Do you struggle with keeping on top of the day to day tasks in your life, all while balancing work, family or social commitments and then trying to fit in time for your personal goals or side projects?  Relax, this is normal and affects almost everyone.

This is my pragmatic approach to managing this situation and coming out feeling relaxed knowing everything is under control.

Prioritise for goals

Tasks should primarily be prioritised to move toward achieving your goals, this involves breaking your goals down into the smallest possible units of work and prioritising them for the highest impact.

Swallow That Frog

If the first thing you do in the morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you.

Think of your worst, most dreaded task for the day as the frog, avoid procrastinating it and just get it over with. Your day will only get better from there, and the relief of having the worst task knocked over first thing will make the rest of the day seem easy.

Be Realistic

Avoid rushing in and setting out more tasks for yourself than what you can realistically achieve. Ultimately this leads to falling flat on your face, missing out on a feeling of accomplishment and in the end being much less productive.

To overcome this it is important to be realistic about how much you put on your plate and set realistic expectations. Start with scheduling a smaller amount of items per day/week and scale up as you find you are coping with your current workload.

Accept that you cannot complete everything, and there are only so many hours in your day that are not consumed by work, family or other commitments.  Be ruthless in culling old or irrelevant tasks, re-schedule items that there is no way you can get done in a given day.

Measure & Reflect

At the end of each week and month, I undertake a weekly, and a monthly retrospective to reflect on the last week/month, evaluate my achievements and then plan out what I want to achieve for the next week/month.

This involves reviewing the goals that I set in the prior period, compare them to what I actually achieved and identify what went wrong and what I can improve over the next period.

This to me is one of the key factors in maintaining maximum productivity and achieving all those important in your life.

Plan Ahead

To combat the everyday battle of thinking about what you need to do or should be doing for the next day, week etc. I plan out my next week on a Sunday evening.  This involves the outcomes of my weekly retrospective and orienting my tasks towards my goals for the next week.

The act of simply dumping all of this out of your brain and into a list for the next week allows you to relax and not think about it all subconsciously.

My System

For day to day task management and to-do items, I use Todoist. The simple and clean UI combined with powerful task management, filtering, labelling and project features make it a no brainer for me.

Pretty much anything that comes up that I am unable to deal with then and there goes straight into Todoist, sorted into one of the many projects for different categories of items that I have set up.

My Project List - Todoist
My Project List - Todoist

Any recurring tasks such as bills, housework, regular work items, or personal tasks I create as a recurring task.

In order to make the most of the little spare time that I have, the labelling and filtering features are my saving grace here.  Labels such as commute, quick_win, 5,10,15 mins etc make it easy to quickly find an item that I can knock over when I have a spare minute or so, or when I am commuting to and from work.  Combine this with filters and I can quickly and easily pull up, for example, all five-minute tasks that can be done on my commute, and that are scheduled for today.

My Project List - Todoist
Filters & Labels - Todoist

For all the bits and pieces that you want to do, ideas for future projects, or simply don’t know how or when they can be done, I use a “One Day” project as a dumping ground. Part of my planning process for the next week/month involves reviewing these and either scheduling them in, removing them if they are no longer relevant or just leaving them be if nothing has changed.

At the end of each week/month, I review my completed tasks and compare against my goals for the week to evaluate how well I actually did in comparison to what I had planned to achieve.