Time and Task Management Systems

Looks Aren’t Everything

Recently, a client I coach was doing quite well using the time and task management system we had set up for him. It was paper, with a page per day, and calendar pages in the front of the binder as well. It was working fine, until it became too familiar.

So, he started to seek something new and different. He found something very cool online – pretty colors and very interactive. It took him the better part of an entire day to learn, set-up, and enter all his data from a list he had created earlier.

Juli Shulem

Within a couple of weeks, his former productivity had declined significantly and he was still spending an inordinate amount of time fiddling with the shiny new program. Nothing important was getting done! So what went wrong?

This is an issue I come across in my practice with some frequency. Someone has success using a particular system, then they tire of it or want something novel, fancier, etc. That idea is fine for some areas of life, but not for a time/task management system.

Ultimately, you want something that is easy to use, hard to lose, and does the job.

I often get asked which is better, a paper system or a “techy” one. The answer is “whichever one you will use.”  If you are someone who tends to like things written down, and you like to see several things at once, then a paper option will appeal to you.

If you want something highly portable, then an application you can download to your smartphone may be just the ticket. The reminder alerts for the electronic ones are a deciding factor for some people.

Plus, providing you sync regularly with your other electronic tools, you will still have your list even if you lose your phone. One negative aspect of a paper system is that if you lose it, you are out of luck (unless you copied the pages and put them elsewhere, which is unlikely).

Many opt for a combination: Keep your master list and categorized task lists in an electronic form and then write down what you will do for that particular day on paper and keep that with you.

If you have started working in a system and it is helping to keep you on track, and you are able to manage tasks effectively, don’t stop. Use it and keep using it.

The bottom line is that you should not spend more time managing your system than the time you would spend actually accomplishing the tasks your system is supposed to help you manage! The key is simplicity, success, and consistency.

If something isn’t working well enough, and you see a change is in order to increase effectiveness, then that would be a logical reason to seek out an alternative.

Ask a question for the column and I will address it at the appropriate time. Email questions to Coach Juli at and put “question for column” in the subject line and they will be answered right here – your name will not be used.

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