Posts tagged task management
Posts tagged task management
Common issues among some people with #Aspergers Syndrome are organizing what to do, planning when to do it, prioritizing what order to do it in, deciding how to do it. Since we often have lousy short-term memories, add “remembering that we need to do it, in the first place” ;-) Over the years, I’ve taken a lot of courses in time management and been given a lot of tool suggestions like task managers, to-do lists, calendars, and only vague instructions in how to use them effectively. What I needed was a system that could pull everything together.
Because of my hyperfocus issues, I find time management systems to be ineffective. I have trouble estimating the amount of time it will take for me to do something. It depends how well I can concentrate, how often I’m interrupted, and whether I have a process in place for execution or if I have to develop one. I’m also faced with the problem of, if I set aside a block of time, I have to decide what to do to fill it. Task management systems focus on sorting and prioritizing tasks, and lets the time more or less manage itself.
There are quite a few systems that do just that. One of the most popular is Getting Things Done (aka GTD) by David Allen. I tried this system for a while and found I had some problems with it. Then I found the Zen To Done system by Leo Babauta, which is based on the GTD method but solved the problems that I was having with that method. The Pomodoro Technique by Francisco Cirilla is more of a time management system than task management, but it may work for some people (I’ll be talking about it a bit more in a later post.) It doesn’t matter what system you use; what matters is that it works for you.
When you find a system that works for you, you can use it for a lot of things - at work, at home, in school.. and in a job interview. One of the common questions is “how do you manage workflow.” Most people answer this fairly generically, so when you answer with a specific methodology, people sit up and start blinking, because you’ve just caught their attention.
I like the Zen to Done system and I use several tools to help me implement it. I use a paper notepad to capture tasks as they come to me - all tasks, be they for work, for home, errands to do, people to contact, notes, just about everything gets captured on the notepad. Categorizing comes next; I have an app on my smartphone (“ColorNotes”) that lets me colour code notes, which works perfectly for dividing them into context lists. The app also lets me assign tasks to days and put a daily task-list widget on my home screen, all of the day’s tasks and appointments colour-coded by context. It’s very efficient for me. If I’m at work, I don’t enter my @work tasks into my phone; I enter them directly into my Outlook task list.
My work involves a number of processes that are done monthly, quarterly, or annually. They don’t all have deadlines, some have to be started at certain dates, and others are triggered by an event, so don’t always happen at a consistant time. Some people use a spreadsheet to keep track of processes, others use 43 folders. I use a task map: I made a mindmap of my work processes, with colour codes, shape codes, and lines of relationship to denote other people that my processes may be influence or be influenced by. In addition to written procedures, I use MS OneNote to lay out the stages and steps of each process, putting check boxes beside each step and linking each stage as a task in Outlook. I can also flag which stages can be done remotely from home. As I complete each step and stage, I check it off. This way, if I’m interrupted or am given a task with higher priority, I know where I left off, and I don’t miss any steps.
I carry my notepad with me everywhere and I write everything down (I can write faster than I can swype on my smartphone.) I have a lousy memory for verbal instructions; if I’m told something, chances are I’ll have forgotten it by the time I reach my office :-P Some people find it annoying, so I use a script to explain to them that I take pride in my work, so I like to write things down so that I don’t risk forgetting an instruction and can get the job done right the first time. Another suggestion that works for some people is a digital recorder (some people may feel anxious about being recorded.)
I stick pretty rigidly to my Zen To Done principles. All new work goes into my inbox and I process my inbox at least once per day. If it can be done in 2 minutes, I do it right away; otherwise, it gets slotted into one of my colour-coded folders and I write in OneNote what I’m to do with it. If it arrived electronically, it gets colour-coded, filed, or sorted into OneNote. If it’s a project, it gets put into OneNote to be brainstormed over and broken down into a process for how to accomplish it. Each morning, I look through my OneNote projects list and decide which ones to do work on and what stages to do. I try to work on two projects per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, trying to finish at least one stage. I schedule these according to how alert I need to be. Then I look at my OneNote regular workflow and see if there is anything that needs to be done today, and I schedule that according to how alert I need to be (I can stuff envelopes around 3:00, when I’m half falling asleep :D ) I flag what needs to be flagged, so it shows up in Outlook, and voila - my task list for the day is set up and planned to take maximum advantage of my ability to concentrate.
Working this way, I get a lot done and done well. I also don’t get bored, because my work is more varied. Time manages itself, that isn’t an issue for me. Procrastination management, on the other hand………………….