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Why I Love Google Tasks

Kat Downs - Pyragraph
Photo by Marcus Spiske.

If you are not already familiar, Google Tasks is Google’s version of the dreaded To-Do List. That necessary thing that we love, hate and love to hate. I have had a slowly evolving relationship with Google Tasks—it has grown from being “sort of handy” to “How did I ever live before?”

The truth I never saw coming was this: The more successful you get, the more organized you have to be to just avoid disaster. Which is where I found myself.

Just to give you an idea, when Sit Kitty Sit was a local band with a single EP, I was working a full-time corporate job. I used one calendar, and had three to-do lists:

1. Stuff I had to do for the band (create a Facebook page, try to find a show).
2. Stuff I had to do for my $$ job (do Monday report, set up lunch with client on Tuesday).
3. Stuff I had to do around the house (laundry, buy soy sauce, clean out the fridge).

I would occasionally use Google Tasks, but the lists were so small that they mostly lived in my head where they took up almost no room. If I accidentally forgot something the worst that would happen is I would run out of clean underwear, so there wasn’t a lot of pressure for me to get a working system in place.

Flash forward five years.

Sit Kitty Sit is an internationally touring band with four albums and a team of nine people. I teach my private students in a space I share with other teachers. And I have due dates for writing and composition that I’ve been hired to do by other people.

Now I use four calendars and 10 different to-do lists. TEN.

If I miss something now there are consequences. Our booking agent may not land us the rad slot if I don’t return something in time. Or I could cause a traffic jam at the studio if I accidentally book a student when another teacher was already using the room.

I was already in the habit of keeping my lists in my head, but trying to hold all that information in my head would cause my mind to feel full and my body to feel anxious. Suddenly I didn’t have the room or time to just daze out or daydream anymore because I felt that if I didn’t constantly go through those lists in my head I would forget something. I finally realized that trying to work like that was detrimental to my business. Professionally, I NEED to daydream. That’s where the music comes from! So I needed to create a system that would empty out my head to make sure there was room for the important stuff to come through.

Google Tasks to the rescue! Here’s how it works:

How do you access Google Tasks? Well, let me tell you. From your Gmail browser window click on the word “Gmail” or “Mail” above the “Compose” button in the upper left hand corner. A drop down list will appear. Choosing “Tasks” causes a new window to pop up on the bottom right of your inbox. Welcome to your new to-do list! Just like Google Chat, you can minimize, pop out, or close this extra window at any time.

Kat Downs - Pyragraph

Here’s where it gets cool.

In the footer of the Task window you see the option “Actions,” a large plus sign, trash can and a list icon. By clicking on the list icon you will see you have the option of creating multiple lists. Once you’ve created them you can click the list icon again to view individual lists. You can have as many as you want. You can use the “Actions” option to clear completed items, print your list, or even show you tips on how to use Tasks.

Kat Downs - Pyragraph

Tasks is viewable both in your Gmail window AND in your Google Calendar window. To access it in your calendar window, look for “My Calendars” along the left-hand side of the window and choose “Settings.” You will see Tasks listed as one of your calendars. Click the box to “Show in List.” When activated, your Tasks list will appear on the right hand side of your calendar screen. Identical to its smaller counterpart in the Gmail window, you can switch between individual calendars, clear completed tasks, add and delete items using the controls in the footer.

Here’s where it saves your life.

If you hover over an item in Tasks, you will notice a small arrow appears on its right. If you click on that arrow you have the option of creating a due date for that particular item. Assigning a due date to any task automatically inserts it directly into your calendar. Boom. It’s right there alongside your daily agenda. It even has a check box next to it so you can mark it completed right there in your calendar. (Can I get an amen? Am I the only one who almost passed out from joy when I discovered this?)

One step further.

I also use the due date function for my follow up reminders. This is a big one for me because artists are so spacey/flakey/forgetful. We are. Just own it. So when I email Mr. SpaceCadet about the potential event in three weeks, as soon as I hit “send” I add a task to my “Follow Up” list with a due date at the end of the week. When it pops up on my calendar on Friday it will remind me to reach out to him again if I haven’t heard from him yet. Using Tasks in this way is an invaluable tool. I no longer drop the ball on projects because I assumed other people were responsible or more organized than me. They aren’t. We are all equally awful, which is why we need tools.

Two steps further.

I also create Tasks lists for repetitive jobs. I have one called “After Show” that has all the action items I need to accomplish after every live performance. (Log the numbers, what should go on social media, update the email list, etc.) I’ll check all the boxes off as I complete each thing, then clear them all so it’s ready to go for next time.

If you create it and then ACTUALLY USE IT (that part is important), it works! I’m allowing a system I created to do my remembering for me. I can relax because all of the things are accounted for. I don’t feel the manic pressure to hold onto them in my head. I’m accomplishing more, making fewer mistakes, and can daydream while I’m working again, which has increased my creative time.

The end result is that I feel more grounded and in control of my own business. Thank. God.

I hope this helped—let me know about systems you’ve made that are working in the comments below.

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