This post will explore more specifically how I decide which tasks become the most important tasks for the day.
Ultimately, I use Evernote to manage two separate task lists, and all the relevant information for the tasks on these lists. I selected Evernote (premium subscription) due to its cross platform capabilities and limitations within my corporate network. Inside my Evernote, I have a notebook entitled "!Actions" that holds the "job list" and "!Today" notes. "Job List" holds every task that is currently required of me. I only access this note to add new tasks or at the end of the day when I complete a daily reflection. "!Actions" holds a checklist of the most important tasks for the day.
To get from "Job List" to "!Actions" is a specific process. I would not be alone in admitting the difficulty that can arise by attempting to prioritise an extensive list into the most important tasks. To achieve this I follow the following processes;
- Begin with the end in mind
This is habit 2 of Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Within this habit Covey encourages the development of a personal mission statement (or philosophy or creed). An important step in this is the recognition of the various roles we hold within our lives. My "Job List" categorises tasks into these roles that I hold. For reference I use three roles to categorise my professional life, two roles to categorise community or voluntary contributions, family, and a "special interest" that can hold items that don't fit these categories.
- Build a detailed calendar
Decisions on how many tasks make the most important tasks are easier when all commitments are outlined. These commitments include the commitments of other family members. We each have a shared Google calendar so our commitments are seen by all, however my work calendar is private as the other family members don't need to see my commitments during work hours. As an example a snapshot of Mondays is below. (red = my work, blue = my other, yellow = oldest son)
I will lose at least 90 minutes to travelling to and from work each day, leaving approximately 4 hours on a Monday to complete tasks off the "Job List" (assuming I get to work at 8am and don't have lunch).
- Schedule planning / strategic time
Too often we prioritise other duties over our own preparation and planning. Have dedicated sessions in your weekly calendar. Personally I don't include any on Mondays as I have found generally I need to proactive in setting faculty processes and procedures in place at the beginning of the week.
- Use the "Prioritizer"
This web tool asks you to enter all the tasks you see as important, then essentially plays them off against each other. It is much easier to determine the more important task out of two options, than a number of options. What results is a list in order of priority. I use this to determine the most important tasks for each day.
What results for me is a succint list that becomes the most important tasks on the "!Today" note. At the end of each day, the "!Today" note becomes a note titled with the date in my "!Completed" notebook. Keeping a scoreboard (acknowledging what you have completed) is just as important as managing the task list focus.
Blog post: Daily self management strategy
Blog post: Leading a department