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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 October 15, 2019

    How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them in 7 Simple Steps

    How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them in 7 Simple Steps

    Where do you want to be 5 years from now, 10 years from now, or even this time next year? These places are your goal destinations and although you might know that you don’t want to be standing still in the same place as you are now, it’s not always easy to identify what your real goals are.

    Many people think that setting a goal destination is having a dream that is there in the far distant future but will never be attained. This proves to be a self-fulfilling prophesy because of two things:

    Firstly, that the goal isn’t specifically defined enough in the first place; and secondly, it remains a remote dream waiting for action which is never taken.

    Defining your goal destination is something that you need to take some time to think carefully about. The following steps on how to plan your life goals should get you started on a journey to your destination:

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    1. Make a list of your goal destinations

    Goal destinations are the things that are important to you. Another word for them would be ambitions, but ambitions sound like something which outside of your grasp, whereas goal destinations are certainly achievable if you are willing to put in the effort working towards them.

    So what do you really want to do with your life? What are the main things that you would like to accomplish with your life? What is it that you would really regret not doing if you suddenly found you had a limited amount of time left on the earth?

    Each of these things is a goal. Define each goal destination in one sentence.

    If any of these goals is a stepping stone to another one of the goals, take it off this list as it isn’t a goal destination.

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    2. Think about the time frame to have the goal accomplished

    This is where the 5 year, 10 year, next year plan comes into it.

    Some goals will have a “shelf life” because of age, health, finance, etc, whereas others will be up to you as to when you would like to achieve them by.

    3. Write down your goals clearly

    Write each goal destination at the top of a new piece of paper.

    For each goal, write down what is it that you need and don’t have now that will allow you achieve that goal. This could be some kind of education, career change, finance, a new skill, etc. Any “stepping stone” goals you removed will fit into this exercise. If any of these smaller “goals” have sub-goals, go through the same process with these so that you have precise action points to work with.

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    4. Write down what you need to do for each goal

    Under each item listed, write down the things that you will need to do in order to complete each of the steps required to complete the goal. 

    These items will become a check-list. They are a tangible way of checking how you are progressing towards reaching your goal destinations. A record of your success!

    5. Write down your timeframe with specific and realistic dates

    Using the time frames you created, on each goal destination sheet write down the year in which you will complete the goal by.

    For any goal which has no fixed completion date, think about when you would like to have accomplished it by and use that as your destination date.

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    Work within the time frames for each goal destination, make a note of realistic dates by which you will complete each of the small steps.

    6. Schedule your to-dos

    Now take an overview of all your goal destinations and make a schedule of what you need to do this week, this month, this year – in order to progress along the road towards your goal destinations.

    Write these action points on a schedule so that you have definite dates on which to do things.

    7. Review your progress

    At the end of the year, review what you have done this year, mark things off the check-lists for each goal destination and write up the schedule with the action points you need for the next year.

    Although it may take you several years to, for example, get the promotion you desire because you first need to get the MBA which means getting a job with more money to allow you to finance a part-time degree course, you will ultimately be successful in achieving your goal destination because you have planned out not only what you want, but how to get it, and have been pro-active towards achieving it.

    Featured photo credit: Debby Hudson via unsplash.com

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