Tame that Wunderlist and achieve your goals!
Like millions of other folk I use Wunderlist to keep track of tasks that need to be done. I appreciate the simple, clean interface and it’s fire and forget cross platform synchronization. In this article I present one way to organize tasks for both daily activities and long term goals!
No matter which task application one uses, or which task management methodology one applies there are always some fundamental items to address such as,
Which tasks should I be doing now?
Which tasks should my system handle?
Do I need to share the tasks with others?
Do I need to access the tasks across different mediums?
How should the tasks me organized?
How should I review my tasks?
What relationships do tasks have?
How do the day to day tasks relate to my long term goals?
OK, I better stop at this point. I am only at the Introduction and already I am getting philosophical to Confucian proportions. But how does all of this stuff relate to Wunderlist you may wonder and rightly so! For me, Wunderlist is used for personal tasks that I need to handle outside of the workplace. So, it is neither hard core task management nor anything bordering project management. So, in this way I need simple list of stuff, almost grocery list style yet I yearn for a bit of order and to relate those day to day items to longer term goals. The latter in particular can often be a dichotomy for simple task lists. But, here I try and present such a simple system yet one with an eye on the big picture, life changing stuff.
Wunderlist folder organization
Recently Wunderlist has gotten some upgrades than enables folder hierarchies to be created. But, I am going to keep this one pretty flat – Folders and tasks within those. So,2 levels.
The folders are named,
- <7 Days
- <30 Days
- This Year
Let me give some explanation for each.
< 7 Days
The tasks that need to be done over the next week. Initially I thought about naming it “This Week”, but this can get a bit confusing tricky on which day of the week you happen to be dealing with. If entering a task on Sunday, that pretty much means I need to get that done today. But, if you are happy to work on that basis, then <7 Days and <30 Days can readily be substituted with This Week and This Month. Anyway, whatever title you opt for, the content is the same. This folder contains the tasks that one should be doing over the next week or so. Don’t be too ambitious in filling this to the brim. Be conservative, be choosy how you spend that time and focus on getting fewer tasks done than many tasks listed and untouched.
If you don’t see yourself doing the task in the immediate future then many tasks may find themselves in this folder. But, this should not mean permanent squatting in this folder. This folder should be reviewed weekly and tasks migrated across to the <7 Days folder for executing.
There are a couple of uses for this folder,
- Tasks to be done more than 1 month in advance
- Goals for this year
The former is self explanatory, but the latter needs a little elaboration. Goals is where you take a longer term look at what you want to achieve. It could be anything from learning languages to running that marathon! For me a year is a reasonable length of time for “long term”, thinking. It is short enough to sustain enthusiasm towards the goal and yet long enough to make substantial progress towards it. Take time and think through carefully what you would like to enter here, and again keep them limited. It is a bit optimistic to have 20 goals in the year, but three major goals is achievable. One other suggestion, once determined Tag them as goals, such as the example below. Here I listed three goals and tagged them appropriately. The reason for this will soon become apparent.
Although called reference it can be a bountiful folder. You can keep lists of useful information here. You can also keep information that can be referenced in future which may someday become an actionable task.
Some may note the absence of a “Someday”, list. This was popularized by David Allen in the GTD (Getting Things Done) method. In the interests of simplicity I have cut this and where some very long time frame tasks exist, put them under reference. But, I have no issue for anyone to also use this. Indeed, such a folder can be useful where you routinely have items that need to be done after one year.
Trickle Down Goals
The beauty of having folders of different time frames (7 days, 1 month, 1 year) AND tagging goal related tasks is that we can easily see if the long term goals actually trickle down into short term actions. This is a real benefit of this system that one can rarely find elsewhere and it is so important I am going to WRITE THIS IN CAPITALS THAT IT IS IMPORTANT. Ok, enough of the shouty voice and let’s see an example. For the Goal below – write 12 Blog articles this year I have some tasks in the next week and also this month that will actively progress that goal. If it is the case that your list has a Goal listed under Year, but nothing under this week or even this month, no progress is being made towards that goal. With Wunderlist it is quick and easy to get this view. Simply click the Tag, in this case #Goal1, and all tasks tagged with this word will be listed, conveniently categorised by timeframe in alignment with the system we have already set up.
To make such a system work with the different timeframes it is really key that we need to review the tasks on that list with the same timeframe as the folder below it. So, for a weekly review we have to see the items in the Month folder. For the monthly review we need to check out the items in the Year folder. The idea is simply to migrate the tasks. So, for the weekly review, whilst perusing the tasks to be done this month we will select some tasks that are to be done in the next 7 days. It is easy to forget these reviews but don’t beat yourself up about it. Best thing is to set some reminders, which can also be done in Wunderlist to triigger the review.
There you go fans of Wunderlist, one quick and easy to whip that task list into shape. Not only that, it may even help you to reach those yearly goals that often remain a perpetual aspiration. Good luck!