Ever have too many things on your task list that people keep following up with you and you’re always on the back foot? Happens to the best of us.
I run three businesses — my B2B content firm, my film writing adventures and of course, The Whole Works. There are always a million things that are going on. Three email inboxes, phone calls, WhatsApp messages, Hangouts messages, Twitter DMs etc. means that I can’t possibly manage this with memory and the ‘keep unread’ feature.
How do I stay on top of it? (Confession: Sometimes, I don’t.)
System set up
I have two things that control most of my day: A calendar and a project management system (Flow). Calendar is where the events go. Flow is where projects and tasks go — every event is logged as a task on Flow as well.
Weekly set up
Every Sunday, I make sure all of next week’s tasks are on Flow and look at its calendar view (a bit like below). It’ll tell me what I have planned for each day and how much free time I might have. I commit to meetings or urgent tasks only if the day is free. And resist moving things around as much as I can.
I don’t choose the colours, mate!
Daily set up
Every morning, I look at my calendar and Flow and make a list of that day’s goals in my daily diary. Flow gives me a weekly view. My diary is for the day alone — helps me stay in the present without panicking about a big deliverable later that week.
Yes, I also journal in it. Why do you ask?
Every day, I keep a notebook open at all times. Whatever incoming message there is, I write it down — like “Twitter DM from A” or “B called asking for a 15% discount”. At the end of the day, I look through this list, go back to Twitter / email / wherever the message is from and sort it into Flow. This does two things for me: Not take me away from the task I’m doing in the moment, and ensure I don’t miss out on messages.
If I’m not in control of my time, I ask people to call me. I say, “My day is a bit frazzled. I might lose track of time. Would you please call me, if you don’t mind?” I’ve never had a customer who didn’t understand.
On bad days, I put up physical stickie notes on my wall. When each task is done, I move it to another wall throughout the week. This is only when I feel completely out of control.
Remember that I also have horrible days and periods when nothing goes my way. At which time, I either rest or bathe and watch a Vishal movie to live the day down. Shit happens, don’t be too hard on yourself.
But set up a system that enables you to return to your structure the next morning.