Keeping a humane task list

13 May 2019

One day last week I had a long list of work- and home-related things I needed to get done. I created a list in Trello, using my Time Block board. With this board, I divide the day up into two-hour time blocks and assign tasks to accomplish in each block.

It was a very ambitious list. And I got a lot done. But by day’s end, I was disappointed. And it was all because of the expectations I’d set up for myself.

I had 31 tasks on the list. Nine remained undone. Sadly, I was dissatisfied at the end of the day because I focused on the undone tasks. That’s right—I checked off 22 tasks and I focused on the nine I didn’t check off. That’s not humane.

The problem was that I’d set myself up to fail, not succeed. I assigned a time for each of the tasks at the beginning of the day. But my days aren’t that predictable. (I bet yours aren’t either.) And by 10 am I was already behind. And I spent the day trying to catch up.

Given that I had so much to do, I think that I’d have been better served by a kanban-style board and trying to be more realistic about what I could actually accomplish in a day.

Here’s how a kanban board works: You create a three-column board—it can be in Trello or on a piece of paper or a clipboard or a white board. Write a realistic number of tasks in the left-most column, titled something along the lines of “To do.” In the center column, labeled “Doing,” you place no more than three tasks (selected from the list in the first column), which helps maintain your focus. The right-most column is labeled “Done” and the tasks you accomplished are moved there. When you’ve finished a task, you can move a new task into the Doing column. Trello is a great tool for this (that’s a board of mine pictured above). I know from experience how rewarding it is to watch the list of accomplished tasks grow while the to-do list shrinks.

I want to end my work day feeling good about what I got done, not bad about what I didn’t accomplish. I’m going to work hard to create more humane task lists!

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I love this. Such an important reminder. I would call this a “compassionate task list.” Even though I used to teach productivity to college students, I’ve never heard of a kanban board. Love this! Definitely going into my toolbox.

Tera 05/15/2019 10:15 PM

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About Janine

Hello! I’m Janine Adams — a certified professional organizer based in St. Louis, and the creator of Peace of Mind Organizing®.

I love order, harmony + beauty, but I believe that the way that you feel about yourself and your home is what truly matters.

If you’re ready to de­clutter with a purpose and add more ease to your life, you’ve found the right blog — and you’ve found the right gal.

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