Tuesday, November 6, 2012 | By: HiDee

What is Your Weapon of Choice?

To-Do List, Task List, Project Manager. . . It doesn’t really matter what you call it, we all have to find which method works best to help us manage our daily lives.

At work, they call me The Boss. I am the power behind the throne. I keep my professors legal and my graduate students from going crazy, and in return, they provide chocolate. Some of my professors are high-maintenance. They think the rules don’t apply to them, and I have to jump through hoops to accomplish their goals while complying with university guidelines. I spend a good portion of every day putting out perceived fires, and somehow in between, I’m expected to also perform the day-to-day duties for which they rely on me. Most of my responsibilities are not one-and-done items; most of them require follow-up. How do I keep track of all of these things? I’ve tried organized piles, file folders, color coding, and stacking trays. I’ve tried post-it notes, task lists, and weekly planners. And still I lack a reliable way to stay on top of all the little things that need done.

My brother is a computer geek and a project planner for a large company, so I asked him to recommend something. I was very disappointed in his “weapon of choice” – Excel. He said I could make my own columns to sort or filter by (Done, Waiting, Pending X, Pending A, etc.), use dates, formulas, or whatever else I needed. I told him that sounds like a story problem, and I don’t do story problems!

As a mom, I make sure my kids are where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be. I practiced tough love with my oldest (who is now out on her own), and a little less tough love with the second one. It wasn’t intentional; I just learned to let some things go, much to the dismay of my oldest. But in order to stay current on school, sporting, and even social events, we have a dry-erase calendar on the refrigerator – a central location to keep all events in plain sight.  Even Hubby has learned to check the calendar before planning anything.

As a writer, I juggle a number of writing projects and responsibilities. My writing projects are given working titles and each have their own folder on my computer. Within the folders, the files have titles and dates. This method of organization works for me – for the actual writing.

Keeping track of writing responsibilities is another story. A calendar is useful for some projects, but not for others. I’ve tried to forgo scribbling on scrap papers and jot things down in a notebook so it’s all in one place, but it’s not organized. I’ve tried keeping electronic to-do or task lists as well, but they’re pretty useless without a smart-phone to access them. Post-it notes with scribbled lists appear in random places around my house – I like them because I can pick them up and move them, or stick them on my purse or on the door so I don’t forget something.

All of these things together eventually help me get my projects done, but it’s not a very efficient system. Whether at work, being a mom, or as a writer, I’m always on the lookout for a better way to manage my life.

How do you manage your life? What is your weapon of choice, or do you have more than one?