Manage Your Entire Life on One Whiteboard

How do you manage your life? My life is very much project-based. While most people go to work at the same job year-round, my work is based around writing a book, or making a video course, and so on. Meanwhile, thanks to Mini Habits and Elastic Habits, I’ve gotten much better at doing what needs to be done over what I feel like doing.

So my priorities have shifted from getting myself to do things to, well, organization. Once you gain the ability to create your own momentum, you just need direction. And life is so multi-faceted that we often feel pulled in 35 directions at once. If you’re pulled in every direction at the same time with the same force, you will go nowhere.

So I’ve been thinking of a way to display my life. Not so much calendar-like tasks, but moreso things I want to do in my lifetime, from places to visit, to hobbies to try, to home improvement projects, with some chores and other work mixed in. It’s a massive variety of things, and it’s impossible for anyone to manage it well inside their head. Our brains are much better at parsing information than storing it, organizing it, retrieving it, and then parsing it. I’ve been at work on a new system that resembles the Mini Flex Life Management System I created a few years ago.

The Idea

I do plan to make a video explaining this in greater detail, as that will work best, but I don’t want to just tell you, “hey, come back next week!” So I will briefly explain the concept now as best I can. This is how I manage my life.

stephen's whiteboard system

You can see this is very early. I don’t even have everything filled out, and these were just the first things that came to mind. This is a large whiteboard divided into 6 columns. Each column represents a major category of my life. Your categories might be different, of course, and they may change over time.

Each column then has three sub category rows to further break it down. For example, in health, I have exercise and mental health. In dreams, I have travel ideas, bucket list things like swimming with sharks or sky diving, and experimental things like streaming video games and making a board game. These sub categories REALLY help me to focus and organize these ideas.

And the key part of this system, the thing that makes it work for me, is dry erase magnets. Each of those rectangles you see on the board is a magnet that can be moved (and can be erased as well). At the beginning of the day, I simply grab the magnets/tasks that I want to work on today, and I move them up into the today area. Since it is organized in columns, I can move them straight up, right above the column where they belong, helping me see them in proper context. After I complete an item in the “Today” zone, I move it back to its spot down below or erase it if the project is finished.

I just received more magnets today, which will allow me to fill in the other areas. I also bought bigger magnets that will allow for multi-step projects and more detail if needed.

Hey To-Do List… Please Step Aside

To-do lists are great in their simplicity, but horrible otherwise. They aren’t a complete way to manage your life because they don’t encompass everything. They also don’t help you decide what to do in the first place, which is a problem many people have. With a board design like this, you can see your life’s projects and tasks organized into areas and sub-areas. It’s a great way to bring light to those less urgent but still important things like bucket list items and trips (the whole “dream” category), but also great for keeping you engaged with the ordinary stuff, from playing with the cats to fixing the toilet to researching investments.

This system maintains the simplicity of a to-do list! That’s the brilliance of it. Instead of creating to-do items from thin air (memory), you simply select them from your pool of ideas. You can look at particular categories or go right to a task you had in mind. If you think of something new, write it on a magnet and put it in the Today area.

Importantly, this system is the lowest-maintenance way I’ve seen to manage your entire life. Simply moving magnets around takes seconds, and you can reset the system in seconds as well. If something takes more than minimal effort, I will abandon it. This is fun. I select my items for the day and it gives me clarity about what I want to accomplish.

I’m still brainstorming on how to handle projects. For example, just putting the “Greece” magnet on the board isn’t an action, but a project that involves planning a trip. It may work just fine to put it up there and determine the next step. As for what I require of myself when I add a magnet up on the board… nothing more than a mini habit. I just start the task and momentum usually takes over from there.

Even if your life isn’t as “freestyle” as mine, you could still benefit tremendously from this. It isn’t just a superior to-do list, it’s a way to identify and organize everything you want to do in your life. It’s easy to update. It’s easy to manage. And importantly, it’s tangible. Instead of thinking, “I want to write a book someday,” you can hold that idea in your hand, and then decide to act on it TODAY with a physical gesture. This is what we lose in the cell phone apps, and I think it’s significant.

The other thing is the size. If you put all of your plans and dreams into a small cell phone screen, they may feel small. This whiteboard feels big, ambitious, clear, and is exciting to look at and interact with. Just something to think about. Oh, and if you need your to-do list on the go, just take a picture!


Stephen Guise

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