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Why a visual task system has proven so productive

Since becoming a freelancer last year, I have found it very difficult to keep my mind on track and balance the daily tasks required for clients and personal projects. In an attempt to solve the issue I tried almost every online task system there is to offer, however none of them were either enjoyable or clear enough to keep my mind on track. Each system seemed to provide a rather overwhelming and overcomplicated interface to something that should be simple and straight forward enough to just create and carry out a small set of tasks.

Each website or application I used seemed to just build on my hatred towards all online task management systems.  Eventually I’d had enough, so came up with a solution for managing tasks that is best for the way I work. It’s not a fancy website or application that requires to signup and pay yet another subscription fee, instead it goes back to basics; a whiteboard and some post-it notes.

It is true what they say ‘out of sight is out of mind’. I needed something that was visually available 24/7,  so I purchased a cheap whiteboard just big enough to fit on the wall right next to my desk where it couldn’t be missed. The board is split into four sections; Backburner, To Do, Actions and Payments and use different coloured post-it notes for the various types of action, foe example Blue: Client task, Yellow: Personal task, Pink: Notes or Shopping Orders, Green: Meetings & Events.

Backburner: For  tasks awaiting quote confirmation or personal projects and tasks that are your least important.

To do: Tasks that are next in line for me to complete

Actions: My current actions, my tasks for the day ahead. Be it a design task or a meeting at 4pm in London they all go into my actions for the day.

Payments: Last of all payments, once I have completed a task I move it over to payments with a completion date written on the post-it. Ready for my invoice to be sent out.

This visual task system may not be for everyone but it has helped improve my day to day productivity since working for myself, as I am reminded to update it daily unlike all the online task systems I have not enjoyed using.

11 Comments

  1. Awesome. Now if you could arrange for an online version, where we can move post-its around in some sort of web-app, then we’d all be happy!

    Love the simplicity though.

  2. Is that a Decode badge I spy top left? 🙂

  3. This is great. I’ve been using a white board with a grid marked out in dry erase marker. One box for each client/project and all of their upcoming tasks.

    Your system looks like it does a much better job of prioritizing individual tasks and definitely saves on re-writing.

  4. I’ve used every task manager from Things, Google Tasks, Remember the Milk, Apple’s Calendar…. I found that using post-its were way more productive because it was always in my face.

    The closest equivalent to post-its was Yahoo’s Konfabulator where it placed a widget with all the tasks on the desktop. I could never find a program on OSX that matches this functionality. The advantage this has over post-its is that you could assign a task in the future (i.e. wash car on Saturday). Then once that day rolls around it automatically becomes a task in your face that has a checkbox next to it which won’t go away until you complete it.

    Seriously got to find a replacement for that functionality 🙁

  5. The thing I like the most is that there are actually no tasks written on any of the post-its 🙂

  6. To everyone who commented above:

    http://trello.com

    You can thank me later, haha…

  7. This is great! I’ve tried many online organizers, to-do lists, etc. but I agree that post-its are by far the best. Or a good ole fashioned handwritten list.

    It feels good to be able to cross things off. Clicking a mouse doesn’t quite have the same effect.

    PS. Love that your blog’s main content column is nice and wide 🙂 Makes for great readability.

  8. I don’t think you are getting the point. The entire point is so it is visually available ALL THE TIME. He doesn’t need to turn on the computer, he doesn’t need to open his phone, he only needs to walk in the room and see what needs done. It is an awesome setup to stay organized, and I will definitely be using this idea when I become more of a freelancers.

  9. Visualization no doubt has an important role in aspect of life. If imagination copes up with certain facts then it might be very difficult to over come certain situation. If visually tasks are updated and carried out then the simplicity goes on the way. For the more spectacular reason I am currently using task management software from Replicon – http://www.replicon.co.uk/olp/task-management-software.aspx . Its hassle free and easy to use. The cloud based technology also has its role on the move.

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