Simple task approach

My simple task list approach

Here's an effective method to manage your task list, or To Do list. My simple task list approach uses 6 basic notations to indicate how my tasks are progressing.

Over the years I’ve tried a number of approaches to managing a task list and have settled on one affective method that works for me.

I started with the good ol’ Filofax, which has it’s place with calendars & notes, but here I’m talking just tasks and Do To lists. As the tech world progressed I tried numerous software programs, and a few PDAs such as the Psion Series 3 and the HP iPAQ. Then in recent years I’ve tried the various online and smartphone apps.

But through all this tech advancement, I found that nothing beats a pen and paper for my task list. Nothing.


The approach

  1. I hand write all my tasks in a note book – with the date at top of page. Bullet points only , no numbers
  2. Each day I review my tasks from the day before. I might re-write the list of open or ongoing tasks, or re-write the list after a few days
  3. Assess each task using the Urgent /Important matrix to identify which tasks to work on that day
  4. As I complete a task, I put a line through it, a strikethrough, followed by a big tick. Task complete, closed: “task description
  5. When a task is not needed any more I cross it out and put a big X after: “task description X“, and maybe a note after.
  6. During the day, for tasks that are in progress or have not started, I put a line & arrow at the end of the task description: “task description–>
  7. . This tells me that I will do this another day  
  8. When another person is needed, I put the line & arrow again but with their name: “task description–> Ann
  9. If a new urgent/important task suddenly arrives, I write it down and put a star: “* task description” in the left border to emphasise the urgency.
  10. Any task that suddenly becomes THE MOST URGENT on the list gets a double star: “** task description“. There can only be ONE ‘most urgent’ task.
  11. If I delegate or pass-off a task to someone else, that’s a line through the description and their name: “task description–>Pete“. Never to be seen again . . . hopefully
  12. And lastly, a ‘?’ if there is ANY confusion with the task: “task description ?
  13. Repeat daily


There is, of course, plenty of scribbling out and re-writing which is all part of maintaining the list, but I find that in itself a good process to keep on top of the tasks.

In short

The task itself

task description

Task complete

task description

Task not neededtask description X
Task in progress or delayedtask description–>
Task needs another person to help

task description–> Ann

Task is urgent / important

* task description

Task is the most important of all (one only)

** task description

Task is delegated to, or handed over to another person

task description–>Pete

Not 100% sure if task is correct or needed

task description – ?


Benefits of this approach

  • It uses these 6 notations
    • Strikethrough, tick , X, ?, ->, *
    • and a persons name when needed
  • This keeps a record of all tasks as I go
  • I can refer back to tasks when needed
  • Each notebook page is dated, so I can easily tell when a task was completed
  • I also know when a task was raised
  • At a glance I can tell the status of each task: Open, in progress, closed, or I’m waiting on someone else
  • Writing is quick
  • Writing helps to embed the task in your memory. Yes, the pen is still a mighty tool
  • I can easily draw diagrams. Yes, a picture can be a 1000 words


The importance of managing your tasks effectively

The ultimate output of effectively managing your tasks list (your To Do list) is being more productive in the limited time you have available.


Towards personal fulfilment

The impact of more efficient productivity is heightened personal fulfilment from a job well done, reduced pressure, and achievement.


The Logic Model :

Inputs >Activities >Outputs >Outcome >Impact
A list of tasks and actions to complete

Manage your task list, as described above

Improved control of your task listImproved productivityA heightened sense of personal fulfilment
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Skip to content