"List" doesn't have to be a four-letter word.

Tabbed organizers, notebooks, calendar reminders, apps, scratch paper, the back of your hand—the methods and strategies available for tracking and managing tasks are endless. How do you determine what works best for you?

We decided to tackle this question by exploring the variety of time management styles being used in our own office. Join us on this organization-exploration as we venture forth on a journey into lists, organizers and digital tools—and share how they might benefit you.

Before We Jump In…

One of the first steps to creating successful lists is recognizing how you spend your time and prioritizing accordingly. Pareto’s Principle states 80 percent of results flow out of 20 percent of activities. As we shared last week, a helpful exercise is exploring Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix. Try this practice for a week, with a focus on Quadrant 2, to hone your prioritization skills.

Lauren O’Neill & The Passion Planner

Another excellent life philosophy introduced in Stephen Covey’s, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, is to organize the week, not just the day. Ruby Sales Associate, Lauren O’Neill, has mastered this process with “The Passion Planner”. The planner is laid out in such a way as to promote weekly planning, as well as how individual tasks tie into larger goals. The sections are as follows:

  • Personal To-Do List
  • Work To-Do List
  • Daily Blocks of Time
  • Good Things that Happened
  • This Week’s Focus
  • Take Notes/Draw/Journal/Brainstorm
  • Inspirational Quote of the Week
Lauren's Planner

Outside of the weekly features, there’s a segment at the beginning of each month for new goals, as well as a space to reflect on and evaluate past goals.

Zach Martinson: Keeping Things Short & Sweet

Once you embrace the motto of important, but not urgent and get your weekly ducks in a row, you’re ready to tackle the day-to-day. Problem Solver and Happiness Maker, Zach Martinson, explains how to master your day with his tried and true technique—breaking it down. Big lists are intimidating, overwhelming the user with options. Studies have shown lists of four or less items are easier to prioritize and manage. Start by creating your big daily list, and then break it down into categories. Prioritization becomes a breeze, and you’ll successfully speed through tasks. Here’s a peek into a day in the life of Zach.

Zach's Lists

Michael Boardman: Going Digital

As our Level 10 Desktop Wizard, it’s no surprise Michael relies on a digital tool to manage his to-do lists. Michael uses Trello, a cloud-based task management tool utilizing virtual cards and labeled columns—similar to Zach’s method of fewer items under specific categories. Following Covey’s method of “organize the week, not just the day”, Michael spends time each Friday thinking through the next week’s tasks and assigns to the appropriate day of the week. Once a task is complete, it gets moved to the “Done” column, and he can enjoy the satisfaction of seeing what has been accomplished at the end of each week.

The flexibility of the app means he can move cards to the top of the stack to prioritize, or bump to the next day. And since Trello is based in the cloud, he can capture random thoughts and add cards on the go.

Michael's Trello Board

To-dos can turn into a complicated web of mismanaged time, post it notes, and scribbles from various sources. If you’re looking for a time management system, or even for strategies to optimize your current system, feel free to borrow from our Ruby team. Just remember:

  • Important—but not urgent
  • Plan the week, not just the day
  • Break it down

Now get listing!

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