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Time Management Tips: Software Task Management Systems Explained

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Time Management Tips: Software Task Management Systems Explained.

Too often, we tend to think of our To Do List in isolation, that is we think of the list of actions itself as the start and finish of our ‘system. If it’s on the list it generally gets done, if it’s not, it doesn’t.

Sound even a little bit familiar?

The problem with this rather simplistic way of looking at our tasks is that it completely ignores the ‘process’ going on around them – the task capture, the thought processes required to properly process/sort our tasks, the tools and techniques with which we can not only help us organize our tasks, but to remain focused and productive.

The reality is that, to be truly effective – and productive – we need
more than a list. We need a complete ‘start to finish system’.

And more often than not, it’s because we don't have this complete system in place to manage our tasks - at work and at home – we never actually achieve the personal effectiveness we’re always looking for.

What’s more, because our task lists offer just a small snapshot of what we have to do, we have a constantly worrying feeling that we have missed something important.
Similarly, while we always seem to be ‘busy’, we still never ever achieve the goals and targets we have set ourselves.

So why is having a full-blown task management system so much more effective than just running a To Do list?

For a start, because a task management system is comprehensive, it is capable of capturing everything that we need to do, both in our work and domestic lives.

By adopting such an ‘all-of-life approach’, you immediately feel much more in control, confident that you have captured everything you need to, ought to, or want to do and that nothing has fallen between the cracks.

This immediately removes the feeling of overwhelm that you experience when you’re not sure what you have to do, as you struggle to work through a collection of random and ill-defined tasks.

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Getting Your Software System Set Up.

The first step in setting up a task management system is to identify and bring together all of your possible ‘incomplete’ tasks.

This means scouring through e-mail inboxes, random bits of paper, sticky notes, answerphone messages, whiteboards, pending piles and in-trays to uncover everything you need to do.

You should also gather up any reference material for all the projects that you have on the go. If that means sorting through your ‘filing’ stack, so be it – it’s been there long enough. 

And don’t forget to interrogate your own memory – a brain dumping session is immensely cathartic as it immediately removes the burden of worrying about forgetting things.

Establish 'Buckets' For Capturing Tasks.

Having done this, set up a series of collection baskets, boxes or filing trays into which all future items can find a home. To make your system as streamlined as possible, only have the minimum number of collection baskets you can get away with.

For example, rather than having a collection of notes and messages on scraps of paper and sticky notes, why not have a Day Book containing each day’s messages, notes and other useful reference material in one place?

You should then establish - and follow - rules for what should be done with every piece of paper or information that comes into your system. And not only you, but others around you, should follow these rules, simplifying everyone’s life in one go.

Processing Your Tasks.

When you have gathered together all your material, you can begin the second stage of the system, which is to sort it into categories.

There should be a limited number of things that can happen to any piece of material that comes into your system. If it is irrelevant or no longer of any use, it should be binned or deleted without hesitation

If it is reference material, physical or electronic, it should be filed and stored under an appropriate project or job heading. This can relate to work or a domestic project, such as Holidays or Healthcare.

If it relates to a task that doesn't need to be done in the near future, it can be deferred to a later date, and a reminder set up on some form of calendar.

If it relates to a task that can be done - to a sufficient standard - by someone else who has the time, it should be delegated to them.

If it relates to a small job that takes less than two minutes to complete, it should simply be done. That way you can tick it off your mental list, and feel like you are starting to build momentum.

Any items that remain uncategorized at the end of this exercise must, by default, be ‘actionable’ - tasks that need to be completed, either in the short- or long-term.

Download Arrow IconDownload Free Version of ShoutDone To Do List Software

Planning When To Do Your Tasks.

The next stage is to further process all your actions by dividing them by ‘time context’, in other words when they need to be done.

First of all, pull out all the ‘Daily’ actions that need to be done regularly.

This might apply to such things as remembering to water the flowers, doing some exercise or setting aside time each day to learn a language, or practice an instrument . They are constant reminders of a regular commitment.

Next, select those that tasks that need doing within the next 24 hours or so - these are urgent ‘Now’ tasks.

Then, identify the items that need to be done in the next two to seven days. These are ‘Next’ tasks that will replace the ‘Now’ items once they’ve been completed.

Items that don't need to be done within the next seven days but which you need to do or would like to do within the next month go into a ‘Soon’ category.

Any items which you have delegated to others and which require future follow-up, as well as tasks and projects on which you are awaiting feedback, acknowledgement or further information and don’t want to lose sight of, go into a ‘Waiting’ category.

Using the simple processing/organizing steps above, you'll have a simple method of capturing and dealing with every task or piece of information that comes your way.

Make Use of Software Tools.

While it is possible to get yourself organized using a paper-based system, it is far better to input all your tasks into a task management system, like our very own ShoutDone, which allows you to organize your tasks not just by time contexts, but also location (office, town), people required (colleague, spouse), and resources needed (phone, computer).

Such systems give you the flexibility to create ‘living lists’ that you can sort and re-sort, depending on circumstances, so that you’re always doing the right thing for maximum efficiency.

So, if you want to see your personal productivity reaching new heights, it’s time to stop bucking the system and adopt one.

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About ShoutDone To Do List Software.

To do list software is an essential tool in our daily battle for increased productivity, reduced stress and a better work-life balance.

ShoutDone is a powerful task management system that presents your projects and tasks in a new light thanks to its unique, high quality interface.

With simple-to-use yet powerful features, ShoutDone will have you working more productively than ever before in only a matter of minutes. Your life, more organized.

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