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How to Get Things Done Using an AIR Backlog List

04/03/19 | Dana LaRieal Morales

We all need to get things done. There are so many things to do that we often lose track of what they are.  You begin to look over your various lists and get overwhelmed by everything.  You start to think about one thing you need to handle and then another pops up in your head. Things start to get lost on your lists, deadlines are missed and you are right back where you started.  Forgetting important things that need to get done and skipping over others.

Use An AIR Log To Get Things Done

I recommend you use a master list to keep track of your things you need to do, which I call an AIR Log.  An AIR log is a master list of action items, issue items and risks that help you keep track of everything that needs to be done on a project.  Then you can use a subset of this list "Daily Priority List" to segment out top priority items for the day or the week. An AIR Log allows you to get things out of your head and onto a master list.  It frees up your mental space to focus on the tasks that you really need to get done.

Setup Your AIR Log to Get Things Done

Now the first thing you need is your spreadsheet app of choice (i.e., excel).  You can always use paper or other tools, but I find having an electronic grid format works best. I'll explain further why below.  [click here to get your copy of the AIR Log template]

Setup Your Main Columns

It's now time to setup your main columns in your sheet.  I want you to add the columns that make sense for your environment. These, however, are the ones I typically use and ultimately recommend:
  • Name of the task - A high-level summary of the task.  Something you can glance over and know what it is.
  • Description of the task - Provides as much detail as needed to complete the task at hand.
  • Priority of the task - Helps you segment the list based on high, average or low priority (or whatever priority you choose to set)
  • Category of the task - Allows you to segment based on the type of task it is.  You identify the type of projects you have going on (i.e., house, personal, website, social media, course, etc.)
  • Person Assigned - This is an optional field, but if this is for a team or group of people it is always great to know who is handling the task.  It should be the point person responsible for the overall status, not necessarily who is going to be doing the physical work.  If you are the only person using this list then you could eliminate this column.
  • Due date - This is task specific and helps you prioritize your work.  It is recommended that you set this for your subset list, but on your AIR log you may not have a due date.
  • Status - Signifies if your task is done or not.  There are different statuses that can be used, but the most common are not started, in progress, on hold and completed.  If tasks are related to software, you might add an enhancement request, issue status or training status as well.
  • Notes/comments - Capture any additional information that is needed.  If you have supplemental information, a link or direction on where to find something that needs to be used to complete the task then enter that information here.
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How to Pick Your Subset List

Now that you have your master list, you can create your own system for picking which tasks will get done.  You can sort or filter by category, due date and/or priority to see what pops up to the top of your list. This is one of the main reasons I recommend putting the list in an electronic spreadsheet. It provides you the ability to sort or filter your list based on what you are working on.  Maybe today you are focused on your personal development.  If you filter your list by that category you can see what all needs to be done and batch your work. It makes your overall selection process easier and really focuses your work.

How to Use Extra and Small Segments of Time

For some, you might finish your subset task list and have additional time to work.  If that's the case, you can review your master list and select other things that need to get done.  I also love doing this when I have small pockets of wait time.  By planning ahead you can ensure you have everything you need with you to accomplish tasks while you wait. The way I plan ahead is to look at my list at the beginning of the week or day.  Then, I pick items from my AIR Log that can be completed in small spurts of time.  I also ensure I have the necessary items with me, during the week, to complete each of the items. Make sure to pick up your AIR log template. Also, make sure to share on our Facebook Page how it has helped improve your productivity.