The Horrific Things I’ve Done to My Task Management Software

I use a much abused copy of a task management software to keep track of the tasks necessary to get various projects done. Despite using broad tasks — “Write a 500-word article” — my piece of software is particularly overworked.

I’m not naming the specific software I use because I’m pretty sure the support team there could identify me just by what I’ve done to the underlying database. The first time I tried to sync this particular database to the iPhone version of the software, I had some problems and had to call tech support. “That’s the biggest database we’ve ever seen for this product!” was their response.

A Method to My Abuse

I’ve reduced the size of my database since then, but my version of this particular piece of software is still on the sad side.

I started out with software that is meant to support the GTD system. A pure version of GTD simply didn’t work for me, for reasons discussed previously. But certain aspects, like the idea of getting everything out of my head and down on paper, definitely make my life easier. It didn’t make this particular piece of software’s day any easier, though — for quite a while, I was just recording those ideas as tasks, just as I was typing tasks like calling a client.

In a way, I wish I was still doing exactly that. Having everything in one place worked very well for me. But just removing the ideas tasks made my software run significantly faster. I’ve now got them stashed in an Evernote account, which works pretty well.

Project Management and Much More

I get lots of opportunities to tell people what to do and that made my task management software’s life much worse. I have a few other freelancers who I work with regularly as well as some great people who I get to collaborate with. I also work with a virtual assistant. I even have a wonderful husband who allows me to be just a bit bossy. And, for everybody involved, I list tasks in my task management software.

I’ve been trying to get away from that approach — relying on Google Wave to share lists of tasks and therefore get them back out of my task management software — but with the impending demise of Google Wave, I’ve been forced to consider the idea that I’m going to have to find a more robust solution.

I don’t know what that’s going to look like. The idea of moving everything out of my current system honestly scares me. But I’m finding I have to give my systems room to grow: very few people take on less over time and anyone with a creative approach is likely to be even worse.

The Winning Parts of My Software

There are reasons that I haven’t switched away from this much-abused task management software, though.

It allows me to put tasks within a context — I can group together everything that can easily be done without switching softwares or mindsets. I have all of the writing I actually have to in a given day grouped together. I look at exactly one place (which means I don’t have a chance to get distracted or convince myself that something takes precedence over actually writing) and I can immediately get to work. The same goes for certain tools I use regularly: I list all the tasks I have to do while a particular piece of software, like Quickbooks, is open, no matter what project a given task is part of. Then I can just blast through those tasks in one go.

This software also makes it easy for me to add personal tasks — I don’t want to go to different places to find different tasks, after all. Since I work from home, I routinely do laundry and other household tasks when I take breaks from my work. That means I need to have an easy way to keep track of those household tasks.

Lastly, I don’t really want to change. Things will keep humming along at least a little while longer and getting used to a new system would slow me down. Change is coming, but I can put it off a little longer.

So what about you? What works in your system and what simply doesn’t? Do you abuse the software or system a bit and hope things keep on ticking?

Image by Flickr user Julie Jordan Scott

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One Response to “ The Horrific Things I’ve Done to My Task Management Software ”

  1. Harry says:

    I’ve been juggling Evernote and OneNote for a couple of years. Both have their strong points, but I can never get away from the much abused notebook in my hip pocket. The biggest problem is that I don’t always take the time to convert these resources into tasks. Consequently, things fall through the cracks.

    I’ve also juggled Google Apps and Zoho apps for a couple of years. Each keeps jockeying for the the number one spot in my heart as they each add new services and features. Aaaargh!

    At lease once a week I have to force myself away from the techno hunt in order to get some real work done. Couple this with writing about outdoorsish subjects and the need to get outside to do “research” and you can see my need for a way to keep my tasks in line. And I’m still trying to refine my GTD system to fit my needs.

    I’ll keep a close eye on your blog and hope it serves as a lifeline for me. Thanks for you insights.

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