my office wall schedule, filled with Post-Its

I developed a new project tracking/scheduling/to-do system last week. It involves a big orange wall and a color-coded system of Post-Its. I run the days of the week across the top (with today at the far left) and I run clients/projects down the left side. Green means active, blue means inactive (I’m waiting for materials from a client, the project hasn’t started, etc.) So far, I love it.

I should probably back up a bit…I am a perpetual list-maker. I always have a to-do list, a to-pack list (for trips), a to-buy list, a i-wish-i-could-buy list, etc. I’ve also tried a TON of different methods for keeping track of my projects/schedule, because something inevitably falls through the cracks, no matter how hard I try.

I liked Ta-da Lists from 37 Signals, but it was really hard to move tasks from day to day. My lists got really long and overwhelming. So, then I tried TeuxDeux, which is very cool-looking and designer-y. It has great drag-n-drop features, but…if I didn’t log in…I didn’t see my list. And stuff didn’t get done.

Scrap paper lists are handy, but they can get lost, or shoved under a pile of papers.

This new system (which I don’t have a name for yet) takes my list and blows it up. I can easily move a Post-It from one day to another, and it only takes seconds. Some are really generic (like “comps due”) and I reuse those over and over again and others are very specific (“research paper tray”).

I think the best part is that it has helped me visually see how much I have on my plate for the day, and whether or not it’s realistic. It is also great for quantifying how many days I have until that next phase of the project is due. Monday deadlines always seem to creep up (“oh, that’s not due until next week”) but it’s easier to see them coming now, since they’re not on the next page of my planner.

Pulling Post-Its off the wall is also somehow more satisfying than crossing something off a list. Maybe because it’s completely gone. No clutter, no reminder that I originally had 10 things to do — I only focus on what’s left.

Is it a little crazy? Over the top? Yeah, probably. I think it works for me because it’s outside of my line of vision while I’m concentrating on a task, but any time I enter or leave the room — BAM. Reminders.

Today I had a lot to do, so I made a quick #1-10 list of mini-tasks…that helped a lot too. I didn’t have to continually “go back to the wall” and stare for awhile to figure out what the next-most-important thing was. It’s 5:00, and I’m right where I expected to be in that list. And that never happens.

How do you stay on top of your to-do list?

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