Switching planning systems has been a long-time hobby of mine. From paper-based to digital, here is a short history of my foray into the world of planners and where I have ended up (at least for now).
In school it was the school-issued day planner. In my early working life I became obsessed with the Franklin-Covey planner pages. At one point I actually had two different planner binders: one for my work tasks and one for my personal tasks (I always hated having my work tasks intermingling with my personal tasks because I didn’t want to have to think about them when I wasn’t at work).
I never felt like anything necessarily worked long-term, hence the constant planning system switching. When I met my husband, he picked up on how dissatisfied I was with my ability to manage my tasks in a timely manner. One of the many many many sweet things he has done for me over the years was to create for me my very own customized planning system, called The Hipster.
I LOVED my hipster. It was SO cute, compact, and customized just for me. You can read more about it here if you are interested.
The problem that I faced with all my different paper-based planners was that I found myself constantly re-writing my tasks, trying to make my lists neater and more organized. Likely in an effort to procrastinate on actually doing the tasks.
I think Michael was facing some of the same issues as me, as he had a short stint with his own Hipster. He was also adopting Evernote at the time, and getting me into using Evernote to manage all the digital files in my life (and scanned paper files, as we were attempting to go paperless).
Michael eventually went completely digital and started using Evernote for everything, including as a task-management system. I resisted for quite a while, probably trying out different paper- and digital-based planning systems along the way.
Digital Planning Systems
Eventually I saw the way of digital. The nice thing about Evernote was that you could keep all the notes in the world associated with a single task right with it in the same Evernote note, or easily link to another note or notebook.
Another benefit of using Evernote was that we could share tasks by sharing notebooks, and no more time wasted re-writing task lists to make them look neater.
But Evernote had some major drawbacks, the biggest one in my opinion being that it was way too easy to forget where you put something, or to ignore that something had to be taken care of altogether. As I write this, I know I still have lists of to-do’s littered across my Evernote account that I haven’t fully purged yet.
I think the other major drawback to using Evernote was that it wasn’t really fun to use. I didn’t feel jazzed about looking at my task list in Evernote. It was too stagnant and didn’t feel energizing or inspiring to face the multitude of tasks each day.
There are plenty of online task management programs out there. A few months ago, Michael suggested that we give Trello a try. He had actually suggested trying this one out about a year earlier, but decided to keep everything in Evernote for simplicity.
We manage a small business and needed a system that would allow us to keep track of our personal tasks and hundreds of shared tasks between each other and the team. Trello turned out to be the right digital task management program for our needs.
How I Use Trello to Keep Track of My Personal Tasks
I am now obsessed with Trello. When I’m trying to get my hair dresser to use a new planning system, that’s when I know I’m excited about it!
We have been using it for the business for the past few months. We use the free version but there is a premium version available for a membership fee. I will share how we are using it in the business in another post. It took me a while to figure out how I would use it for tasks that are just for me, that don’t need to be shared with anyone else.
Trello is a system of “boards” and boards can be shared. Within each board you can create lists, and then each lists consists of cards. You can set it up however you want, which can be both energizing and paralyzing.
Originally I created different boards for the different categories of tasks in my life. But it became too much to keep track of. Recently, I had the idea to create one board called “Planner” and let that be the one place for all my personal, non-shared tasks.
I have been known to over-complicate and over-categorize things, so I definitely have to reel that in. Having one board is so much better because it gives me one place to look for something that I know I’m not sharing with anyone.
On my Planner board, I have a master list of my to-do items (that aren’t shared) and then a “Today” list. The today list is where I put my 3 most important tasks. The great thing about Trello is that you can rearrange items simply by dragging them on the screen. So I have been dragging my more important tasks (that didn’t happen to make the cut for my top 3 that day) to the top of my master to-do list. This way, I can keep an eye on what I still have to do beyond the top 3 tasks, but then I still try to focus on my 3 most important tasks first before moving on to doing more things.
One fun feature of Trello is that you can choose from a ton of background picture options. I picked one that makes me feel happy every time I see it.
I think that is an essential element of any productivity system. You have to love it and feel inspired by it every time you set out on a new day with productivity in mind.