Choose the right tool

There are a variety of methods and tools to keep track of our lives, both through to do lists, journaling products and future planning. Whether that is tomorrow, next week, next month, next year or even ten years from now.  The following came was a response to a posting by Amber Mac on http://fastcompany.com. The title of that posting was Work Smart: 5 Easy To-Dos That Keep Your To-Do List Healthy. I was linked to it from http://lifehacker.com which is a blog I have been reading since early 2008, and that is where I made my posting, which I liked so much I kept a copy.

Amber was talking both about a specific product to help manage your to do list as well as in general.  Tuex Duex is the name of that product. I have not used it so I won’t be talking about it specifically or any other electronic product whether that was designed as a web, desktop platform or a smart phone platform. Be aware they are available.

There are also a variety of paper solutions available.  I have tried three. Day Timer and Franklin, and in between I tried something else which I don’t remember what it was. It was not something that worked for me. At the time I used it and in the format I used it the Day Timer system worked for my needs at that time. I still use the Franklin system as it continues to work for me.

If you have determined that you need to use something but don’t know where to turn because of all the choices, this is to give you some ideas of what some people have had success with and my opinions on the following topics:

  1. Choosing the right tool. – This might be the most important. If the tool doesn’t suit the user it won’t get used. And isn’t that the point? My choice of tool is the FranklinCovey planner system. I have been using it since 1986. Yes, I still use paper and pen in this electronic age. (my favorite pen is a fountain pen) Mine is what they call the “Classic” size – pages are 5.5” x 8.5”.  One of the great things about the Franklin system is that it can be used as a journal and note taking system as well. I have all of mine clear back to when I first started using it for this express purpose.   Someone else might find that a software solution works for them best.  Some people might find something as simple as a Moleskine notebook and pen work for them.
  2. Be in the now. – I disagree with some of what Amber says under this heading. (for detail go to her post) Except this is how I would put it: Worry about what you can control. The only period of time that you have any control over is TODAY. Plan your day each and every day. Some people like to do it in the evening the day before, I like to do it first thing in the morning after arriving at the office; others do it at home (am or pm). Do what works for you.  I do agree with making it an actionable item.  I will speak more to the why later.
  3. Learn to delegate. – This is great; I do this as much as I reasonably can. Remember though, delegation is more than just dumping what you don’t want to do off on someone else. Why? Team members/co-workers figure out what you are doing real fast and then nothing happens. Since it was your responsibility to begin with guess who it falls back on? Not the co-worker.  http://dictionary.com lists two different forms of delegate. Both noun and verb. Neither directly refers to what we commonly call delegation. But a synonym does (given context I assume it is for the verb form. That is entrust, assign, and transfer. The word delegation means “the act of delegating”. Well that tells us a lot doesn’t it?
  4. Prioritize & Reward. – Prioritization is Critical. I use a system that Franklin advocates/teaches. ABC – no need to go beyond C. Anything beyond C is a waste of time. Then go back through them again and number them A1, A2 etc, same with the B’s and then the C’s. Mini rewards (candy bar, soda, whatever) I have mixed feelings about. Of course A1 for me is always something I call “Planning & Solitude”. If I am going get a check mark for it, I am more likely to do it. When you finish the item, check it off. Feels great doesn’t it? That in itself is reward enough most of the time. Many days I will put an item in (almost always as an A) “Run” or “gym” – it helps motivate me to do it.  Make sure you don’t have too many A’s though. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself.  Rewards can include tangible things as well. Just don’t overload your day with them. You don’t want to have a ton of C’s either though and then do them all at the expense of the A’s and B’s. Typically they will be very easy to do, but not necessarily the most important items you have to do on a given day.
  5. Plan ahead (see #2) – This includes moving forward stuff that didn’t get finished today. The Franklin system uses a set of symbols. A dot for in process, an arrow for stuff that I am moving forward, an  X to delete the task, a circle with the letter of the first name of the person who is doing it for me (and as long as they are working on it gets a dot as well, and a checkmark when finished.
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About Brad Merrill

Brad W. Merrill is the Principal at Brad W. Merrill Accounting and Tax Services. He specializes in Sales & Use taxes and accounting for small businesses. He has a B.S. in Accounting from the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah.
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