This project is something I’ve been wanting to start for a while now. I’ve struggled for YEARS to find a suitable task tracking app that would help me quickly and easily prioritize my tasks. That’s what is missing from all the apps now. They let you put tasks in, manage them, and even share them with others. The biggest question, though, is “what should I work on next?”
Now enter: Task List
I know, I know… “Task List” is not the most awesomest name ever, but it’s the name of the spreadsheet I created at work that led to the creation of this project. Let me explain…
Too Much To-Do
At my job, the team I work on is involved in many different projects and many different areas of tech support. This is probably not unique to many of you. Maybe you, like me, have struggled with knowing what to work on next. Some of knowing what to work on next comes from skill and diligence in executing tasks systematically, but most of it comes from proper communication from management so you know what’s important.
Another part of having too much to do is having too much in your head. When an idea or a task is in your head, it’s easier for it to get lost or forgotten. So many businesses try to do more with the same resources (or fewer resources), but that usually ends up overwhelming the employees. Overwhelmed employees work on what’s urgent (putting out fires) instead of what’s important, and the success of the organization suffers as a result.
So there’s already a strong case for a task tracking system. This is nothing new. My system tracks tasks. Let’s move onto the next area, and you’ll start to see why I needed my own solution.
Too Many Distractions
Another problem with modern work environments (constant connectivity) is that there is too much noise in our day. It could be instant messages from co-workers chatting about things they need done, phone calls from existing customers who need support, or any number of other things that can interrupt your focus time. Multi-tasking is a myth. You need focus while you work on tasks.
Interruptions have been a part of my work day since I started my current job (10 years ago at the time of this writing). Another problem with most other task management systems is that it’s not always easy to pick off the “low-hanging fruit” tasks when you have 5 minutes here or there. I added a level of effort metric to my system so, at a glance, I can find the next “5 minute or less” task and knock it out before lunch or at the end of the day.
While my system doesn’t eliminate distractions, it does empower you to still get something productive done when you have one of those days of constant interruptions.
How to Prioritize
Another one of the problems I encounter most at my job is trying to know what order of priority my tasks take. This is something that is going to be unique to each person and each organization, but there has to be a clear way to sequence tasks in the order that they fulfill the values of the organization.
Prioritization is another area where communication is paramount, but not all organizations (bosses) know how to communicate what’s important. Each employee needs to know what moves the needle in the company so they can make good decisions with their time.
The solution I came up with over the years, with many iterations and revisions, is a spreadsheet that ranks tasks according to a prioritization system. The end product is a color-coded list of tasks in order of which one you should do next.
There’s also a tab that only lists your next 2 tasks, so you don’t get overwhelmed with your long list of 50 or 60+ tasks. I call it the “Two Done List” instead of the “To-Do List”. The idea is that you have a list of just a couple of top priority tasks that you can actually get done, instead of an unmanageable list that looks like it will never get done.
For now I’ll spare the details of what each tab does and how the formulas work. Now that I have been using this system for a while, I want to turn it into a web app. As I go through the process of creating a web app from a spreadsheet, I’ll get into the mindset and methodology behind doing something like that.
I considered coding it as a standalone web app or a phone app, but that was a distraction from what I’m trying to do here. I want to use WordPress to create things, and that’s what I intend to do with “Task List”. Maybe it will be a plugin in the end. I’d also like to figure out how to expose the Task List data through an API and then use that to connect it to an app. Those are probably long-term goals…and I’ll probably add them to my spreadsheet. haha!
My next steps on this are to continue learning how to be a WordPress developer. Right now I’m working through a course on Udemy from Brad Schiff called, Become a WordPress Developer: Unlocking Power with Code. So far, that is a great course, and Brad is a great teacher (plus…great name).
Take a look at the problems you keep coming across at your job or in life in general, and figure out a way to create a solution using technology. If you’re a coder, code something up. If you’re not, but you want to be, join me in becoming a WordPress developer.
Leave a comment below if you enjoyed this read or if you’d like me to send you a blank copy of this spreadsheet.