Keeping Organized – 05/04/2017

Modern life is complicated. While I frequently appreciate that I don’t have to spend all day providing food, water, and the basic necessities of life for myself and my family, I do sometime find that managing the multitude of tasks to be done on any given day a bit overwhelming. I know that I’m not alone in this.

So, I want to use this blog entry as an opportunity to share two techniques that I’ve found helpful.

The first is something we use in the PBDD board, and it is often applied in a business context- maintaining an action item list to track things that need to be done. We review the list monthly, using it as our project manager to remind us each of the tasks we have committed to. An aspect of our use that is not standard, and worth sharing, is that we maintain three types of action items: discrete, recurring, and on-going.

  • Discrete items are the typical tasks found on an action item list- tracked with origination date, owner, and progress notes.
  • We maintain multiple recurring items in a single Action Item, keeping them ordered in calendar sequence. We use this to track things like filing forms with the state, renewing contracts, and holding board elections. Once it’s complete for this year, we slide it down the list to the appropriate position for next year. At a glance, we can see which of these is due next and when. This mechanism works for a mix of annual, semi-annual, and triennial tasks.
  • Ongoing tasks are those which stay permanently on the list, but need to be revisited periodically. For these, we track “last done” date. We use these items for tasks like synchronizing with a web site for which we don’t receive change notifications. If the owner sees that it’s been more than a month or two since it’s been done, they’re prompted by our action item review to check on updates.

The second technique is one I use in my personal life, as invented by my wife. We have started to use Google docs for almost everything we want to keep track of:

  • pot luck dinners
  • vacation planning
  • notes on white papers under development

Some items are small enough that they don’t merit a google document, and other items are kept in other on-line tools (evite, Google sheets, Airbnb). With so many documents, it can be hard to find the one were were using three months ago to plan an event, and which we need to revisit as the event approaches.

Katherine’s brilliant idea was to have a Google doc called Current which we use to track all the stuff we have going on. Some of the content is in-line, and some items point to other documents or websites. We now have a go-to place whenever we want to remember something or when we want to find something we wanted to remember. Note, that we are not paid to promote Google Docs, and you can use the cloud-based document system of your choice. Also, since we point to other documents from our ‘Current’ google doc, we actually are less likely to fall for a phishing scam. (We don’t use the email invite to let each other know about new documents, we just place them in the google doc that is already shared between us.)

I hope that you find these techniques useful. If you have others that work well for you, please feel free to share them as a comment on this blog entry.

Whew! Now I can check “Write a blog entry” off my list for a few weeks.


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