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Course of Actions – Task Flow Mapping Your Day

Course of Actions – Task Flow Mapping Your Day

One of the things I’ve found when listing out tasks and actions, is the difficulty of organizing a list into a logical flow. Most of my day is filled with tasks that I need or want to complete in a specific order, and I wanted a simple way to map out the flow of my day. When I set out to find a way to do this, I had several criteria in mind:

  • It had to be simple – I didn’t want a lot of options or stuff to fill in. Just a quick way to map out the actions for my day.
  • It had to be flexible – Even though I know what tasks or actions I want to perform during the course of my day, things invariably come up. So it needed to be able to fit these items in, without interrupting the flow.
  • It would not be time-based – I have other ways of covering time-based stuff. I wanted it to be strictly a priority-based flow of actions for the day.
  • It would not be project based – Like with time-based stuff, I already had a way of tracking projects. This would be a flow of tasks for the day that may involve several projects and contexts.

A Task Flow Map is Born

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I played around with several methods, and many were way too complex. One great approach is Chris Brogan’s post on Mini Process Flows. It had some ideas with a similar flavor to what I wanted to achieve. But being lazy when it comes to writing things out, I wanted an even simpler approach. My goal was to create a basic form that I could fill out at the start of each day, that would map each of my tasks or actions in the order I wanted to complete them.

The worksheet I came up with has a set of boxes, one for each task, with a small arrow indicating the flow from one box, and task, to the next. The picture below shows a sample marked up worksheet (click to enlarge).

Task Flow Sample WorkSheet Thumb

    The first box has an arrow box for the current page number and the last box has one for the “continued on” page. So if I have more than 10 actionable tasks in a day, I continue on to a new sheet.

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    In order to accommodate things like waiting for, interruptions, unplanned meetings, and deferred tasks, I added adjacent boxes attached with a dotted line. I also included a small circle to designate the type of interrupt. Some of the ones I use most often include:

    • “W” = Waiting for or @Waiting.
    • “I” = General interruption, including phone calls I had to take, unplanned meetings, going out for lunch, etc.
    • “D” = Deferred items, tasks that I decided to put off for some (probably good) reason.
    • “P” = Pawned off on someone else.

    The idea is to have a readily available map of my day, with each task laid out and flowing into the next. As I complete a task, I cross out the box. Originally I had checkbox to mark off completed items, but it wasn’t nearly as gratifying as crossing out the whole thing. As the day progresses I can clearly see what I’ve completed and what is still left to do.

    If I am unable to complete all the tasks by the end of the day, I simply begin where I left off the next day, and then start a fresh page for the new tasks for that day.

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    I’ve recently began combining the Task Flow worksheet with a modified version of the DYI Planner project form. I use the project form to track overall progress for each project, and then load up the Task Flow form with the tasks I need to compete each day. It’s helped tremendously in simplifying my process.

    For me, in order for a system to be useful, it has to be simple – something that doesn’t just add more overhead to my day. Having a way of tracking tasks that is clear and direct, and that still allows me to work in my preferred manner, has helped me to create a system that I actually use.

    Task Flow Worksheet – PDF Format

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    Tony D. Clark writes, draws cartoons, designs software and websites, and spends a lot of time talking others into working from home, being creative, and doing what they love. His blog Success from the Nest focuses on helping parents who want to do meaningful work from home and have more time for their families, and their dreams.

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    Leon Ho

    Founder of Lifehack

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    Last Updated on September 20, 2018

    8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

    8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

    You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

    Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

    When you train your brain, you will:

    • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
    • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
    • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

    So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

    1. Work your memory

    Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

    When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

    If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

    The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

    Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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    Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

    What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

    For example, say you just met someone new:

    “Hi, my name is George”

    Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

    Got it? Good.

    2. Do something different repeatedly

    By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

    Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

    It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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    And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

    But how does this apply to your life right now?

    Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

    Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

    Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

    So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

    You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

    That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

    3. Learn something new

    It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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    For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

    Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

    You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

    4. Follow a brain training program

    The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

    5. Work your body

    You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

    Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

    Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

    Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

    6. Spend time with your loved ones

    If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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    If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

    I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

    7. Avoid crossword puzzles

    Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

    Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

    Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

    8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

    Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

    When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

    So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

    The bottom line

    Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

    Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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