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Friday, June 22, 2012

Guest Post: Taskmaster Redux from Mstraat

You might remember Mstraat's excellent guest post reviewing her Moleskine Taskmaster weekly planner. Due to popular demand, she has graciously agreed to a follow-up post detailing how she uses her Taskmaster!  Thank you Mstraat!!

As promised, here is a peek at how I have been using the Moleskine XL Taskmaster this year. For the first time I have separated my work and personal planning, as Laurie advises here and I am very much appreciating her advice. Other than a couple of phone numbers or emails, I don’t need work info at home because if something untoward happens I’ll have to drive in to work anyway. As long as I know I have it all written down in the Taskmaster, I have been much more able to leave work at work this year. This book lives on my desk, in front of my computer monitor.

I don’t use the month grids, which I thought were necessary. But I have a pre-printed month on two pages calendar that has all the national and regional dates and other info needed for office planning that is used for room scheduling, and I found it a waste of time to write this in two spots. Likewise, the information pages for international holidays and so on are unused.

The bulk of the Taskmaster consists of alternating pages of weekly vertical, timed pages and lined pages with tick boxes for that week’s lists. I am using the weekly pages to log what I have done each day on the timed lines.

I work in a one-person office and make a time log every couple of years just to keep an eye on myself and the work flow. Blank spots mean I was still doing whatever was last listed.

I use the space at the top of the page for day-specific items, as I have very few of these. I use a different color ink than in the log to mark these to dos or appointments so I am less likely to overlook them. A slash mark on the left means a completed task and a wiggly line through an item means it didn’t happen. The only synching (is this a word?) I have to do with my personal planner is a very occasional note to open the building outside my regular hours.

For me the most useful part of the Taskmaster are the two pages for lists following each week. To dos for an upcoming week that are not day-specific are written into the top left page as they come up. 

Most of my to do list lands here as my job requires me to remain completely flexible and I can’t schedule tasks at a certain time. It’s not hard to scan the weekly list and do the next task as I get time. (See below for how I handle non-deadline to dos/goals.) I use the same blue ink as the top page notes so I can quickly tell if I’m in the week or on the page behind it as I flip pages.

A system for recording other sorts of information has evolved: information on orders for supplies, books, etc., is recorded on the bottom left page and phone calls are recorded on the bottom right page. To do lists that rotate by week of the month are on the upper right. 

First week is month end bookkeeping, second is board meeting agenda, third is monthly newsletter (“Courier” in the photo) and fourth is non-deadline to dos (Still below). I use four removable tabs to mark these lists. Just for the record, the Post It brand stick better than Avery tabs for me.

Finally, the fourth-week list gives me a place for annual to do lists, one-time projects, or ongoing to dos that need to happen sometime. 

For example, in the picture you’ll see my 2011 year end  to do list, which won’t be exactly the same next year but will give me a list to reference. One time projects would be, for example, publicity for a capital campaign, and the ongoing, non-date specific list includes things like archiving annual files. Annual and one-time lists are easy to find by date; the ongoing list has a tab and when most of the items are marked off I transfer what’s left and start a new list on the current fourth week.

At the end of the Taskmaster there are a few blank note pages which seem useful but I haven’t used them, and the address booklet and back pocket are unused as well. Addresses are in the computer (with multiple on- as well as offsite backups, should you be worried about this).

My conclusions about the Taskmaster? It is working well for this year, though I am not using a lot of its features. Next year I don’t plan to track my time, so that leaves only the spaces at the top of those pages and the list pages for me to use. I will find another planner for next year—but if you need to keep track of both time and tasks, the Taskmaster might work for you.

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