One of the keys to being a productive woman is having a system in place to track and manage all the things we need to do in each area of responsibility. The options for task management systems and tools are as varied as we are. Nothing works for everyone, but there really is something that will work for each of us.
Task Management for Busy Women
Why a Task Management System?
You can improve your productivity by establishing a system for managing the projects and tasks that you need or want to do. If you have only a few things to do, you can perhaps manage them in your head, but it's better to get it out of your head and into a trusted system, which frees up your mind for better things, like creative thinking.
What Kind of Task Management System Do You Need?
What you need depends on your circumstances, your personality, your working style. There's no one system or tool that's perfect for everyone.
What Are the Options?
They span the spectrum from low tech to high tech, from simple to robust, from local to portable. Choose the tools that work for you, and start with the simplest tool that will get the job done. This list is by no means comprehensive. If I've omitted your favorite, share yours via the comments.
Great for people who are visually oriented and mostly work in one location,
2. Notepad or notebook
Inexpensive and portable, these can be a simple way to keep track of your to-dos, but you have to rewrite any tasks that don't get completed, and if you leave your notebook behind, you don't have access to your list.
3. Index Cards
Also inexpensive and portable, these can help you avoid overwhelm by focusing your attention on just the few tasks that MUST get done on a particular day, but they may not be enough to manage complex projects.
4. Built-in App (like Apple's Reminders app, or the task list in Outlook)
These come built in to your computer or device's operating system, so they're free, and generally can synchronize across your devices, but they're not as customizable or as easily organized as you might need for managing multiple projects.
5. List-makers like Wunderlist
Wunderlist is list-making on steroids, allowing you to easily create multiple lists for different projects, share lists with family or team members, set up reminders and due dates. It's available on all platforms. There is a free version or a paid “Pro” version with expanded functionality.
6. Nozbe (an affiliate link that will get you 10% off the regular price if you decide to sign up after the 30-day free trial)
A more customizable tool for managing multiple projects and viewing your projects and tasks in different ways. It's available on all platforms and reliably synchronizes across all your devices. I love how easy it is to rearrange my “today” to-do list by simply dragging tasks into the order I want to do them. There's an annual subscription cost, but they offer a free 30-day trial.
This is the most robust task/project management system I've used so far. Incredibly flexible and customizable, it lets you create, view, and process your projects and tasks in the way that makes sense to you. OmniFocus is great for people with multiple areas of responsibility and many projects to manage. It's not the least expensive option, but worth it if it's the kind of tool that helps you get your “stuff” done. They offer a free 14-day trial of the Mac version. It's available only on Apple devices.
If you need to work with a team to manage a project, you definitely want to look into Asana. It has a nice user interface and is web-based (so it's available from any computer with internet access) and synchronizes with apps on your iOS or Android devices. Asana is intended to consolidate in one place communication, document-sharing, and task/project management for teams. They offer a free trial, a free version for small teams, and a premium version (with expanded functionality) for only $21 per month for up to 5 team members.
What Do You Do With It?
You need a simple, frictionless way to gather all the tasks and ideas and reminders and reference materials–everything that has your attention, no matter how small or large. Everything goes into that one system or tool, so you don't have to remember to remember! This is an ongoing process, and the best tools make it easy and quick.
Take time regularly to go through the “stuff” you've put into your tool's inbox and decide what to do with it. Is it actionable? If it can be done in 2 minutes or less, just do it. If it'll take longer, decide whether to delegate it or add to a list to do when you have time. If it's not actionable, decide whether to trash it, file it for reference, or put it on a “someday/maybe” list.
For the tasks you've decided to do, your system should allow you to organize them in the way that makes sense for you. I like to sort by “contexts”–grouping tasks by where I need to be to do them, or by what equipment I need to do them. So perhaps a list of phone calls to make, a list of errands to run, a list of tasks I need to do at my computer.
The key to making your system work is to schedule regular time to review all the projects and tasks, to make sure nothing gets lost or forgotten, to decide when to do what, and maybe to decide to drop a task or project that's no longer important to you.
Task management is about getting things done, not about managing the system itself!
What do you think?
What did I miss? Is there a task management tool or system you use that works really well? Share your thoughts in the comments section below, or email me!
Suggestions for an upcoming episode?
I'd love to have your help for an upcoming episode on “Productivity Rules That Don't Work.” No matter what “they” say, nothing works for everybody all the time. I'd like to talk about the “rules” that “everybody” says we must follow. What time management or organization “rules” have you heard that just do not work for you? Please send your thoughts to me via email at email@example.com or send a voice message by clicking on the button near the top right of the website (or the “voicemail” button at the top of The Productive Woman Facebook page. Thank you for helping me make the upcoming episode really helpful to listeners!
How Can I Help You?
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