How I keep on top of tasks
I’d like to share with you a mental system that I invented for myself many years ago and use at least once daily (but more often twice), to stay on top of things. I call it My 6 Checkpoints.
Even though I’m an organizer, I’m not a real Type A, and I let myself off the hook of perfectionism in my own life more and more every day. But I still like going to bed with the feeling that everything was completed, or at least managed or postponed in a way that will let me relax for the evening.
My 6 Checkpoints is based on the idea that we no longer have one simple piece of paper with our to-do’s and errands on it. These days, to-do’s are freaking EVERYWHERE. On top of my own to-do list (I highly recommend the Any.DO app for its simplicity and efficiency) every missed call, text, email, PM, and piece of paper is a to-do. It can be infuriating, and seem like anyone can find a digital or paper path to impose on our mental quiet these days.
Let me be clear: My 6 Checkpoints don’t make it so that I have less to do (saying No, or deleting things without responding can do that- more on this at the bottom), but they keep me focused so that I can tackle all of these to-do’s in a linear way. Nothing falls through the cracks with this system, and that’s why I like it.
So before I begin My 6, I use the bathroom (empty bladders are good for focus), let my dog Petri outside to pee, and make myself a cup of tea. I might diffuse some essential oils too (I like Wild Orange by doTERRA for focus). For some of these tasks, I put my phone on Airplane Mode so that I don’t rabbit-hole, but a few of them require my phone being on so that I can respond to things. Here goes!
- I open my phone log and voicemails and see if I need to return any calls. If it’s a work call and I’ll need to take notes, I do this when I’m home or at a coffee shop. If it’s a catch up call with a friend from back east, I’ll put “Call Victoria” on my to-do list (Any.DO app), and I’ll call her when I’m driving between appointments- I can even set an alarm for a time when I know I’ll be driving, so I won’t forget.
- My business line is a Google Voice number, so that’s the app I open next. I search for any missed calls, voicemails and/or texts, respond accordingly or delegate to my assistant Angela, and move on.
- Next I go through my texts, and aim to end up with 0-2 threads. If I keep a thread, it’s usually because something made me smile and I want to refer to it later. Any text containing a to-do, I take care of right in that moment, and delete it. Ex: “Hey can you send me your address again!” “Yup!” [I send it, and delete the conversation].
- Then I go into my Facebook messages. I have an easier time doing this on the app than on my laptop browser, because the app lets me go straight to the messages. The browser, however, will tempt me with Facebook notifications (I need to make that red number disappear!) which will inevitably make me rabbit-hole. Again, my goal is to get to zero in this inbox.
- Emails! This one takes the longest, and I have 3 gmail accounts that I check: Personal, Simplicana, Simplicana Info (this one I share with my lovely assistant, who gets my clients scheduled). Every day I manage to get to Inbox Zero with emails, because I bought Boomerang. If you’re a gmail user, you should look into this service. Worth every penny.
- Paper. For me, this means filing tax write-off receipts chronologically, opening incoming mail, scanning to Google Drive (I’m completely paperless now, and life is good), typing up my pen-and-paper notes and measurements from organizing sessions, shredding and recycling. If it’s a notice from my apartment complex that the exterminator is coming that week, I put it on my calendar, make arrangements for Petri to go to doggie daycare that day, and recycle the notice. If it’s a catalogue, I call the number and cancel my subscription before recycling it. Nothing gets filed away until I’ve acted upon it. Since I do this every single day, it means I usually have 1-3 pieces of paper to deal with daily- that’s it.
I don’t just do My 6 Checkpoints when I’m home and it’s quiet- I like to tackle them in waiting rooms, in my parked car before I go in and see an organizing client, while I wait for my food in restaurants… Any time I can knock these out I do, so that I have less work in the evening when I get home, which means more relaxation or social time. This is why I don’t have games on my phone when I’m not on vacation- I’d rather be productive when I’m stuck waiting, and get complete mental relaxation time at home.
In closing I want to remind you that it’s okay to not respond to everything. Sometimes friends send me jokes and articles that I delete without reading, simply because I’d rather get to bed a few minutes earlier.
What would your number be? Would you also have 6 Checkpoints, or do you have other apps that you need to check daily?