A few months ago at work, my PC was upgraded from Office 2003 to Office 2007 (we are SO cutting-edge, y’all) and my go-to task management system — Outlook Task Manager — changed. I don’t like the new setup at all. It’s not all that different but it’s different enough that I stopped using it regularly. And you know once you stop using a task manager ALL THE TIME, you’re toast.*
Enter this little impulse buy that I purchased back in January at the calendar kiosk for 50% off:
From the maker of the Page-A-Day calendars that I luuurve comes a notepad calendar! I didn’t start REALLY using this thing until the end of April, which is a pity because I’ve really taken to its analog charm. Here’s how I work it…
I divide my notepad into four sections… Morning, Afternoon, Waiting, Looming.
Morning & Afternoon: Long story short — I’m swamped at work. Seriously. Everyone complains about being busy. I’d LOVE to be merely busy. I’m being hit left and right with projects that only I can do, that nobody else knows how to do and, frankly, nobody else WANTS to learn how to do. I have three (THREE!) huge (seriously HUGE!) projects hitting me the second and third weeks of August. You know…that period of time that I took days off of work because of some wedding? That’s the way the cookie crumbles. I do all my usual stuff in the morning and reserve my afternoons for the biggest of the three projects. Under the morning column I write want I want to accomplish in the next 2 or 3 days. In the afternoon column I write everything I have to do for the big project. During the afternoons, any task requests I get for the usual workstuff are written under the next day’s Morning list.**
Waiting: If I had a dollar for everytime I get “OMG, Kim! You NEEED to do this ad for me NOW because the advertiser wants to see it this afternoon!!” I’d be shopping at Anthropologie. That task gets written into the morning spot. When the task is done, it gets crossed off and re-written under Waiting. Because that’s what happens. Ninety percent of the emergency “need it now!” tasks end up sitting in limbo for days on end. Why? Because they’re not really emergencies. Because the people I work with use me like a ShamWow. I love them, but Tina loved Ike too, if you catch my drift. Since I see those items under waiting, I can follow up with them in a few days and they don’t disappear completely off of my radar.
Looming: These are the projects I know are coming but I have no deadline details on yet. Sometimes I get an email about a project that’s coming. Sometimes I overhear a conversation. Sometimes I get a shiver up my spine. The Looming category keeps me from being blindsided.
During the last 5 minutes of my workday, I go through the list. I see what hasn’t been crossed off under Morning & Afternoon and transfer those tasks to the next day’s (or Monday’s) page. I make follow up calls about the Waiting tasks and write them on the next page under either Morning or Waiting. If I have more details on the Looming tasks, I move those to Morning. If not, they are written under Looming on the next page.
And voilà! Nothing falls through the cracks.
Plus, it has a word-a-day, quote-a-day, this-day-in-history, and a “fun” section each day which sometimes features a word puzzle from my guy Will Schortz.
* Now that I’m out of Outlook Tasks, maybe I’ll try Remember The Milk. I’ve always wanted to try it, but 1) I didn’t want to install the .NET plugin on my work PC that would allow iCal syncing and 2) I didn’t want to duplicate entry into 2 separate systems.
** The secret to this is confidently saying to the coworker, “Thanks for letting me know. I’m working on (Project G) right now, but I can get to this tomorrow or (day after that) morning.” Don’t let your voice catch. Don’t break eye contact. You have limits.