Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Repeating Task List (Paper Planner)

With the start of school drawing ever closer, we are all planning for the coming year. Some of those plans involve new projects and new ideas we will be trying. Other plans we will make involve thinking some of the same thoughts we thought through last year. What tasks do we need to perform to be “ready” when students walk through the door? What materials will we need? Do we have a good idea for the bulletin board? Will we write a “welcome to my class” letter to parents?

As we think through the year, what field trips or other special projects will take place for your class? What plans need to be made? Do you need to reserve busses? What information will you prepare and send to parents? What purchase orders will you need to secure?


The old saying “the devil is in the details” is certainly true in education. Let one of the myriad of details slip though the cracks and you are faced with a group of students ready for the field trip—and no bus. Not only that, but there are no sack lunches prepared for the students because you forgot to speak to the lunchroom manager about preparing them. The check you will need to present at your destination almost didn’t get cut because you forgot to request it until yesterday afternoon. The bookkeeper has let you know in no uncertain terms you owe her BIG TIME for cutting a single check for you on Wednesday when Tuesday is the day that all checks are run.

The good news for those of us in the business of education is that many of the same “devils” come around every year and at the same time. The first time you tackle a big project, like starting a school year or planning the trip to Washington, little “to-dos” will occur to you at the most unlikely of moments—in the middle of a lesson, during lunch, or during the sermon on Sunday morning. When they occur, you the habit of capturing them with pencil and paper will keep that good idea or essential detail from disappearing.

There is even better news. Once you have handled a project once, you should never have to rethink ANY of those details. Never again should you have to sit with a blank legal pad three weeks before the start of school and try to pull a list out of your head of what you need to be doing. Never again should you have to rethink all of the details that went into the big “spring production.” The truth of the matter is all of the details you are going to have to handle THIS year are the same ones you handled LAST year if you only had a system to keep track of them.

Setting Up a Repeating Task List
To make your life you much easier, let a “Repeating Task List” handle all of the details that recur each year, each quarter, each month, etc. To begin this process, whenever you find yourself writing something on your to-do list that you realize is not a one-time task, but rather one that you are going to be doing again at regular intervals, put a RED STAR beside it in your planner. Over the course of the next few weeks and months, you are sure to put quite a few red stars in your planner.

During the Christmas holidays, set aside a couple of hours to put together your Repeating Task List. Collect your planner pages from the last several months and sit down at your computer. Create a new word processing document entitled “Repeating Tasks List.”

Go through your planner page by page looking for red stars. As you come to each one, enter that task on the list you are making on your computer. When you have finished, you will have a chronological listing of the tasks. I suggest grouping them by month.

When summertime rolls around, repeat the exercise with all of the planner pages between Christmas and present. You now have a full year of repeating tasks. Print the list and you are good to go for the year.

The time spent creating this list will be recouped many times over not only in the time you will save, but also in the stress that will be relieved. With all of your tasks captured on your Repeating Task List, you will not have to worry about what may be slipping through the cracks. Why reinventing the wheel each time to repeat a project? Let your list handle the details while you free your mind for more creative activities.
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