Repeating tasks are important as they are frequently the small tasks that help make our lives run smoothly, e.g. reviewing project finances, tidying the house and phoning friends. However, they are also annoying when it comes to organisation systems. They do not need to be done every day so shouldn’t go on the next action list, but equally they don’t need to be done on a specific day (although it would be nice to maintain the routine) so shouldn’t be added as a day specific task on the calendar. So how do you deal with them?
I’ve struggled with repeating tasks and tried a variety of methods. I thought for a long time that digital was the solution, because the software knows when the task should be done next. However, when I used my Palm for this I found it frustrating because it converted the task into a date specific task which frequently went overdue and reduced the priority given to real date specific as they were off the bottom of the screen.
I have also used a paper based system, where I had a reminder chart with 31 space and added all the tasks that couldn’t be done before a specific date, for instance reviewing bank statements. This system was cumbersome as I ended up with several places to look for tasks and it didn’t work for tasks which had a defined duration between them for instance 1 week between weekly reviews, or 4 days between vacuuming the house.
I looked around for inspiration, but it seems to be an issue that hasn’t been discussed and resolved in many places, however I finally found an article that helped on DIY Planner. Matthew Cornell writes his repeating tasks on his calendar (separately to the date specific tasks) including a description of the task, the duration before the task should be done again and two check circles, one to show the task has been complete and one to show the task had been rewritten on the calendar after the included duration.
I liked this approach, but it still didn’t get round the fact that I frequently don’t complete my repeating tasks on the allocated day (hey, my life won’t be ruined if I don’t balance my credit card statement on the day it is released).
- write task on calendar separately to the date specific tasks (mine go in the space before 7am)
- include description
- include duration between tasks e.g. 1w for should be completed after a week, 17 should be completed on the 17th of the month
- draw a circle after the task to symbolise it is a repeating task
- during calendar review, as part of the daily planning, add the repeating task to the inbox as well as the day planner including the description, duration and circle
- if the task is completed in the day add the task on to calendar the correct number of days in the future
- if the task is not completed in the day transfer it from the inbox to next action list
- review the next action list each day for any outstanding repeating tasks shown by the circle and give these tasks priority
- when the repeating task is completed add it back to the calendar the correct number of days after the day of completion
I find the step of transferring the task on to my inbox means I can’t lose the task if I don’t complete it that day and this has been the missing stage for me when dealing with repeating tasks.