Stop keeping them all your tasks in your head 🧠 It’s stressing you out

by | Sep 27, 2020

Hey, I’m Michael Eckstein 👋, and this is ‘Ordinary & Necessary’, a weekly newsletter about the boring business topics that don’t get enough traction on the web, but will help you manage and grow your business. You signed up on my website. If you’d like to unsubscribe, just click the link at the bottom of this email. No harm, no foul, I’d love to have you back sometime.

I run a solo accounting and advisory practice. I don’t have any employees, subcontractors, or outsource any of my client work. So, in the beginning, I didn’t write down any of my tasks or client notes because I was the only person working on client files, and no one else needed to be kept in the loop. On top of that, I thought I had a good memory and could just remember everything… until, one day, I couldn’t.

As far as I’m aware, I never forgot a client task. But, remembering everything became incredibly overwhelming and stressful. The more I had to remember, the worse it got. Tax season was a nightmare, not because it’s always a nightmare, but because I also had to remember everythinggg on top of managing client work. Then, one day, I tried writing everything (and I mean everything) down and it was like a weight off my shoulders.

A proper task management system will make running your business much less stressful.

Task management tips:

Rank tasks: Mark your tasks by their priority, how long they’ll take, and due dates. High priority tasks obviously get done first. And, when you have downtime between Zoom meetings, you can skim your to-do list for quick tasks to knock out. (Most software have custom labeling features that you can use for priority and duration. If I’m tracking tasks on paper, I rewrite my priority tasks on a post-it.)

Brain dump: You’ll inevitably keep some, small or inconsequential tasks in your head. They’ll slowly pile up and become overwhelming. So, once or twice a day, write out all the little tasks you’ve been remembering (eg, get more milk, call Beth back, email Tom, etc). I typically brain dump twice a day (right before and right after work) so tasks don’t pile up.

Schedule organizing: No matter how hard you try, your tasks, to-do lists, and project management software will, at some point, fall out of whack and become messy. Schedule a recurring 15-30min event each week to clean up and reorganize your task management. Closeout finished tasks, move projects around, and add labels.

Non-business tasks: Consider writing down your non-routine personal tasks as well. Maybe you don’t need a reminder to take out the garbage or pick-up your kids. But, you might need a reminder for less frequent tasks like checking in with old friends or picking up birthday gifts (protip: set a recurring event a month before birthdays so you have time to pick up gifts 😉)

Software I use: When I’m feeling very organized, I store all my tasks in Todoist. It’s fairly minimalist, has an app for every platform, and works well for what I need. (Asana, Clickup, and Monday are similar to Todoist but more robust for small teams.) When I’m less organized, I use post-its and mini legal pads. I brain dump onto the legal pad then put the top priority tasks on a post-it.

Action Item: Brain dump all the tasks you’ve been keeping in your head. You don’t need to use software. Just write them down.

Have a great weekend and stay safe!
Michael Eckstein

P.S. If you want to try out Todoist, this link will give you two-month free trial.

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