’s a recurring task.  If you want to go to the dentist every six months, that’s a recurring task.  If you want to send your mother a birthday card every December 1, that’s a recurring task.  
Instead of trying to remember all of these details, set up your task program to keep track of it for you.  Here are a few examples of recurring tasks Things keeps track of for me.
Weekly Recurring Tasks
  • Send weekly email update to the team
  • Schedule blog posts for the week
  • Review and tag everything clipped into Evernote
Monthly Recurring Tasks
  • Send affiliate update
  • Look at next month’s spending plan with Jennie
Annual Recurring Tasks
  • Check Equifax, Experion and Transunion credit report
  • Core aeration for lawn
  • Dentist
  • Send birthday cards to _______
  • Set up annual doctor’s appointment
One of the reason I use Things is because of it’s ability to handle recurring tasks.  It’s one of the two most important features to me – far more important than the way it looks or the ability to sync with some obscure software.  Recurring tasks (and cloud syncing) are the two features I really need in a tool.
So here’s your homework.
Get out a sheet of paper or open up a new document and write out the recurring tasks you complete on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis.  Spend 15 minutes thinking and let your mind wander a bit.  
Think through your personal, business, and family life.  Think of the people you want to send birthday or anniversary cards to.  Think of household duties you want to complete each season.  Get everything out of your head and on to a sheet of paper.
From there, load it up into your task management program.  Set up Things (or whatever tool you use) to track everything.