To me, a productivity tool has to have three components:
1. It has to be invincible – rendered illegible by flying coffee or left on bus cannot be reasons to miss a task. I love paper, but hate that it burns, smudges, rips, etc. Digital was the only answer.
2. It has to be everywhere – Paper didn’t just lose because I’m a klutz – I’m also forgetful. A digital task system, accessible from every device I’ve ever owned AND anyone’s computer, was the perfect solution. I couldn’t leave it behind.
3. It has to be simple – If entering a task takes 10 minutes, I’m not going to do it. Duh.
When I decided on those 3 rules above, I never thought about the data that I would generate after using these tools for 4 years. On a lark, I went through three months of data today in Toodledo and was amazed. It’s actually interesting!
Although it’s thoroughly geek, I thought I’d share, just to show how powerful the data we’re generating can be. I’m not sharing anything personal, professional or even the numbers. The graphs of relative values speak volumes.
First thing I did was pull my tasks completed by month from Toodledo.
The result made sense: Late November, I started using Toodledo. December was spent working my tail off. January was when my little girl was born – huge dip there – but by February, I was completing tasks again at full force. March I started a new job, so mid-way through the month, we’re already heading for a record breaker.
Next I tried to find a trend, something to make it more than just a total. Here is how I complete tasks based on the days of the week:
Interesting eh? I come out of the weekend strong, completing fewer and fewer tasks until Friday, when I push before the weekend. My theory here is one word: meetings. As the week goes on, I have more and more meetings, reducing the time I have to complete my tasks. There is something to explore here…
My personal tasks, often the lesser quantity, generally don’t get done on Saturday and therefore Sunday is higher. This probably contributes to that sinking feeling I get on Sunday when I have to pack in my tasks and try to enjoy the last of the weekend. Again, something to explore…
Next I grabbed the planned due date of my tasks:
What I love about this data is that it shows how I think about tasks too… These are the tasks by the day I schedule them for. Notice that I tend to come out of the weekend with a lot scheduled for Monday, but Tuesday – Friday, I plan to complete pretty much the same number of tasks. To me, this supports the meetings idea – I’m adding tasks to the list because new things are coming up. However, as we saw before, I’m not completing them.
In a similar story, on the weekend, I tend to forget how hard is to complete tasks on Saturday and I schedule equal efforts for both days.
Finally, I decided to compare how I’m finishing tasks this month vs last month:
The month isn’t over yet, but it looks like I’m getting better at closing out my tasks on Fridays and keeping a steady stream of completions going through the week. Thursday is still a low point for me. I’m sure it’s related to meetings, but it’s a point of focus for improvement!
After playing with all this data from Toodledo, I exported my data from Remember the Milk going back to 2007 and did the same sort of analysis, finding almost identical results. I’ll spare you the details, but one favorite was that I seem to start the year off strong in January every year, but slow down as the summer approaches. I guess that’s why my resolution each year is to be more organized :)
Thanks for indulging me. The bigger point is that I was collecting this data without really thinking about it. I wonder where else I’m capturing useful information that could improve my efficiency? I’ll poke around and get back to you.