Track Your Tasks for Greater Productivity

Many years ago, when I retired from dallying and I started to be interested in work—and work productively—I soon realized something: I can’t trust my memory to tell me what I’m supposed to work on.

Often, when I would sit down to work, I would go blank and wonder what I was supposed to work on; I couldn’t recall all the tasks I had said I needed to handle. And when I would finally remember some of those tasks, I would find myself in the same predicament as soon as those tasks were completed: I would wonder, “What am I suppose to do next?”.

It became clear to me that, if wanted to become more productive, I needed a way to capture my tasks; I couldn’t afford to waste time trying to remember what to do (and what to do next).

Perhaps, you’ve gotten into the habit of carrying a list of tasks in your head. Your mind is powerful, but, if you’re like most people, it’s not a good “tasks tracking system”; your list of tasks can get quite long and retrieving the information can become tedious—at least that’s been my experience.

You’ll see an immediate increase in your productivity when you begin to track your tasks somewhere other than your head. This simple discipline will remove the need for you to labor to retrieve the information from your head when you’re supposed to be working.

When it comes to knowing what needs to get done, there’s a simple rule I go by: don’t trust your memory.

Get things out of your head and write them on a piece of paper or put them on your computer or tell your assistant or record them on your mobile device or engrave them on a stone or write them on the back of your hand… Put them wherever you want, but get them out of your head.

Once you’ve decided the way you’re going to track your tasks, there are few things you must do to ensure your system is effective.

Capture All Current Tasks

If you’re starting from scratch, the first thing you must do is perform a “brain dump”: get all the tasks currently floating around in your mind out of your head and into your tracking system.

This may take you a bit of time on the onset, but you’ll gain the benefits in the long run.

Capture Every New Task

For your tracking system to be effective, you must discipline yourself and use it. Otherwise, you’re going to fall back into your old habit of relying on your memory to track your tasks.

Every time a new task arises, you must add it to your tracking system: out of your head; into the system. This includes all the tasks you may have missed from your initial “brain dump”: when you remember them, add them immediately, lest you forget them again.

Organize Your Tasks

Always take the time to organize your list of tasks. Catalog them in a way that makes sense to you and establish in which order you’re going to tackle them. This is important. It will save you time when it’s time to determine what you need to tackle next.

As much as possible, organize your list during your planning sessions, so that, when it’s time to execute, you don’t have to waste time trying to figure things out.

Eliminate Every Completed Task

Aim to keep your tracking system as up-to-date as possible. When you complete a task, eliminate it from the list of pending tasks. Keeping completed tasks mixed with pending tasks creates noise, which will slow you down.

If you use a paper to-do list, cross the completed tasks. If you use an app, mark them as done. As much as possible, keep your tracking system clean and tidy.

Tracking your tasks diligently will give you a handle on your work and help you avoid wasting time when trying to identify what to do next.