A Simple Task Management Software Technique for Improving Your
When the business environment calls on us to do more and more in less and less time, if we’re
not careful, it’s easy for work to take over our home life too.
Increasingly, we leave for the officer earlier, get home later, even end up having to work our
weekends. And if that weren’t enough, smartphones, laptops and now tablets mean we are contactable
round the clock, wherever we are.
Happy times! :-S
If things start getting out of hand, they can fast become a recipe for rising stress, poor
health and failed marriages. To stop that happening we need to find a way to achieve a sustainable
work-life balance, and that’s going to take something more than just a handwritten To Do list or a
dusty old day-planner straight out of the Eighties.
In today’s technological world, turning to a software solution would seem the obvious answer for
making sure that we increase our levels of productivity to the point where we regain control of our
home life, while still being able to keep our place in the corporate pecking order.
Same Old Problems.
However, one of the major problems with traditional To Do list software (that is, software that
simply mimics the linear format of the traditional to do list) is that everything - phone calls,
meetings, emails we have to send and reports we have to write, along with any domestic and personal
action points - tends to get bundled together onto a central list or a series of lists that just
seem to get longer and never, ever, shorter.
And once on a 'linear list', tasks can prove difficult to move around. Using standard software
packages we may be able to assign them to one project or another, but that doesn’t give a lot of
The result is that we have to keep checking and sorting through different lists to find what we
need to do and when.
Not only is that time consuming, trying to maintain lists like this soon turns into a tedious
chore in itself. And when that happens, it’s not too long before we abandon any list
making system and go back to muddling through on bits of paper.
I’m sure you’ve tried using systems in the past, only to fall back to your basic written lists
on occasion – most of us have done the exact same thing!
Unfortunately, this is the way that most To Do list software packages are set up. So, while they
may be a slight improvement over handwritten lists, they still don't give you the task management
flexibility you need to manage a busy life.
A New Breed of Software Tools.
These limitations have led to the evolution of a ‘new breed’ of task management software that
takes a more user-friendly, multi-dimensional and ‘real world’ approach to managing tasks, in
contrast to the rigidity of standard To Do list software.
Among the numerous advantages that this new era software offers over the old, is its ability to
tag tasks by their context.
While we tend to think about when we should do a particular job – traditional task software
works mainly by attaching tasks to a specific date and hour - generally we don’t think too much
about where or how we do them and with whom. But these ‘contexts’ are crucially important when it
comes to managing and organizing both our short- and long-term tasks in a more productive
Some jobs can be done anywhere, so they are highly flexible ‘to dos’ that don’t require any
specific equipment or location for you to tackle them – for example reading a report.
And with the rise of mobile devices and new platforms such as the iPad and other tablets, more
and more tasks are becoming location-free and ‘can-do anywhere’.
Similarly with phone calls, we can make them wherever we are, as long as we have a phone (a
signal) and phone number.
But there are two major advantages to being able to sort tasks by contexts such as where and how
and with whom, as well as when.
1) Adapting Your List to Your Circumstances.
Firstly, by allowing us to repeatedly sort and filter our tasks, we can easily adapt our task
lists to suit our circumstances at any particular moment.
No matter how carefully we plan our day, the day doesn’t always go to plan. If a change occurs,
we can manipulate our lists to reflect this new circumstance, and always have something productive
to do with our time.
Grouping Like Tasks For Maximum Productivity.
Secondly, it overcomes the problem of having dissimilar types of tasks together on the same
list, which then forces us to continually switch between thinking modes – writing one minute,
talking to someone on the phone the next.
By being able to sort tasks by their context, we can ‘batch’ our tasks - in other words, we can
do similar tasks together as a group, which is a far more efficient and productive way of working,
compared to switching between types of jobs the whole time. And this is a system we can apply to
our personal, domestic or family lists, just as easily as the ones we create for work and business,
allowing us to optimize all of our time, professionally and domestically.
You can create as many different contexts as you need to ‘categorize’ your life. And, the more
you create, the more flexible will your lists become. So, for example, you could have @home
(for domestic items), @kids (for things to do with the children) or @fun (for personal time tasks),
as well as @office, for your office-only tasks.
In an ever more ‘connected’ world, where we can reach out (and are
reachable) from pretty much anywhere, the distinction between work
and home is becoming increasingly blurred. So, adopting a ‘whole life’
system that works for both makes absolute sense.
Using a task management system that uses contexts, you will be able to work more flexibly and
productively, bringing greater efficiency to the way you manage your time.
You can work to one system that you can trust implicitly to organize every element of your life,
both professional and domestic. And when you have that kind of system in place, you will be far
better able to ensure that work and life remain in perfect balance.