The Weekly Round Up

I have touched upon my system of Project Corrals in past posts, but today I am going to go into it in more detail. As always I believe a good system is an EASY system. This system involves an easy habit I call the weekly round-up, which I will demonstrate using my own projects and tasks as an example.

The most important takeaway I got from David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity is this.  The first step in getting things done is to get all the things that are swimming around in your head OUT and into a system you TRUST.  That last word is the key: “trust.”  We often have multiple systems, in case one fails us, but this can be confusing and unproductive.  What’s best is a single system you TRUST.

My system for managing projects is a sorter full of what I call Project Corrals.  I recently did a post on distinguishing projects from tasks.  In essence, you can’t expect to complete your projects in one shot, in this busy world, but you can complete the tasks that make up the projects.

I had used the elephant analogy in my post, but here’s another animal analogy for the tasks we need to do: wild horses.  If we jump on every idea that pops into our heads, we find ourselves going nowhere, just as if we had jumped on to a wild horse and then on to the next wild horse that comes along and so on.

Of course there are some wild horses that come along in a day, that we DO need to take care of this week (or now!), but many are just ideas THAT WE DON’T WANT TO FORGET ABOUT.  These wild horses can be corralled and these corrals can be simply organized.

For every project, there may be documents and other loose bits of paper.  I like to collect these in a clear plastic envelope and on the front of it I keep the tasks (or steps) that are necessary to complete this project.  One sheet of paper collects all these tasks on small Post-its, much like the front page of a newspaper collects all the headlines. This is a project corral.  Because we tend to have many project going on at the same time, each gets its own project corral.

I keep a daily task collector on a clipboard.  The fixed events of the day are printed out and the tasks that I must regularly rearrange according to priority are on the small Post-It notes.  This represents the daily to-do list.

It’s no coincidence that these Post-its are used both on the project corrals and the daily to-do list.  Every Sunday I set the timer for 15 minutes and quickly go through the tasks I have collected in my project corrals and see which are the priorities and where I can fit them into the coming week’s schedule.

In this way, I can safely collect all my ideas (or corral all my wild horses) in a system I trust, but still give myself a manageable collection of tasks to do on a daily basis.  Some of those ideas may sit in the project corrals and never get acted on, but ultimately that is OK, because they have been given a fair chance and have not met the vital criteria of being my top priorities.

In essence, this system allows my ongoing projects and long-term goals to be REMEMBERED and REALISTIC.  I would love to hear what systems are working for you.