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I have some tasks, some of which to be done daily and some other to be done on some specific days.

I want to track what I did, what I did not do and why.

Also, how should I handle the tasks started yesterday which couldn't be completed yesterday and need to be done today?

I am willing to use any of the methods which include writing on paper and appears to be most productive.

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Can you be more specific? The things you ask are answered free by a simple search, so what's the point of starting a bounty with +500 reputation ? Even for GTD what you ask are basic principles. Help us to get a better reply suited to your needs. – Radolino Apr 10 '14 at 6:53
This question depends a lot of what tools you are utilizing. Do you have a pad of paper, a notebook, a pocket calendar, etc. To offer a bounty, you should provide some additional clarification of your needs in an answer. – Raystafarian Apr 10 '14 at 12:42
@Raystafarian Please see edit. – TheIndependentAquarius Apr 11 '14 at 7:22
@TheIndependentAquarius have you used any strategies that failed before or is this your first attempt ? – Radolino Apr 11 '14 at 8:07
up vote 9 down vote accepted

The answer is simple and straightforward: Minimalism.

Don't fall into the trap (that I already did one thousand times) of GTD strategies and Time management Gods/Gurus (or whatever they call themselves) which aim to sell something "complicated" in order to present themselves as more clever and smart than us.

Through my research crusade all these years to manage my very limited free time, family, 9-5 job, personal projects etc., I concluded in this simplest strategy:

  • Read GTD, it's simple
  • Do that "mind trigger" thing.
  • Pick up the tasks you want to do for today from the all-tasks list. Be realistic.
  • Write them down in an empty paper or a moleskin in a column
  • Do them

This plan fails in "daily" and "weekly" tasks. You could create a spreadsheet with 3 columns/15 rows and add those daily tasks in the beginning. Create another spreadsheet for that day of the week that you want this "weekly" TODO thing to happen. Photocopy them and put them aside. Use one for each day.

Then review what you did today. Follow the GTD principles. If anything important but not done then move it to the next day.

Start with an empty piece of paper and add only what you need. Don't make things complicated If there isn't a reason, you'll fail (I do).

Last thing - my personal opinion - you can't be productive with a paper that needs to repeat itself every day. There are dozens of web/phone apps that schedule your tasks, remind you of things or repeat "daily" tasks. Then you do what matters most: Focus on the valuable things.

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You cannot be productive with a paper that needs to repeat itself everyday? What a marvellously absurd statement. Is your hypothesis that no productive people existed before the advent of the smartphone? Benjamin Franklin seemed a fairly productive person with just a paper, quill and candlelight.. – Venture2099 Aug 18 '14 at 20:01
@Venture2099 we are living in 2014 and not in 1750, so don't you think some things have changed? Have you tried writing down on paper a bookmark you wanna see later and then try to enter it again in your browser ? Or maybe organise your todos by context (e.g. #office ?) Have you tried to open a notebook on a bus full of people and take out your pen to change something on the list rather than pick up your smartphone, sync with the cloud and click on the task to remove and archive it ? Also, does tasks on paper alarm you to do things ? – Radolino Aug 19 '14 at 4:17
Have you ever tried to synch with the cloud in a non-3G area? Have you ever tried to enter a task in a smartphone that is out of power? You are picking strawman arguments and embarrassing yourself. Your statement was that a person using pen and paper cannot be productive. That is patently false. Just because you favour a smartphone (which costs $500+ or comes free with a two year contract plus electricity costs plus service subscriptions). My notebook costs $3 and a pencil costs a buck. With it I managed to launch two startups and work as a Project Manager for a FTSE 250. – Venture2099 Aug 19 '14 at 9:15
Oh, and if you ever brought out a smartphone in my meetings I would kick you out and bar you until you learned common courtesy. Like it or not, a notebook is still considered the most effective way to take notes, link concepts and be attentive in meetings. You are welcome to favour a smartphone. You are not welcome to claim anyone else not following your method is unproductive. I would wager most people in 1750 led considerably more productive lives than you juggling numerous tasks and knowledge silos in order to simply live let alone thrive. Anyone with farming experience can attest. – Venture2099 Aug 19 '14 at 9:17
Don't get offended, I am not suggesting my solution as the right one and everybody else's as wrong. We post our own sides of what's "right" or "wrong" here and the people choose the best answer. If you wish you can go on and give your own opinion and see what people will say. I can't see much value in a discussion where someone's against an electronic device e.g. a smartphone and seems to me nonsense. – Radolino Aug 19 '14 at 13:54

I use a binder along the 43 folders concept from GTD: 31 sections for the next 31 days, 12 sections for the next months. Every piece of paper that requires action on a particular day gets put into the binder in the corresponding section (daily if less than one month out, monthly if more).

Every morning, I process whatever awaits me for this day and shift the section separator to the end of the folder. Sometimes I don't manage to finish a task - such tasks get refiled for the next day. This happens sometimes to the task "do sports" - for which I have sheets of paper showing the opening hours of my gym and the local pool in my binder.

When a new month rolls around, I get a lot of paper that was filed for this month at some time, but not for a specific day. I do a mini-review and resort everything to the appropriate day.

This also works for recurring stuff. For instance, I have one paper sheet with birthdays that gets refiled over and over, always to (next birthday minus three days), so I have time to send a card. Same with reminders for quarterly payments etc. And the checklist for the weekly review, which I refile for the next Friday whenever I'm done. And the opening hours for the gym and pool, see above.

Finally, I also have Waiting For, Maybe/Someday and similar sections at the end of the binder, where I note or file stuff like this. I revisit these sections during my weekly review. Something like this should also work for a What I Did And Why or a What I Didn't Do And Why section for you.

The main advantage of the binder over actual files is that nowadays, I really have a lot of electronic and less paper stuff (I have a similar structure in Outlook), so real physical files of the type recommended by GTD would be overkill. In addition, I can take the binder with me when I travel.

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K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid)

At the start of each day, I write a simple list with bullet circles in front of each item. I've found that 6 tasks per day is about the limit of what I can accomplish.

For tasks that have a date to be done by or on, I put the date in the margin to the left of the bullet.

Started tasks get one slash. Complete tasks get the second slash forming an X so I know its done!

Any tasks left to be completed get rewritten the on the next day's list. If I need to note reasons why they got left undone, I'll write that down. Sometimes these get broken down into smaller tasks for the next day.

KISS todo list example

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+1 for the screenshot and your custom approach. – Radolino Apr 11 '14 at 8:03

I always liked the good old fashion paper desk calendar. Any style will work really but I prefer the larger ones that sit on the surface of your desk showing a whole month at a time.

You can quickly set firm or arbitrary task deadlines and reminders and balance your workload and meetings visually. Furthermore it is easy to reference, and it is always there in front of you reminding you of things that need to be done.

Pick an empty box and jot down your task - simple and efficient.

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I have upvoted Stephan's answer as it broadly matches my process, however mine is a little streamlined so I thought I'd add another answer:

I have the 12 sections for the months ahead, but I don't go to the level of a page per day. Instead, I have pages for Immediate, Week Ahead and Rest of Month.

To manage this I have 2 reviews per week - the key one being on the Friday to ensure overrunning tasks get raised priority, and to move tasks into the Week Ahead from further out. To make it work, the entry for each task is quite comprehensive so I don't need to then refer to a separate appendix.

The main benefit for me over the 31 days is simply that I can carry a much smaller pack, which is essential, as the majority of weight in my bag is no longer technology, but paper files.

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Nice, +1. It all depends on the amount of paper you have and how often you need to carry it around. I'd switch to your approach if I had less paper to keep track of, or if I needed it to be more mobile, you you apparently do. – Stephan Kolassa Apr 8 '14 at 9:40

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