5 Essential Tools to Help Manage Your To Do List and Get Things Done
Whatever your line of work, project management is important — even if this is as simple as a to do list on a scrap of paper. There are countless tools that you can use to help keep on top of what you need to get done, and it makes sense to turn to an online service so you can synchronize your to do list and access it from any computer, and any device. There are lots of distractions online so it’s important that you know what you need to get done, and when.
It can be difficult to know where to look for the best task management software — there’s just so much choice! But there’s no need to splash out on expensive software. Take a look around the web and you’ll find all manner of free and low-cost services that should cater perfectly for your needs — no matter how demanding you are.
Any.Do is an extremely versatile tool that we actually mentioned in our recent Gmail add-ons roundup. At its heart, this is a relatively simple online to do list manager, but there are also mobile apps available iOS and Android — more than this, there is also a Chrome extension. The beauty of Any.Do is that it is any but overwhelming. The simplicity of the layout is immediately inviting, and it is possible to define a number of columns so you can maintain a number of different list — perhaps work and personal projects.
Tasks can be added so you always know what you have to do over the coming days and weeks, but there’s also the option of adding reminder. For complicated tasks, you can add a number of sub-tasks which is useful if you want to break it down into a number of smaller jobs or you’re sharing the project between workers. It’s a free tool, so there’s nothing to lose in trying it out. It’s missing some of the features of more advanced tools, but it could well be everything you need.
It’s all well and good knowing what you have to get done, but sometimes we all need a little encouragement; this is where Beeminder can help. At first it sounds like something of a strange idea, but it’s a great way to help cut back on procrastination. We all have things we need to do regularly. It might be sending out an email newsletter, writing a certain number of blog posts per week, or brainstorming batches of new ideas. If you can quantify something, Beeminder can be used to help keep you on track.
You need to set yourself a goal — be it writing a certain number of words, or gaining a certain number of new leads — and defined the period over which to achieve it. You are, essentially, aiming to complete, on average, the relevant number of tasks each day, week, or month. Beeminder will remind you of your goal, but if you need some extra encouragement, there is an added incentive. Veer off track and you’ll receive a warning. You’ll then be asked to pledge money so the next time you fail to hit your target you are fined — this is a strong incentive to hit deadlines, even if they are self-imposed!
Google’s tools are so ubiquitous that they almost blend into the background and end up getting forgotten. Countless people turn to Google’s Gmail to cater for their email needs, but all too often the equally powerful Google Calendar is overlooked. This is a shame because it is a wonderfully flexible and versatile tool — it does not matter whether you are managing a small business or just your own schedule.
The ability to pull in events from other people’s calendars and to let other know when you are free or busy means it’s ideal for managing the schedules of teams of various sizes. There’s tight integration with other Google services like Gmail and Drive so if you are committed to other parts of the Google eco-system there’s a lot to gain.
When it comes to getting things done, there is no system more famous than David Allen’s Getting Things Done. There are a number of tools and service that use GTD as their basis, and one such tool is Nirvana. If Nirvana looks like it means business, that’s because it does. It borrow many ideas from web-based email, and lets you easily assign priorities to the tasks you need to complete — anything from a strict deadline to the more vague ‘Someday’.
Nirvana enables you to tag your tasks so you can see at a glance not only when they are due, but also how energy- and time-intensive they are; valuable information when you are deciding between two tasks of equal importance. For projects that include multiple sub-tasks, you can define workflows — such as for tasks that have to be completed in a particular order — but you can also keep things simple if you prefer.
There’s a free package available, but if you want the flexibility to create and manage an unlimited number of projects, the $5 per month or $39 per year packages could be what you need.
Another tool that works on the GTD principle is GTDNext. This simple tool strips things back to create something that is instantly accessible yet surprisingly powerful. It is described as offering ‘hierarchical task management’. And the free version can be used to manage up to 200 items — if your needs are greater, you may want to look at the paid-for packages. GTDNext is a little more approachable than Nirvana, but there’s a handy tutorial to help get you started. There’s also an active community where you can speak with other users.
At the moment there are no mobile apps available, but the website works fine on a smaller screen. The web app may look a little basic, but it is surprisingly powerful. It is basic enough to be used to simple day-to-day tasks, but has sufficient feature to make it suitable for SMEs and team projects.
Are there any other to do list or project managers you’ve come to rely on?