Going Nuts Yet? Get your Tasks and Appointments Organized

By K. Stone

October 25, 2007   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Get Organized

A reader recently wrote into DLM asking for advice on how to best manage his tasks. He was conflicted about not being able to use just one system and he struggled to find a method that used his Blackberry exclusively. He ended up trying a paper based system which didn’t meet all his needs either. Does this sound familiar to you? Are you tracking tasks and appointments in multiple databases and/or notepads? If so, what’s the solution to end this madness?

For most of us, there is no perfect system. In truth, the best system is a combination of systems. The one that I’ll discuss today is what I call the PPC Matrix. Best of all, it’s really not that complicated.

PPC Matrix – The Tools

Here are the tools you will need for this meta system.

Paper: I’ll list resources at the end of this article, but what probably works best is a simple notebook and maybe some post-it tabs if you want to create sections for projects. You’ll use this notebook for capturing ideas throughout the day and for keeping your project lists organized. Experiment to find the type and size that works best for you. I alternate between a small 5″ x7″ notebook and a slim 5 1/2″ x 8″ 3 ring binder type notebook.

PDA: (Personal Digital Assistant) Most cellphones have the capability nowadays, so whichever one you already have, as long as you can sync it with your computer, that should work.

Calendar: There are loads of free online applications out these days. For most people, simply using Microsoft Outlook is going to work just fine. It’s not perfect but it integrates everything together: email, calendar, contacts, tasks, and memos. Further, most PDA’s can sync with Outlook.

The bottom line: whatever works best for you is what you should use! Experiment with applications like Remember the Milk or Todoist and find the right mix. If you have opinions on the best computer based calendar/Time management system, please share in the comments!

PPC Matrix – The Guide

At Your Desk

  • Whenever possible enter information directly into your computer based time management system, such as Outlook. These would include contacts, appointments, tasks (to-do) items, and memo’s (reference information you want to be able to access easily later on such as passwords, serial numbers, etc.)
  • For more complex ideas or for when you need to capture lots of information fast, use your paper system.

Away From Your Desk

  • When driving, use Jott for capturing ideas, tasks, appointments, and more. Simply call Jott and leave yourself a message. Jott will translate your audio into text and email it to you. You can even set up a reminder at a specific time and date.
  • When your hands are free and the item is quick, enter it into your PDA.
  • When your hands are free and you need speed or the item is lengthy or complex, enter the information into your capture notebook.

Each Day

  • Sync your PDA with your computer based calendar.
  • Migrate your capture items from your paper system to the appropriate place (calendar, contact, task, memo, etc)
  • Classify your task items according to projects or large category groups. You can either manage these in your capture notebook by adding post-it tabs or you can manage them inside your electronic task system with category labels.
  • Plan your day by assigning tasks from your projects to your “Today” Task list, or in GTD-speak, your “next action list.” This can be a section of your capture notebook or in your electronic task system, whichever works best for you.


Calendar/Time Management System Resources

Please share your thoughts, questions, and opinions in the comments above. We’d love to hear from you!

Written for Dumb Little Man by K. Stone, author of Life Learning Today, a blog about daily life improvements. Popular articles are How to Write a Book in 60 Days or Less and Quantum Leap: What’s Your Next Big Thing?.

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