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Task Management Tools

I currently use two tools to manage my tasks: the inbox and the task manager.

Inbox

The inbox does not refer only to your e-mail inbox. It is a broader concept that includes all the elements you have collected in different ways: tasks you have to do, ideas you have thought of, notes, bills, business cards, etc…

To achieve a stress-free productivity, emptying the inbox should be a daily activity. Note that this does not mean doing things, it just means identifying things and deciding what to do with them, when you get it done, your situation is as follows:

  • You have eliminated every thing you do not need.
  • You have completed small actions that require no more than two minutes.
  • You have delegated some actions that you do not have to do.
  • You have sorted in your task manager the actions you will do when appropriate, because they require more than 2 minutes.
  • You have sorted in your task manager or calendar the tasks that have a due date.
  • There have been only a few minutes, but you feel pretty good. Everything is where it should be.

I've developed pynbox to automate the management of the inbox. Help out if you like it!

Task manager

If you've never used a task manager, start with the simplest one and see what do you feel its lacking. Choose then a better task manager based on your needs.

In the past I've used taskwarrior, but its limitations led me to start creating pydo. I'll update this section once I have a stable workflow with the new program.

The simplest task manager

The simplest task manager is a markdown file in your computer with a list of tasks to do. Annotate only the actionable tasks that you need to do today, otherwise it can quickly grow to be unmanageable.

When you add a new item, choose it's location relative to the existent one based on its priority. Being the top tasks are the ones that need to be done first.

* Task with a high priority
* Task with low priority

The advantages of using a plaintext file over a physical notebook is that you can use your editor skills to manage the elements more efficiently. For example by reordering them or changing the description.

Add task state sections

You'll soon encounter tasks that become blocked but need your monitoring. You can add a # Blocked section and move those tasks under it. You can optionally add the reasons why it's blocked indented below the element.

* Unblocked task

# Blocked

* Blocked task
  * Waiting for Y to happen

Divide a task in small steps

One of the main benefits of a task manager is that you free your mind of what you need to do next, so you can focus on the task at hand. When a task is big split it in smaller doable steps that drive to its completion. If the steps are also big split them further with more indentation levels.

* Complex task
  * Do X
  * Do Y
    * Do Z
    * Do W

References

  • GTD time management framework.

Last update: 2021-08-13