Tech Manager = Task Master
We are all swamped with things to do. Not just Tech Managers, but everyone who is reading this. We feel like our boat is sinking under the tidal wave of tasks and we can’t bail out the water fast enough to stay afloat. There is more on your plate that last year or even last week. More gets piled on. More is coming. More projects, more software, more people. More, more, and then more. Everyone I talk to has a long “to-do” list that is getting longer. “Do more with less,” the boss tells you. Get on board with the “lean organizational focus” of today.
What are we to do? Can we stem the flow of all the requests we get? Can we stop the flood of needful staff that can’t get software or systems to work as expected? Will there ever be a break in the avalanche of upgrades to an ever-expanding list of apps in use today?
I am not encouraging you to be an evil taskmaster by passing all your low-level tasks off to some junior employee and then cruelly force him or her into servitude. Even if we wanted to do that, there is usually no one else to lay these burdens on. No, I am encouraging you to master your task list. Be a Task Master by mastering your tasks. Note: not to be confused with the super villain from Marvel Comics or the UK television comedy show.
I have encouraged you to make lists and have tasks defined, but now I want to suggest tools that you might use to manage those tasks. I have used some tools that have helped me, but I have not found an all-inclusive app that does it all. But along the road of my search there have been some digital and paper-based processes that have helped. I have asked many others how they manage their to-do list. I have collected ideas and tried many. Yet I still find things that have fallen through the cracks and are forgotten until the requesting person reminds me. It is frustrating and I still search for the best way to keep things from being missed.
So let’s jump in and see what is out there that you can try. Some of these I have used and some I have not. Some I have tested and others I have just heard about. Some have been recommended to me by others. Your research should be driven by your defined needs and not mine. This is not an exhaustive review of any tool, but just a peek into the mounting offerings that are out there to help you get things done.
Sticky Notes – Digital and Analog
Yes, I use sticky notes. In fact, most of my task list starts from a paper sticky note. There are stuck all over my desk (but not on my monitor). I keep a sticky note pad with me whenever I go to meetings and I jot down ideas, tasks, dates, and such—even when I am taking digital notes on my PC. Later I review them and move them to another tool that allows me to set reminders. I do not use the Windows Sticky Notes tool… again, no sticky notes on my monitor.
Outlook – Calendar and Tasks
As mentioned in previous articles, I use my Outlook calendar for many things, including tasks that I need to be reminded about. I put them into my calendar as appointments, with reminders set to let me know of an approaching deadline. Someone gave me the tip to set the start and end time of the event/task to the same time—zero minutes in length. That way your calendar does not look “full” to others who may need your time. Wait, maybe I do want it to appear full so no one can ask me for my time… oh, well.
I have not gotten into the habit of using Outlook Tasks. I just have not set up a consistent workflow that has me putting in tasks and then managing them. I know that I can set reminders, but I just have not made Tasks part of my routine. It might work for others, but not for me. As I am writing this, I went and checked my Tasks in Outlook and they are all overdue and ignored. I try to use it, but to no avail. Same thing with Google Tasks—not using it.
This has been around for a long time and I know many people who use it. It has a simple design and works on many devices, collaboration on shared tasks, notifications, and subtasks. There is a free version, but to get reminders, you need to get the premium tool. People rave about it helping them, but I have never added it to my arsenal.
This is project management and task tracking software that has easy-to-use Gantt charting and dependencies—one task flows into the next. Ease of use, clarity of interface, and advanced features are included. Assign tasks to team members, collaborate on developing project flow, and more. I have been using this tool for some time and it is great for mapping out timelines and Gantt charting projects. There is a free trial, but this is a paid tool. It integrates with Google for single sign-on.
Timeline and Critical Path are part of the Project Management tools in Wrike, but task management is at its heart. Easily manage your daily work by dragging tasks around from "Today," "This week," "Next week," or "Later." I hear good things, but have not tried this tool yet.
While Evernote may not be a classic ToDo list kind of tool, it does allow you collect everything in one place. Notes, reminders, photos, web pages—just about everything you can think of. All available on any device you might have. Google Single sign-on and other features make it easy to use. I have used this for years—not so much as a task list creator, but as a collection point for many items I have scattered about.
I am investigating this one now. It is based on the Eisenhower method of defining quadrants and placing tasks in areas based on time, urgency, necessity, and more. It is a prioritization tool that allows you to move things from one quadrant to another by drag and drop. You can set due dates and reminders. There is a collaboration feature that allows you to share task lists. Free trial leading to a paid subscription model.
Others that have been mentioned to me include: Centrallo, easynot.io, MeisterTask, PinTask, ToDo Cloud, TrackingTime, and Trello. Then there is also HiTask, Nirvana, Remember the Milk, and Zendone. Some are free and some are paid.
I am sure there are more and I encourage you to email me some of your ideas and tools that you use. The ones you are using might not even be on my list. “How could you forget…” could be in your mind right now. Whatever you do to help you remember tasks and not let things fall through the cracks will make your life easier and those you support very happy.