Truth be told, not all task managers are created equally. Choosing the correct task manager will depend on assessing the app’s range of features, useful tools, reliability, security, cost, etc. The assessment should then be cross-referenced with your intended use, and whether this will be used solo, in a small team, large team, and if you need to provide guest or client access.
In essence, each person, and team, has their own set of needs and preferences. As you surf through the app store, keep in mind what features and functions interest you most. In the end, the ideal task manager is one that allows you to increase your overall efficiency and productivity. To help you in your search, we compiled a list of a few key functions every task management app should have.
The very first step is, of course, to have an easy way to lay out all of your tasks. This is so you can begin planning the process towards resolving each one. Planning is key! However, a simple note-taking app may not be sufficient. This is because it’s not always enough to make a simple bullet-point list.
You need a place where you can jot down basic information within each task, like your timeline, budget, and resources among others. By adding these details to your tasks, you can map out a better strategy. Once your primary tasks and their respective details have been written out, it’s time to create a plan.
With clear tasks, a plan becomes as simple as splitting these big targets into smaller subtasks and processes. These will create a “stepping ladder” towards achieving each target. This is why your task manager should allow you to jot down your objectives, as well as create “tasks within tasks” so you can easily track your progress.
Now that you have your tasks written out and detailed, the next step is estimating due dates and deadlines. After all, a task with no deadline could take a lifetime to finish! Ergo, your app should have a scheduler that allows you to set deadlines for each task. The added pressure of a “ticking timer” will help give you a boost, lighting a metaphorical fire under your feet.
Setting due dates in your scheduler will also allow you to see the “big picture” of everything that needs to get done. Not only that, it’s also a great way of getting ahead of your work. This is because once you know which tasks are due when, you can get ahead of them! You no longer have to rely on figuring out what to do each day but just check your timer and see what’s in store for that day. Once you’ve accomplished today’s tasks you can get ahead of tomorrow’s, and so forth.
By planning a week, two weeks, or even a month in advance, work is streamlined and doesn’t pile on. Not only does it help prevent bottlenecks in your professional life, but schedulers also allow you to track progress so you can prepare for future events. When you “see into the future,” you can prepare plenty of time to set up the resources for the next task. Your task manager should provide you with notifications, reminders, and priority tags to help make this entire process much easier.
Naturally, as you begin to schedule your detailed tasks, you should have a calendar that allows you to check upcoming deadlines, meetings, and events. Having a bulky to-do list for each day can feel confusing. That’s why it’s important to have the option of “zooming out” and viewing the monthly timeline on your calendar to stay on track of the greater vision.
This adds to the scheduling of deadlines for tasks and subtasks. Once you’ve established tasks, broken them down, and set times for each, they should pop into your calendar. What would make this even better, is if it could seamlessly add the task into your phone’s calendar so you then get live notifications of priority tasks for each day.
An important thing to note is that many of us already use a calendar system, perhaps one by Google or Microsoft. If that is the case, make sure you can either migrate to your new task manager’s calendar, or if you can import that calendar out of your task manager by using something like iCal. If it does not support two-way integration, you may find yourself bogged down by juggling between systems because the task manager lacks essential features.
Once you find an app that can help you organize your tasks and schedule them, it’s ideal to make some of these tasks recurring. That’s because things like your daily ‘wake up’ alarm, Monday meetings, Friday (or monthly) timesheets, etc. are all things that happen repeatedly.
Having the ability to create the task once and then assign it as recurring will save you time and hassle. Not only will the task be automatically posted on your calendar indefinitely, but it’ll also send you notifications beforehand, so you never forget. What makes this even more useful is the fact that a task can be created by a supervisor and then every member of the team’s calendar is automatically updated. This way, everyone is always on the same page.
Once you begin to assign more tasks to your to-do list, you’ll find that these can be difficult to keep track of. This is especially true with large teams, where everyone is working on different tasks, at different times. In order to keep the team moving in the right direction, it’s important to filter these in a way that’s easy for everyone to understand.
By assigning team members to a certain task, categorizing the project they form part of, their priority level and any other criteria, these can be filtered easier so the project manager understands what everyone is doing. Additionally, the project manager can keep track of the tasks accomplished and will have a better understanding of where (and that is if) the team is falling behind. As such, having a clear method of task tracking can help projects move along faster and make the team’s, or your own, output more efficient.
One of the most important, and often most overlooked, features of a task manager is time tracking. By keeping track of how long a task takes, you can assess whether or not its results justify the resources allocated towards it. Ultimately, time spent costs you, or your company, money. As the old saying goes, “time is money,” and this is no exception.
As well, this is a good practice to have even if you’re doing it for yourself. Daily chores, meetings, and other small tasks are often overlooked. These tasks fall under the “well, I have to do these anyway” category and as such it’s easy to spend longer on them than we should. By setting a timer, you can not only understand how much of your daily time is spent on these, but you can also find ways to minimize that time and become more efficient in your day-to-day life.
A fantastic result of proper task management is better communication among teams. Having clear objectives and assigning tasks to individual team members is what teamwork is all about. One of the most important aspects of managing a team is ensuring everyone is working at what they are best.
By keeping track of tasks and the times each member is taking to do each, you can better understand whether one team member is better suited to do a task than another. For the most part, team members will be assigned to tasks they are best at from the beginning. However, some teams have several members that are seemingly equally suited for a task. Nevertheless, one might actually be able to accomplish it quicker than the other.
The team should be able to communicate clearly, exchanging information, tasks, and updates. Keeping everyone informed of where the team is creates a sense of camaraderie that can lead to team members helping one another in more difficult tasks. A solid team is one where everyone feels a sense of “we are in this together.”
Finally, all of these aspects help you and/or the project manager get a better sense of everyone’s workflow. As with anything, building data sets helps to better understand the team’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). By keeping a clear set of everyone’s data and doing a bit of analyzing, a company can quickly find issues in the streamlining of work and can take action towards improving these.
Though we generally think of companies benefitting from this, for the most part, you can also benefit from being more self-aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. Something that you find takes longer than it should can be a great way to brainstorm ways in which you can improve.
Surprisingly, most people don’t take the time to assess themselves and correct practices that may be slowing down their overall workload. If you’ve ever found your work beginning to pile on, it’s probably because something is taking longer where it shouldn’t. As a general rule, the more you record on a daily basis, the better you’ll understand yourself. A simple way to practice this is by recording one aspect of your daily life that you otherwise wouldn’t.
For example, to improve on a single task, start by keeping track of how long it takes you to finish it. If you felt like washing the dishes takes you too long, try timing how long it actually takes you and then briefly analyzing why it’s taking you longer than it should. This could be because the dishes pile on, because you wash very slowly, or any other number of reasons. Ultimately, the longer the tasks take, the more you should look for new ways of approaching that task to finish it just as effectively, but quicker.
All in all, the only way to find the best task management app is by trying several and seeing which you feel most comfortable with. There are great web and app options available for you to choose from. Nevertheless, time management is something that can just as easily be accomplished with a pencil or pen and a sheet of paper (or notebook, if you’d rather keep it all together).
Remember that keeping track of your tasks and time-tracking them can be a fantastic way to improve your overall output and assess what features you would really appreciate from an app that can help you minimize the work you have to do to record this data by yourself.
If you’ve read through this entire article, it’s likely because you’re someone that wants to improve at what they do. Consequently, wanting to improve is the first step towards becoming more efficient and productive. The next step is understanding what it is you want to get better and finding an app that suits your needs.