I love organization and task management tools. Whether it’s a one-off task like returning library books or a recurring task like calling my parents, I know I can’t remember everything that I need to do. I need systems to remember for me, and I’m always improving those systems (with blog posts to prove it).
Most recently, I was using Asana for everything. It works like the bug tracking software I use for work, so I immediately felt comfortable using it for personals tasks as well. I broke it down into sections based on frequency: there were daily, weekly, monthly, and annual tasks. You could read my completed tasks like a journal of what I had done.
But it didn’t actually work. I could see my tasks for reading a book, exercising, reading the news, and practice Cantonese every day. However, I often would complete them at best every other day. I could easily track my progress, but knowing wasn’t enough to motivate me to actually do the tasks.
Conventional wisdom for developing habits is to make it automatic without additional thought. It sounds obvious from the definition of “habit,” but by using Asana, I consciously had to check and decide to do each task daily as part of a habit. Instead, experts (by which I mean “the top Google rules”) recommend that you make it routine and chain actions together. For example, after brushing your teeth every day, you always grab a book and read a page. It doesn’t take any effort. I worked to develop these habits in my 2017 Goal of “Establish a morning and evening routine,” and it mostly worked.
I didn’t have too much difficulty fitting most daily tasks into a routine. The hardest daily habit to start was exercise: I wanted to run regularly, but the kick I needed came from our Corporate Fitness Challenge. I declared my fitness routine of cardio three times a week. At first, I struggled to find time in my schedule to do it. I tried running after work before dinner. I tried running on the weekends. After almost 2 months of experimenting, I was finally smart enough to try what everyone else does: I started running first thing in the morning with my earbuds in and have kept up the habit for the past few months.
I resisted morning runs because I had to make other life adjustments to fit them in. I had to flip a lifelong habit of evening showers to morning showers. To get up earlier to run, I have to go to sleep earlier, and even then, I am getting into the office later. Because I shower just before I bike into work, my damp hair under a helmet ends up looking like Wolverine’s hairdo.
I have even had to adjust my runs over the past few months. I started by running in the park, but after they started construction, I began running around the neighborhood. I enjoyed those 2 weeks of exploring apartments complexes and residential roads I had never visited. After it got too cold, I moved into my complex gym, which has 2 broken treadmills and, thankfully, 1 functional treadmill. I have also gone through a variety of entertainment, including Radiolab (which I quickly ran out of), Welcome to Nightvale (which I quickly tired of), Critical Role (which I slowly ran out of), and now Star Trek: The Next Generation (which I am currently enjoying).
The toughest part now is that I don’t enjoy running yet. I’m proud of myself for getting up early in the cold to do something that I actively dislike for my own good, but it’s not sustainable. I inevitably will lapse, and my running routine will be over. I need to change my mindset about it and will work on that going forward.
My New System
When I last wrote about my TODO list on September 8th, 2014, I predicted that I would change systems again in 3 years to address new requirements, and like clockwork, I have something new. I still use Asana to keep track of less frequent or long-term tasks, but other than my routine, I have switched to 2 other systems. First, I use the “Reminders” app on my iPhone for quick tasks or ideas that pop into my head. It’s very convenient for those fleeting tasks that I need to write down immediately.
Second, Julie and I have been doing a Weekly Marriage Meeting (usually Saturday mornings) where we plan out the week of events and chores. On our whiteboard wall in our bedroom, we fill in a weekly schedule for that weekend and every weeknight. We also track things to do together, things that Kevin will do, and things that Julie will do. We roughly categorize when we will get them done, and then start with the weekend.
When I last wrote about my TODO list, I was focused on things that just I needed to do. Since we got married and have been living together, we have to coordinate almost all aspects of our lives, including our tasks. We do many errands and fun events together, but even if we’re not, we have to coordinate when we expect to be doing things separately. This new system isn’t designed for just me; it’s designed for two.
And that system, alongside my personal daily routines, is how I currently get things done. Check back in 2020 when I again have changed my task management system to something even better.
(P.S. if you haven’t noticed, I redesigned my blog, and I hope you like it! I also added an email subscription option if you shy away from social media)