Case study: organizing property maintenance tasks

November 27, 2022

This week, I’ll share with you my answer to a question from one of my course students, James. It makes for an interesting case study in how to organize your projects in your task manager.

James is enrolled in my Things 3 course, but I’ll also share what I would do if he were to use OmniFocus instead.

James wrote:

I work in commercial real estate and have ongoing tasks/projects for several properties. I think it may be a bit cumbersome to have 15 additional areas and I also can’t add in headings in each area-- which is annoying because I would break out categories for each property, i.e. leasing, maintenance etc..

Would you just have each property as a project that never really ends or have areas for each? Right now, I have each property as an Area and then “maintenance” as a project with various tasks. Alternatively, I could have each property as a project with tasks organized under different headings.

So James manages a bunch of properties and he has some to-dos for each property, divided at least into leasing to-dos and maintenance to-dos. I’m assuming that James also sometimes has projects for particular properties—projects being larger than to-dos, with multiple steps. When James views his to-dos, I imagine he would like to be able to see, for example:

  • All to-dos for the Oak Street property
  • All maintenance to-dos
  • All maintenance to-dos for the Oak Street property

In Things, I would not set up an area for each property. That gets unwieldy fast, especially if James were to manage, say, 40 properties at some point. Instead, I would create a tag for each property. James can then use the regular area structure that I recommend for most people, with some areas on top unique to his work. Something like:

  • Admin & Finances
  • Business Development
  • Fun & Trips
  • Health
  • Home
  • Property Leasing
  • Property Maintenance
  • Property Renovations
  • Relationships
  • Wishes

All property maintenance to-dos and projects would live in the Property Maintenance area, all property renovations to-dos would live in Property Renovations, and so on. It might look like this:

Notice that I created a master tag, “Properties”, and sub-tags for each property. I can filter by the master tag or by sub-tags. That’s not very helpful in this area, but could be helpful for a global search.

James could filter this view by property.

If James wanted to see all to-dos—not just maintenance ones—for the Oak Street property, he could simply search for “Oak St” and pull up the tag’s view:

To get to this view, just search for the name of the tag, i.e. “Oak St” in this case.

In OmniFocus, we could create a similar structure. All the high-level areas (Admin & Finances, Business Development, Home, etc.) would be folders. We’d add a folder for Property Management and divide it into Leasing, Maintenance, Renovations, and so on. Each folder would contain a “single actions” list for simple to-dos. Each project (let’s say, to renovate a kitchen) would be a parallel or sequential project inside one of those high-level folders. And we’d have a tag for each property. It might look like this:

If this OmniFocus screenshot looks unfamiliar to you, it’s because I’m showing you what it would look like in the OmniFocus 4 public beta.

Alternatively, in OmniFocus, we could create a folder for properties, with a sub-folder for each property. Inside the property’s sub-folder, we’ve have a single-actions list (for simple to-dos) and projects (like renovate kitchen). Individual tasks would be tagged with “Maintenance” or “Leasing”—so tags would describe the type of work, rather than the property.

As always, the key is trial and error. When structuring your own work, think of something and try it out for a while. If it doesn’t work, try something else. If it’s pretty good, keep it. Don’t aim for perfection—that doesn’t exist. Focus on minimizing friction and doing the work. And avoid tinkering too much with your task manager.

I hope you found this small case study useful.

If you did: this is the sort of thing I cover in my courses. My courses also come with email support, so you can get my feedback on your particular situation.

Why not enroll now and get a head start on being organized for the new year?

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