Home Management Binder, Control Journal, Household Notebook: It doesn’t matter what you call it, having it helps keep all the tasks involved in homemaking in front of your face when you need them to be, but off your mind when you don’t. It’s usually done with paper, but can it be adapted for the technologically savvy? Or at least the technology-owner? Can it be done with an iPad, Netbook, smartphone, iPod Touch? It certainly can.
Series to Date
Remember the Milk
For task-management, I have been using Remember the Milk for over 5 years now, off and on in boom and bust cycles, as is my wont. I occasionally look at other apps or sites for task functionality, but I’ve always returned to RTM. It is web-based, so tasks are available on any machine. It lets you type things in like “Return library books in ten days” and “Return library books” will show up with a due date ten days from when you entered it. That is super handy.
You can set up a system in whatever fashion you want, too, since there are lists and tags and due dates and priorities — using them all would be too much, but you can pick and choose what sorting methods work for you. So it is very flexible and very intuitive, and can be as simple or as complex as you make it. Also, you can set items to repeat, and if you work with other people who use it, you can send tasks as well. It also integrates very well into Gmail or Google Calendar, and has pretty and usable apps.
I have gone through periods of using it for every little thing I want to do, with items even repeating daily. But a long and cluttered to-do list, where one-time urgent tasks are mixed in with “make the bed” and “wash the dishes” is not as helpful as a to-do list can be. So instead of every little task I should do, I enter into RTM only non-routine tasks, unless the routine is only once every 6-12 months, in which case I need the reminder to pop up at a scheduled time so I don’t have to keep track of it mentally.
At this point I have honed my set-up to one that is useful, clear, and simple. Here’s how I do it:
- -Resolutions 2012-
- Blog – Convivial Home
- Event – Confection Selection
- Management – holidays
- Management – household
- Management – school
- Management – women’s ministry
- Project – crafts
- Project – home management binder
- Project – Simplified Dinner eBook
Set up the lists you need for the sorts of responsibilities you have. This is simply a sorting mechanism. If you aren’t much of a sorting type, you could probably even get away without lists. I set up a list with the “Project” prefix if it’s a goal that involves 5 or more separate tasks to complete. It’s a handy way to keep them all together and see what bite-sized chunks I can work on to move the project toward completion. Plus, if I think of something I need to do for a project, I have a place to get that information recorded and outside my head.
Tags & Due Dates
Another sorting mechanism are tags and due dates. My general rule of thumb is to use one or the other. Due dates go on most tasks for the day I intend to do the task (they are easy to postpone and change around), or at least the date that I want to be reminded that the task needs to be done, at which point I can change the date if I want to.
If it’s just a random thing I need to do, and it doesn’t matter when it’s done (everything in the crafts list, for example), then I put a tag on it for the type of task it is (computer, sewing, crochet, cleaning, etc.). Then if I have computer time, I can look at the tag and see the sorts of things I want or need to do.
Working off the Lists
For regular daily viewing, I look at RTM’s “Today” List it automatically generates. At the beginning of the day I try to adjust my expectations, and move around tasks I know I won’t be able to get to. I try to keep the daily list to 3-5 tasks “due” that day. I might be able to cross off some tasks that aren’t due, too, but that’s all gravy.
Weekly — well, usually more like monthly — I try to go through all the tasks I have and clean them up. Some were passing ideas that, upon further reflection, I don’t actually want or need to do. They can be deleted. Sometimes I completed a task but didn’t mark it off on the list. Check it off. I also scan through the tasks for my various projects and consider adding due dates to some of them if I want them to pop up on my daily list and be a little more in-my-face. With the app version, this is a useful way to spend time while waiting for the gas to pump into the car.
Other Handy Uses
I crochet, and it’s not uncommon for me to have 3 different projects going on at once. However, if my hooks fall out of the bag or the project sits untouched too long, I often forget which hook I’m using (I crochet like I cook — recipes & patterns are merely “guidelines”) or what the yarn that just ran out was. So now I’ve started entering each project as a task without a due date in the crafts list. In the “notes” section for the task, I write down the yarn name and color and the hook I’m using. Then I can also see at a glance just how many half-completed crochet projects I have going, and hopefully pick up one of those instead of starting a new one.
One of my resolutions this year was to compile a list of yearly or twice yearly cleaning tasks that I really should do, but just don’t think about. Completing the 31 Days to Clean challenge last year made me realize that there were several cleaning tasks that just never occurred to me as things needing to be done (I am naturally a messie and not a cleanie), but that made a difference when done, and that really didn’t take much time. I am almost done now with a list of 20 (4 weeks of weekdays) 15-minute deep-cleaning tasks that repeat in April & October. Most of the tasks are based off the 31 Days to Clean eBook, though the charm of the book is really its 31 cleaning-related devotionals. In the spirit of going digital, I tossed my printed copy and put the pdf in my Dropbox account.
Remember the Milk is free to use online and as an app, but to get the ability to sync automatically rather than manually once every 24 hours, you need to pay $25/year for the premium membership. Remember the Milk is certainly a service worth the premium if you use it to manage your life, but the free version is still amazing if you can’t (or don’t want to) afford the upgrade.