I’m gonna let you in on a secret of mine. Don’t tell anyone else okay? I suck at the whole “getting stuff done” thing. Not just a little. I mean like 13 shades of suck. I was born without the “time management” gene. I truly admire people who can juggle work, kids, hobbies, and 5 to-do lists and still have time to pee and sleep. Amazing. I’m not one of those people.
If you can relate, then read on. I may have (finally!) found a solution to help me get on track, stay on track, and get things done before the proverbial “hell freezes over” scenario. If you’re struggling with getting things done, maybe it’ll help you out too. No affiliate links here, just a really awesome program I found that I wanted to pass along to you in case you’re struggling with time management.
Ok, don’t get me wrong. Working from home definitely has it’s benefits. But, if – like me – you’re used to punching the clock and having someone tell you what to do and when to do it, then suddenly having the “freedom” to screw off is deadly! I’m in a situation now where I’m working from home and my daily schedule is completely up to me. Remembering that I really suck at getting stuff done, you can see how this could be a problem, right?
I’ve always been a fan of having a to-do list. It has served me pretty well until recently. My problem now is that I have more than one list. I have a “personal” to-do list, and now a to-do list for each of my blogs. If you’re trying to start an online business, there’s a lot of things that have to get done in a timely manner and on a consistent basis if you want to succeed. The way I’ve been trying to manage the multiple to-do list thing hasn’t been working out for me. I always feel disorganized, like I’m forgetting something. And I usually am forgetting at least one something.
For a long time now, I’ve used my email program (Thunderbird) to keep track of stuff like birthdays, anniversaries, and appointments. That works pretty well. I can set up each event so that I’ll get a reminder ahead of time and be less likely to forget it. Most email programs have that capability.
What I’ve found myself really needing lately is a way to make an hour-by-hour schedule for each day. I tried doing this myself using Microsoft Word, but it was a big hassle juggling the schedule and several to-do lists, and there was nothing to remind me of the daily tasks. Bottom line: if it’s a pain in the ass, I’m not gonna do it.
I recently got really fed up with being so disorganized. I’m not getting things done that need to be done. I’m not being productive with my time. And I know if I want to continue working from home, “being my own boss,” then I’ve got to get better at this. That’s when I said to myself, “Self, it’s 2010. Surely some smarty-pants must have come up with a chunk of software that’ll help me get my butt in gear and keep it there.” Know what? I was right! I test drove several different programs designed to help productivity-challenged folks like me. And I finally found one that has all the features I wanted, and then some.
It’s not very often that a single software program makes me wanna do my happy dance and then write a blog post all about it so that everyone else knows about it too. This is a rare occasion. Feel free to imagine me doing my happy dance now. Don’t be weird though. You don’t know me like that.
Like I said, I tried several programs before I found the one that suited all my needs. That program [drum-roll, please] is Essential PIM. The “PIM” stands for “Personal Information Manager.” There’s a free version and a “Pro” version. For the Pro version, there’s a 30-day free trial. The only limitation on the trial version is that you can only enter 500 tasks. By then, you’ll know if this is what you need. I was hooked in a couple of days, bought it, and haven’t looked back since. The cost is $40. You want screenshots? You got it! Here are my two favorite features:
Manage Multiple To-Do Lists: Essential PIM Pro lets me manage all my to-do lists in one place! In the screenshot above, you can see there are 4 tabbed to-do lists: Work, Sample, Travel Checklist, and List 4. Each list is fully customizable and you can color-code each one to your liking.
The to-do lists use a “tree structure” so you can have “parent” and “child” tasks. You can specify start date, due date, priority, and category for each task in each to-do list. Yes, I’m in heaven! It’s a list-lover’s dream come true.
You can also specify whether or not you want each task to be displayed in your calendar, which is a must for me since I need a daily planner. For example, I can set up a task to write a blog post, add it to my day planner and designate a specific block of time in that day’s schedule to get it done. Speaking of day planner, that’s my other favorite feature and is exactly what I was looking for to work alongside my to-do lists.
Daily Scheduler: This is the “day planner” feature that lets you plan out exactly what needs to be done each day, and when to do it. Absolutely essential for me. In the short time that I’ve been using this program, I’ve gotten in a habit of spending a few minutes each evening to schedule the next day. It’s the first thing I look at when I turn the computer on in the morning. I love the functionality of this thing. It keeps track of all my tasks from all my to-do lists. It also keeps all my recurring appointments, so it will replace my email calendar for remembering birthdays and appointments. You can also set up reminders for scheduled events. If something unexpected comes up and you need to rearrange your day, the program makes that really easy. In the screenshot above, any of the “blocks” representing tasks and appointments can be quickly rearranged and rescheduled with drag-and-drop. The user interface is really intuitive, and everything is all in one place. How’s that for convenient?
The combination of these two features: Multiple to-do list management, and integration with a daily planner, was enough to “sell” me on Essential PIM Pro. But, there are a lot of other features that may be important for your specific situation. So make sure you check out the website to see all the other tricks it does, and more screenshots: Essential PIM Features . You may also want to check out a comparison of the Free & Pro Version.
With Essential PIM, you can also keep notes and you can make any of your notes “sticky” notes that will sit on your desktop and stare at you until you don’t need it anymore. I have to say though, I’m not a big fan of this feature. When I need a sticky note I want to make it quick. For me, it takes too much navigating to use the sticky note feature in Essential PIM because you have to make the note from within the program.
For sticky notes, I prefer Stickies by Zhorn Software. It’s simple, quick, and free.
If this program doesn’t make you do your happy dance, here is a list of some others that look promising: PIM software comparison from Priacta (this website rates the programs according to their compatibility with David Allen’s popular “Getting Things Done” system).
Q: How do you get it done? Do you have a favorite system or program? Let us know in the comments.