Choosing the Right Task List Software: 10 Essential Tips.
You’ve decided that using pen and paper to create your To Do lists isn’t the way to manage a
busy life or to stay on top of your workload, and you know there has to be software out there that
will do the job, but even a cursory search reveals an overwhelming choice.
So which to choose?
Pick the wrong one, and you will not only waste time and effort learning the application in the
first place, but you will then lose even more time inputting information that you then can’t use in
the way you want. So it pays to spend some time finding To Do List software that’s right for you
and asking a few questions before committing to one particular application.
1) Is the software easy to use?
Good software should be intuitive to use. If you can’t find your way around at the least the
basics without a technical manual, then it probably isn’t. You may eventually get used to the
system, but why bother going through a frustrating and time-consuming learning curve? If after a
few days you are still not sure how to use even some of its everyday features or have to keep
referring to Help, it’s probably not for you.
2) Does it offer a ‘quality’ experience?
Why work with a dull and uninspiring interface each day when you could have one that’s exciting?
Software that mimics traditional To Do lists is for the most part pretty dull, so look out for a
new generation of task management software that offers a more pleasurable interface that will
appeal to younger ’digital natives’ brought up on Facebook and YouTube. Watch out for features that
make the whole process of task management more enjoyable, such as ‘spotlight’ features that let you
focus on just one area of the screen, or ‘float to the top’ task control that gives you an
immediate overview of your next priority.
3) Can you ‘tag’ your tasks with multiple contexts?
Traditional To Do lists will let you assign tasks to a particular time or a single project,
which is fine, but for true flexibility you need to be able to attach your tasks to multiple
contexts. Contexts are basically the places we do things, who we do them with and the things that
we need to be able to do them. If you can tag tasks in this way, then you can sort and filter your
tasks into infinitely adaptable lists, so that always have to hand the most appropriate list of
tasks for the moment.
4) Does it contain an effective follow up system?
It would be great if we could complete every task first time round, every time. Unfortunately,
that doesn’t happen and often jobs, through lack of information or action by others, have to be
deferred until a later date. So any To Do List software should have a good follow up system that
allows you to easily and quickly reassign jobs for future action, preferably with an in-built alert
for making sure you do.
5) Is it simple to enter information into the software?
Being able to input tasks easily into the software is a fundamental requirement, so if the whole
process feels long-winded then you will quickly lose patience and stop using it. Check that you can
enter multiple items one after the other quickly, without having to go to other screens or use too
many clicks. A ‘short cut’ that enables you to add regularly used information with a single click
is a useful feature.
6) Can you synchronize with other devices?
We are living in an ever-more-mobile world, where we can be working on the road one day, from a
remote office the next, then from home at the weekend. And when you are at home with your laptop,
the last thing you want is to have your task list locked into your desktop PC at the office. So, if
you are a mobile worker, task management software that is cloud-based could be the answer.
With cloud-based applications, all your software and information lives on a remote server, not
on your computer. This means that as long as you have Internet access, all you have to do is log on
to your task management account and you can call up your task lists wherever you are. And, being
cloud-based, you can do this across platforms, so it doesn’t matter whether you are using a PC,
Mac, laptop, smartphone or tablet.
7) Will the software let you work collaboratively?
Another benefit of cloud-based applications is that you can create accounts that can be used by
multiple users. So, if you are working as part of a team on a project, everyone can see what tasks
need to be done and update task status – if it has been completed, by whom and when – in real time,
so that everyone can be working to the latest information and on the most up to date documents.
8) Do you enjoy using it?
If the overall experience of using the application is poor, you won’t bother using it. So make
sure you spend time testing out any To Do List software to see what it can do … and what it can’t.
If little niggles quickly begin to irritate you, things are only likely to get worse when you are
using the package regularly throughout the day. If that’s the case, don’t spend too long trying to
‘fit the software’, move on and find one that fits you.
You can really only answer these questions by using the software, so take advantage of free
trials. If you find that the software isn’t doing what you want it to, or worse still, you’re not
motivated to continue using it at all, try another system. But persevere, because when you do
discover an application that’s right for you, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it.