Tasks Tracker 1.0

Publish Date
Sep 15, 2020
Productivity In Notion
Last Edit
Mar 23, 2022 12:50 AM
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This is the fourth entry in a series on my Notion architecture for various life management systems. To see the full series, please visit the home page, 🏗️Productivity In Notion
I am wary of pretty much every task management software/system out there. They may work for some personalities, but for me they always seem to go as follows:
  • Tasks added, feels new, looks good
  • A few tasks slide by and are overdue, but that's okay
  • More and more slide by, the list becomes unwieldy and out-of-date
  • List becomes irrelevant clutter, goes unused
This has happened in Trello, Asana, Todoist, pretty much any system you can think of. So my goal for my customized solution in Notion was to avoid this!
This should be obvious, but there are two main types of tasks I consider: recurring (and generally lower-weight) tasks, and one-time, often heavier tasks. To me, these should be treated very differently. While your intuition may say "yeah, I want one single list for everything," quick recurring tasks simply clutter the list and make it appear more overwhelming than it actually is. And oh by the way, do you know what an easy mental shortcut is in this case? You simply do a couple of the easy recurring tasks, tell yourself you are making progress, and don't do any of the bigger more meaningful work.
So with that said, I functionally have two different task management systems that I'll overview here. The rule is this: if it is something done on a regular daily/weekly/monthly cadence, then it goes to the recurring system. If not, it goes to the one-time system.

Recurring Task Management

My recurring tasks appear exclusively on my dashboard, and are managed using Notion's neat "templated blocks" feature. Basically, I have a weekly and monthly template that are all simple checklists. Here's what the weekly template looks like:
The default weekly schedule is sparse, but is adjusted from time to time. So when I click "create new week", this template is populated on my main dashboard.
The default weekly schedule is sparse, but is adjusted from time to time. So when I click "create new week", this template is populated on my main dashboard.
As you can see here, each day has a task or two generally, and these can be flagged off throughout the week. And it includes many of the mundane realities of everyday life: mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, filing expenses, etc. Once the week is done, this whole block is archived, and I just click the "create new week" box to make a new one.
In addition to recurring tasks, I tend to use this to schedule some other easy-but-one-off tasks, or to "schedule" when I need to do a real task (the system for which I'll get to in a minute). But the goal of this section is kind of a zero backlog, 100% complete list.

One-Time Task Management

Beyond those basics, a bunch of tasks come up that are more involved. While my fiancee often suggests that "I should just do these right away," I prefer to have a bit more structured and planned approach. This absolutely has some downsides in terms of procrastination (which has been a persistent struggle for me). But I do find that it gives me time and space to think about each task and do them the right way the first time, and let's me avoid doing tasks that ultimately don't need to be done.
Those caveats aside, these tasks look much more like what you'd expect to see in a standard task management system. I try to keep the columns to a minimum, so there are functionally only three columns that matter here: task name, project, and status. There is a due date column, but as mentioned, I try to add items to the recurring task management system when they really need to get done.
Given that, the main way that I interact with the one-time tasks is in the kanban-style view, organized by status. It looks like this:
notion image
As you can see here, there are six categories: backlog, not started, on deck, in progress, awaiting reply, and complete. This represents a fairly typical progression for tasks. The one main design choice I made is that I separated out "backlog" from "not started" from "on deck". These are all functionally in the same state (not started), but represent a prioritization.
One other point: you can see each of these tasks relate directly to a "project", which I covered in Part 2 (🏗️Managing Projects In Notion). There are two valuable things that come from doing this:
  • It is easy to filter to just a specific project and use that as a kanban style lens on a singular effort, say, Wedding Planning. So you can have a holistic view of wedding planning tasks but that is fully integrated into the broader universe of tasks.
  • It helps me to focus on how to distill a project into concrete-but-doable next steps. If a project doesn't have any tasks, what could be a way to create meaningful progress? That's an important question to answer if you want to drive your projects to completion!
Lastly, I do show on the dashboard a gallery view of any "on deck" or "in progress" tasks. This helps expose the tasks that are on-deck, and they show right alongside (technically above) the recurring tasks there.

That largely concludes the task management system that I have in place currently. For me it strikes a good balance of not "overly taskifying" my life, but providing a place to remind me of recurring things and to put bigger tasks onto a list so that I have them written down somewhere.
That said, I do expect to play around with this area a bit over time, and in particular once the API comes out. I'd like to have ways for tasks to get automatically added (e.g. when my CRM moves someone into "Reach out" state, as well as other targets from other systems. For example: it'd be great if I could schedule a "clear out inbox" task as soon as my main inbox hits 100 e-mails. But I also don't want to overly taskify as I alluded to above.
One other thing I'd like to do is create some metrics to evaluate my consistency and follow-through. We'll get to my metric tracking system in a later post, but I haven't designed anything for tasks yet.
Postscript: I've updated my task workflow! Please check out Task Update: On To "Do Dates" to learn how I improved this system!