Repeating tasks

The New Year is a good time to make those grand plans and resolutions. This year, make it a time when you will get control of all the routine tasks in both your personal and professional lives.

From replacing the air conditioner filter every month to renewing your driver’s license every four years, we all have tasks that recur at regular time intervals.

If you’re like most people, those tasks will number in the hundreds. Hoping you remember each one at the right time is an exercise in futility and a huge stress producer.

A realization from long ago…

During the first few weeks of my teaching career, I realized many of my “to-dos” would come around the following year at the same time. The same was true of larger projects: planning a concert, preparing the spring trip, or readying students for All-State tryouts. Each project was composed of many tasks. Each task would repeat at the same time the next year.

If only I could come up with a system to trap all of those repeating tasks in one place, I wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel every year. The result was simple. Whenever a new task came my way that was a “repeater,” I jotted it on an index card. Under the task, I noted when it would need to be done again.

The index cards went into the Tickler File for the appropriate dates. From there the system was on autopilot.

And the idea is still paying dividends

Much has changed over the decades. Technology has reshaped the way we work. By the mid 1980s, calendar and to-do list software was available. Even then, some of the to-do lists offered the ability to set repeating tasks.

Then, mobile devices became common. Those mobile devices would sync with the productivity software on the computer. At that point, digital calendars and to-do lists became practical.

I’m no longer writing repeating tasks on index cards and throwing them in the Tickler File. (Of course, for anyone who organizes with paper, that’s still the best way to do it.) Instead, the repeating tasks go into my digital task list. Each one includes a date it needs to be done and when it needs to repeat.

What are the repeating tasks for you?

Every profession has its own set of repeating tasks. We also have them in our personal lives. They are the maintenance activities that keep life humming along.

Brainstorm the projects that recur annually. Define the individual tasks which comprise them. Brainstorm the tasks which recur each month. Move on to the tasks you perform each week. You aren’t likely to grab them all, but you will get an excellent start. From there, every time you add a task to your list, take a second to determine if it is something that is going to repeat. If so, add it to the list as a repeating task.

What if we all did this?

Imagine never dreading that annual project because you never can remember the tasks which comprise it. Imagine never waking up in the middle of the night wondering what you have forgotten. Imagine leaving a job and with it you leave tracks for the person who follows you. Imagine taking a new position and finding a list your predecessor has left detailing all the repeating tasks involved.