Jump to content
tavor

EN users: what's your favorite task manager?

Recommended Posts

I've been using Remember the Milk for years, long before I started using EN. RTM is not great for notes, and once I started using EN, I moved all the notes to EN, and used RTM's very basic Evernote linkage to create tasks from those EN notes. 

Anyway, it's been more than a decade since I looked into task managers, and I'm wondering what's out there today, and in particular, what integrates well with EN? So who better to ask than EN users. Also, if you've used RTM in the past, if you could share any advantages your new task manager has over RTM, that would be helpful, thanks.

Share this post


Link to post

I understand your interest in looking around,  I really do - but don't forget Finagle's First Law of Computing.  If it works don't fix it!!

RTM has a solid rep as a task manager,  and I use TickTick,  which has a similarly basic link to Evernote.  All I care about is that it works.  ;)

Share this post


Link to post
1 hour ago, gazumped said:

I understand your interest in looking around,  I really do - but don't forget Finagle's First Law of Computing.  If it works don't fix it!!

That's the thing - it doesn't really work well for me. My 'Next Action' list in RTM has become overwhelming with > 100 'next actions'. I find myself creating a note in EN each morning with a (more realistic) checklist of what I want to do that day. Not that this is a problem with RTM per se - more of a problem of me narrowing the 'Next Action' list down to a list that is manageable to tackle in a day. But since I'm fixing to do an overhaul of my task list, I figured I'd see what task managers EN users prefer and what advantages they may have over RTM.

I guess that also opens up the possibility of managing tasks in EN, though it seems EN isn't really suited to that.

Share this post


Link to post

This post might be of interest -

 

Share this post


Link to post
24 minutes ago, csihilling said:

This post might be of interest -

 

RTM already integrates with EN, though at a very basic level - if I add a reminder with a due date to an EN note, it automatically shows up as a task in RTM, and then I can manipulate it as I could any RTM task. Once the task is marked complete in RTM, the reminder is turned off on the EN note. In RTM, if I want to access the related EN note, I click on the elephant icon associated with the task and it brings up the note in EN desktop or browser.

That's the extent of the integration. Workable, but fairly basic.

Share this post


Link to post
1 hour ago, tavor said:

My 'Next Action' list in RTM has become overwhelming with > 100 'next actions'.

Welcome to my world!  The problem with any task management system is information overload.  It's too easy to spend more time 'maintaining' the system - which includes rescheduling tasks you had down for today but didn't get around to - than actually working on the tasks.  I don't know if any system is perfect.  As I said my principle TM is TickTick - which will automatically carry tasks over from one day to the next if it's not done - but I also use Workflowy / Kanban / MindMapping tools from time to time to replan,  or just to list what's outstanding and reappraise tasks and deadlines.  And I still ***** up.  Not often,  but still...

I had a presentation assigned to me a long while ago that was kind've a Socratian (Socratean?) exercise;  "compare the benefit of quantity over quality" which was enlightening - I convinced myself (and an audience) that being good enough most of the time was actually necessary in business if things weren't to grind to a halt.

Hence I spend minimal time maintaining the actual mechanism of my TM system,  but I do review,  replan and reset it on a regular basis.  That old Plan / Do / Review thing...

Good to see the net nanny is still with us...  I forgot!  :D

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

@tavor

Some process change you can implement to cut back on the next actions?  Or complete a few to cut the list down?  ;)

Share this post


Link to post

>>EN users: what's your favorite task manager?

I'm just using Evernote, after incorporating GTD methodology
There are compromises, but I like having all my data in one place.
If I did decide to go to a different service, one of my requirements would be that it integrates with Evernote.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
1 hour ago, tavor said:

My 'Next Action' list in RTM has become overwhelming with > 100 'next actions'.

What is your definition of "Next Action"
In my projects I may have a list of Actions, but the ones flagged as Next is very compact.

Also, my Next Actions are further defined by a When attribute.
If they aren't flagged as Now or Soon I'm not looking at them on a daily basis.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
7 minutes ago, DTLow said:

What is your definition of "Next Action"
In my projects I may have a list of Actions, but the ones flagged as Next is very compact.

Also, my Next Actions are further defined by a When attribute.
If they aren't flagged as Now or Soon I'm not looking at them on a daily basis.

When I set up RTM, it was based on David Allen's GTD system. So for every project, hobby, etc. (each of which is a list in RTM), there are tasks that are next actions, and those all filter into my overwhelming 'Next Action' smartlist.

I suppose what I need to do is use RTM's prioritization tags (priority 1, 2, 3, no priority), then create smartlists that contains only priority 1 or priority 1 & 2 tasks to create a list I can look at in the morning and feel motivated, not overwhelmed.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
24 minutes ago, csihilling said:

@tavor

Some process change you can implement to cut back on the next actions?  Or complete a few to cut the list down?  ;)

Complete tasks? Are you mad? The point of technology is managing tasks to give us a sense of order, but never having to complete them. :P

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Several great ideas to deal with here.

2 hours ago, gazumped said:

If it works don't fix it!!

This is true in the abstract, but in practice, I find it wrong.  I'll give an example.  Say your TM system works as is, but changing it would save you as little as 5 minutes a week.  Say it takes 3 hours to master the new system.  Breakeven becomes pure math at that point (180/5 = 36 weeks).  The payoff begins in less than a year.  How long is your professional life.  I find the moral of that quote is more about not frequently changing before you realize the benefits of the current system and have some analysis of the benefits of the new system to actual productivity before committing to a switch.

 

11 minutes ago, gazumped said:

The problem with any task management system is information overload.  It's too easy to spend more time 'maintaining' the system - which includes rescheduling tasks you had down for today but didn't get around to - than actually working on the tasks. 

This was our biggest challenge with every TM system until we read Michael Linenberger's Total Workday Control.  The book has many good ideas, but the "a ha" for us was due dates suck (title of future blog post).  Life in complex organizations means self-imposed due dates always get pushed and prioritization is  fluid.  We needed to build a process that allows quick re-prioritization and FOCUS so we can accomplish what is needed today.  We've been able to build an acceptable system using many task managers; each with its tradeoffs.  Daily/Weekly reviews make sure stuff gets shifted appropriately, but such "planning" is incredibly well spent time.  It feels like a lot, but 2-3 hrs/week is fine if you intend to measure twice and cut once.

 

7 minutes ago, DTLow said:

There are compromises, but I like having all my data in one place.

We agree.  Evernote is a great place to keep data.  We find it's not so great a place for action items.  Data seems to stay static longer and action items seem to have several fluid aspects to them that make managing them in Evernote more challenging (even with TSW).  For us, our action items had changing due dates, priorities and often assignees.  We needed a system to deal with this.  

There were many task managers that addressed these issues, but they all tied to Evernote via the Note Title/Reminders because that's the way the Evernote API works.  That's great if each of your tasks is represented as a note, but it doesn't work if you take meeting notes and have several resulting tasks in one note.  

We created TaskClone to get those tasks out of Evernote and into any of 40+ task apps.  Azendoo followed us an integrated this ability with their task app and Swipes followed them and did the same.  None of us are perfect, but we address a particular issue of getting your tasks into a proper task management system.  

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

One of my more specific struggles with RTM (and this may be applicable to all task managers) is that I often create tasks that are really multiple discrete tasks rolled into one. And it can be difficult to get motivated to tackle these, and breaking it into bite size discrete tasks may be the solution.

But then I need to create a 'list' in RTM (i.e., make it into a project) that stores all the discrete tasks for that project. Trouble is, I never look through all the RTM lists. Plus, having all these discrete tasks in a list doesn't give me a good hierarchical overview of the project - every item is a task, even if some are relatively unimportant and sub-tasks of larger parts of the project. And you need a separate list to see the completed tasks for that project. Seems like an EN note (or a cluster of notes that are note linked to each other) would be better for getting an overview of a project than a huge list of tasks, some of which are critical, and some of which are trivial.

But if I create a task out of that EN note (which RTM can do), then I'm back to a supersize task that represents lots of discrete tasks and isn't easy to get motivated to tackle.

Share this post


Link to post
7 minutes ago, tavor said:

One of my more specific struggles with RTM (and this may be applicable to all task managers) is that I often create tasks that are really multiple discrete tasks rolled into one. And it can be difficult to get motivated to tackle these, and breaking it into bite size discrete tasks may be the solution.

But then I need to create a 'list' in RTM (i.e., make it into a project) that stores all the discrete tasks for that project. Trouble is, I never look through all the RTM lists. Plus, having all these discrete tasks in a list doesn't give me a good hierarchical overview of the project - every item is a task, even if some are relatively unimportant and sub-tasks of larger parts of the project. And you need a separate list to see the completed tasks for that project. Seems like an EN note would be better for getting an overview.

This is a challenge for most.  I tend to write down what I otherwise wouldn't remember or what would clog my brain trying to remember.  Sometimes it's worth it to create a task/subtask structure and sometimes I just make notes to the task description.  Definitely a good idea to keep pertinent information in your visual frame whether you use filters (e.g. Todoist) or Kanban (e.g. Trello),  Having to look at lists that are currently irrelevant or too detailed is often de-motivating.  Whatever you can do to FOCUS is key IMHO.

Share this post


Link to post
17 minutes ago, tavor said:

I suppose what I need to do is use RTM's prioritization tags (priority 1, 2, 3, no priority), then create smartlists that contains only priority 1 or priority 1 & 2 tasks to create a list I can look at in the morning and feel motivated, not overwhelmed.

I don't actually use a priority indicator; relying more on my When Now/Soon/Later attribute.
Of course, if I have n items due for Now, I guess I do prioritize but the list seems manageable.

In my project reviews I'm thinking a priority flag might confuse the issue.
Everything seems to get flagged as high priority, and a task with due date Now must be done Now regardless of the priority.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

@TaskClone

Say it takes 3 hours to master the new system.

  • Issue for some is they spend the same 3 hours multiple times a year.  ;)

The book has many good ideas, but the "a ha" for us was due dates suck (title of future blog post).  Life in complex organizations means self-imposed due dates always get pushed and prioritization is  fluid.  We needed to build a process that allows quick re-prioritization and FOCUS so we can accomplish what is needed today.

  • As soon as one allows due dates to become abstract, they suck.  IMO, the key is to try and only assign due dates to inviolate tasks, as best one can.  Sometimes this occurs when the task is created and oftentimes as the fire begins to rage as the tasks priority hits DEFCON 1.  Key is to find a personal way of blending true dated work with high priority but not dated work whilst controlling the rest.  No Twinkine dust for this I have found.
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
5 minutes ago, csihilling said:

As soon as one allows due dates to become abstract, they suck.  IMO, the key is to try and only assign due dates to inviolate tasks, as best one can. 

Agreed.  Most tasks don't really have true due dates.  By only assigning due dates to the ones that do, most will have very few.  Even the tasks with true due dates typically have several subtasks without due dates, but that need to be backwards mapped to make the due date happen for the main task.

Share this post


Link to post
14 minutes ago, TaskClone said:

Agreed.  Most tasks don't really have true due dates.  By only assigning due dates to the ones that do, most will have very few.  Even the tasks with true due dates typically have several subtasks without due dates, but that need to be backwards mapped to make the due date happen for the main task.

Yup, and that is where the individual view of how to manage tasks and your aforementioned planning time kicks in. 

One can observe someone who gets things done well and plagiarize them, but if it doesn't fit one's eye it doesn't work.  You can however learn from them and integrate into your own system.  That's the bit I find most interesting, no absolutes.  Nice your product integrates to so many other platforms.

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...