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Life Tools: Tasks & Events

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Introduction

The world is changing everywhere we look.

It feels like everywhere you look it’s “AI this”, “AI that” meanwhile us normal people have an overwhelming schedule and can’t seem to make progress on our ever-growing task list. Why should we care?

I agree. There’s a time and a place for everything and most people have far more important things to focus on before artificial intelligence (AI).

How about we learn some basics first and build on that?

By focusing on the basics first, you can use those fundamentals as an anchor when learning more complex concepts.

This guide will walk you through the best practices for using tasks, events, reminders, and notifications.

Trust me, there is an art and science to handling these tools effectively without a headache. 

This current technology boom has made these tools more critical than ever for efficiently managing work and personal life by ensuring productivity and preventing us from overlooking anything important.

Why Care

You can attend all the events you want to, get alerted to all the best new releases, or be reminded to take something out of the freezer (I needed a reminder when I wrote this) and still accomplish 247 tasks in a month and a half (see here). 

All it takes is an extremely effective organization system, which starts by recognizing the differences between the resources at your disposal.

A tool is just a tool.

Most people have access to the same exact tools.

The thing that makes it seem like certain people accomplish anything they set their sights on isn’t because they have access to better tools, it’s because they know how to use them properly.

And when they know how to use the right tools alongside other tools, their output soars, not because of more money but because they understand and leverage the synergies between the right tools.

It’s not a superpower, it’s just doing the basics. All of them.

I’m here to show you how to maximize your time by understanding the current digital landscape and how to best navigate it.

It’s only getting more complex. This guide will teach you basic foundational concepts you will use for the rest of your life, no matter how complex it gets.

Let’s save you time, shall we?

Here we go.

Best Practice: Task vs. Event vs. Reminder vs Notification

First off, let me only purpose for these tools. Each of these tools are used to help you achieve the same outcome: remember to do something.

The list of things we want to do but say we’ll get back to keeps getting longer. 

The only way to ensure that you don’t miss out on doing everything you want to, and are expected to, is by effectively managing your day to day activities in a clear and repeatable way.

You don’t have to make up your own system, just use the simple tools at your disposal correctly.

After all, a tool is just a tool.

At the end of this article, I put together a formula for how to consistently use these tools together to become an insanely productive person with ease and impress your family and colleagues every single day.

Each of these will provide a different piece of the pie toward your goal of a well ordered living. Start with the tools you have and keep refining until your life is where you want it.

Here are the tools covered:

  • Tasks are things you need to complete.
  • Events are any scheduled occasions.
  • Reminders are personal nudges for tasks or events.
  • Notifications are alerts for updates or new information.

Now that you know the definitions, here’s a more detailed breakdown of each and how to maximize their usages:

Tasks

Tasks are the individual steps that lead us to our larger goals. Effective task management is crucial for anyone looking to enhance their personal productivity and achieve their objectives with greater efficiency.

Tasks help organize your day-to-day activities in a manageable way.

Use these 5 approaches when considering your tasks:

  • Prioritize for impact
  • Leverage Digital Tools
  • Due Dates!
  • Check Regularly
  • Balancing Flexibility & Discipline

Here is a detailed explanation of each approach:

  1. Prioritize for Impact: Understand the importance of prioritizing tasks. Techniques like the Eisenhower Matrix (covered here) help differentiate between what’s urgent and what’s important so you can focus on tasks that lead to the most significant impact.
  2. Leverage Digital Tools: We can’t be expected to remember everything that comes our way. Use digital task management tools to keep your tasks organized. Features like categorization, prioritization, tagging, progress tracking, reminders, file attachments, mobile access, and time tracking are all easily doable. The right tool does all the heavy lifting for you.
  3. Due Dates!: Always assign a due date to each task. End of story. By assigning a due date to each task, regardless of its perceived urgency, you not only prevent tasks from being overlooked but also benefit from a clearer workload. As you handle various tasks, the due date keeps you aligned with your priorities and deadlines, ensuring that everything is addressed in a timely manner. This simple yet effective practice helps you set realistic timelines and to prevent tasks from falling through the cracks. 
  4. Check Regularly: Make it a habit to review your task list regularly. Check your list daily for any action items and plan a weekly review to catch any tasks that didn’t make it to your list. Use this time to reassess priorities and adjust your plan. You might just realize there are things you could do first that would speed up all of your other activities. This can quickly snowball into accomplishing a ridiculous number of things, all because you did them in the proper order for the current moment. 
  5. Balancing Flexibility & Discipline: Lastly, while structure is key, flexibility is equally important. Be prepared to adjust your tasks in response to new priorities or unforeseen challenges and be forgiving of any unforeseen circumstances that throw off your plans. Adjust and reprioritize as necessary.

By mastering these five key approaches, you’ll transform your task management into a powerful tool for personal productivity.

You may have already unlocked a new superpower simply by understanding and implementing these. 

Next we’ll cover how to best manage your events.

Event

Events are the scheduled milestones and appointments that make up our days and weeks. Events differ from tasks as they represent fixed time commitments, such as meetings or appointments, rather than action items. 

Properly managing these events is key to effective time management and maintaining a balanced life.

Best Practices for Individual Calendar Management:

  1. Convert Time-Specific Tasks to Events
  2. Comprehensive Scheduling
  3. Regular Calendar Reviews
  4. Use Reminders & Alerts
  5. Prioritize & Color-Code

Best Practices for Individual Calendar Management:

  1. Convert Time-Specific Tasks to Events: Whenever a task requires completion at a specific time, immediately convert it into an event on your calendar. For instance, if you need to make an important call at 2 PM, don’t just list it as a task; schedule it as an event. This practice ensures that these tasks get dedicated time slots and are not overshadowed by other activities.
  2. Whole Life Scheduling: Include everything in your calendar – not just work meetings and appointments, but also personal commitments, exercise, relaxation time, and family activities. This gives you a complete view of your day at a glance and helps maintain a balanced life by knowing exactly what time you have available at any given moment.
  3. Regular Calendar Reviews: Review your calendar at the start and end of each day. This habit allows you to mentally prepare for upcoming events, and adjust any plans as needed. It’s also an excellent opportunity to move tasks to events if specific timing is required.
  4. Use of Reminders and Alerts: Set up reminders (covered next) for your events. For critical events, a two-tier reminder system is effective: one reminder the day before at the time of the event and a second reminder an hour before the event. The reason this works is because our brains store information more effectively when it’s deemed important or when associated with specific cues, like time. When the reminder goes off at the same time as the event, you create a strong contextual cue that prepares your brain for the event.
  5. Prioritize and Color-Code: Prioritize your events and use color-coding to differentiate between various aspects of your life. For example, use dark green for in-person events and a lighter green for virtual. If you want to specify between work and in-person, add two colors for the same reason to visually get a quick sense of where your time is going.

Reminder

Reminders are for personal, time-specific nudges to do something or be somewhere. Only you can see and receive these. Create as many reminders as you need to ensure you never miss an important to-do item.

These can be separately or alongside tasks. For instance, you might set a reminder to send a text or an email at a particular time. And unless you plan for that text or email to lead to a longer call, it’s best to not create an event on your calendar. 

Reminders complement tasks by providing timely alerts so you don’t miss out on important actions, especially those not requiring team visibility. Basically, they act as your personal assistant helping you stay on top of your to-do list.

The flexibility to create numerous reminders means you can stay on top of every important to-do item you can think of.

Notifications

Although notifications are necessary to keep us informed, they can undoubtedly become a source of constant distraction and stress if not managed well.

We’ve all been there. It’s easy for notifications to disappear from your vision after you swipe away 4000 ads. The key to effective notifications is to regularly check and acknowledge them as they come in and clear out any notifications that don’t help you in any way.

If a notification about an action item comes in and you can’t address it right away, convert it into a task to maintain its visibility. Doing so keeps your flow state from being interrupted while also staying on top of your responsibilities.

If you never want to miss the important 5% of notifications, turn off the other 95% as they come in. Soon you’ll have only notifications you want in your life and can create new ones that won’t be missed.

Here’s how to handle notifications effectively for personal productivity:

  • Selective Notification Settings
  • Scheduled Checking Times
  • Convert Notifications to Tasks
  • Use ‘Do Not Disturb’
  • Review & Clean Up Regularly

Here is a detailed explanation of each approach:

  1. Selective Notification Settings: Be selective about which apps and contacts can send you notifications. Turn off notifications for apps that frequently send non-essential alerts to help reduce noise so you can focus on what truly matters.
  2. Scheduled Checking Times: Instead of reactively checking notifications as they come in, set specific times to review them so you can focus on your tasks without frequent interruptions.
  3. Convert Notifications to Tasks: If a notification requires action but can’t be addressed then, convert it into a task with a set due date and give it the proper attention at the right time.
  4. Use ‘Do Not Disturb’: Leverage the ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature extensively. You can customize settings to allow only critical notifications to come through for maximum focus..
  5. Review and Clean Up Regularly: Regularly review your notification settings and unsubscribe or disable notifications that no longer serve a purpose. 

Remember, while it can seem like spam if you don’t have it under control, notifications serve a very important role in keeping us informed. 

All of the mentioned strategies keep your notification stream relevant and manageable so you can keep up with the things you care about.

Incorporate each of these strategies and you will guarantee that notifications serve their ultimate purpose: to keep you informed, not distracted.

Conclusion

Whew! Congratulations on reaching this point! This one time read will be with you the rest of your life.

Mastering the use of these life awareness tools is essential in today’s fast-paced digital environment. This guide has provided insights into effectively distinguishing and utilizing these tools to enhance personal and professional productivity. 

By clearly differentiating tasks from events, employing strategic reminders, and managing notifications efficiently, you can optimize your daily activities and ensure that no important task or event is overlooked.

As you apply these strategies, it’s important to remain flexible and adapt your approach to fit your specific needs and circumstances. The goal is to develop a personalized system that maximizes efficiency and minimizes stress.

Remember, the key to success in this digital age is continuous learning and adaptation, leveraging these fundamental tools to their fullest potential.

Take action!

The world is made for doers. What good is knowing how to do something if you don’t do it?

Implement these strategies, refine your system, and build a world where productivity and efficiency are easy and fun. Good luck, and here’s to a more organized, productive, and fulfilling life!

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