It is very likely that you’ve heard me talkingabout the importance of a “single trusted system” for your tasks and projects. It’s a way to capture, externalize and prioritize everything you need to do, so you don’t clutter up your brain with remembering (or more likely, forgetting) what you need to do and can focus on the task at hand.
A single trusted system is how you offload the mental load, while not letting any balls drop.
However one question that I’m asked ALL the time is whether work tasks and home tasks should be combined into a single system. Do I really mean one system? Or should you have one system for home, and one for work?
So I wanted to take a moment to answer this question for you.
And the short answer is: it depends.
Now, I know that’s not a super satisfying answer, but here’s the thing: there’s a good reason it’s not simply a yes or no answer.
Your brain, your circumstances, your personality, your needs. They’re different from mine. And there are several factors to think about when deciding whether you should separate your tasks or not.
You might be thinking that one system is just going to be easier, simpler. Why would you even consider two? Or you might be thinking, how could I ever combine these 2 worlds? Both are valid positions.
So let me walk you through the factors your might consider when deciding what’s right for you.
Desired Level of Work Life Integration
First and foremost, are you an integrator or a segmentor?
Some people don’t think of work and life as separate; they think of work as part of life and vice versa. We call these people integrators. They are comfortable answering work emails on the weekend and taking personal calls during work hours. True integrators enjoy the fluidity of work/home.
(And I bet right about now, you’re laughing or shaking your head thinking because this past year, we’ve ALL had to become integrators whether we like it or not.)
On the other side of things, we have people who prefer really strong boundaries between work and home. We call these people segmentors. And because these boundaries have basically been obliterated by the pandemic, this past year has been that much harder for you if you’re a segmentor.
(If you want more info about the difference between integrators and segmentors, I wrote a whole post about it here.)
If you’d prefer to have stronger boundaries between work and home, even when it’s all happening in the same place, at the same time, by necessity, 2 systems might help you mentally separate the two.
Does your work/team all use the same task system? Are you using Asana, or Trello, or Wrike, or Monday to collaborate with your coworkers?
If so, you already have a system for work, and that system is shared. So the question becomes, do you want to add your personal tasks into a system that your work has access to?
Of course, most task apps allow you to create private tasks and projects, but your company will still own the data and may have special admin rights to access all the data, regardless of the privacy settings. Are you ok with this?
There’s no right answer here. Maybe you don’t care if the IT person might be able to see that you plan to buy an anniversary gift for your SO. Maybe you do.
Related to the issue above, if you use your work’s task system for personal tasks, and then you leave your job, exporting your personal tasks out of that system might be a real pain.
Another factor to consider is when you do personal tasks during the day. If you intersperse personal tasks into work hours, then it may make more sense to use one system.
If you tend to do most personal tasks on evenings/weekends, and work tasks during the workweek, then separate systems may work best.
While many task apps are intuitive, learning how to use 2 separate apps might just be too much of a headache. If you just want to learn the features of one system and be done with it, or you’re not particularly tech savvy, then one system might be best.
One System, Different Views
Is it possible to use one system, but view work and personal tasks separately? Yes!
And, this option might be the best of both worlds for you.
In many systems, you can create separate lists, or separate views of your tasks using filters. So, even if you’re a segmentor, you could easily use one single system, and then filter out work related tasks on the weekends, and vice versa for personal tasks during the workday.
In fact, this is what the grand majority of my clients end up doing.
But Alexis, what do YOU do?
This is another question I get asked a lot. What do I, personally, do? Do I have two single trusted systems, or one?
Well, I’ll tell you, but before I do, I’m going to give a caveat: What works for me won’t necessarily work for you. You and I? We’ve got different brains. You want to do what works best for YOU. All those factors I listed above? That’s what you should be thinking about when you make your decision; not about what I do.
But OK, personally, I’m a hard segmentor. Despite the fact that I work for myself, and that I work from home (and did so even in pre-COVID times), I don’t like to mix work and home. Like, at all. I work set hours each day. I don’t check work email on evenings or weekends. At the end of the week I close out all browser tabs related to work. And I don’t want to even chance seeing a work task on the weekend. So I have 2 separate systems; I use 2 different apps. One for work and one for home. This works well for me. (But remember, it might not work for you.).
What do I use?
And for my business, I use Podio, which you don’t hear me talking about as much, because while I love the functionality and customization for my business purposes, it’s not the right tool for most people.