Using a Task Management System to Reduce Stress at Work: How to
Manage Lots of Projects and Tasks.
As a modern manager, you more than likely find yourself working on countless ‘live’ projects at
any one time, so it’s imperative to have an effective, reliable task management process in place if
‘balls’ aren’t to be dropped.
Let me put it another way – NOT having an efficient system to help manage your tasks is
like weighing yourself down with a super-heavy pack, at the start of a really steep hill
...and then tying your shoelaces together for good measure!
If your system isn’t up to scratch, it’s all too easy to fall behind on jobs and miss deadlines.
When that happens, you can come under pressure from your employer and have to compensate by working
harder and longer.
That may be OK in the short-term, but in the longer run it’s unsustainable and a sure recipe for
damaged health and home-life.
Who wants that?
So the benefits of a quality task management approach – one that works with you, not against you
- are significant. Not only will it reduce your stress levels as you gain greater control over your
workload, but it will also increase your productivity.
As a result, you will achieve more in less time and cut the hours needed to get the same job
done. And fewer hours at work mean more time at home and for you, with greater energy to enjoy
The challenge, when we are all having to multi-task like never before, is that even the fanciest
pen-and-paper ‘To Do list’ planning system will struggle under a constant deluge of new tasks and
Even if you use a software version (at least, one that simply mimics the traditional
‘linear list’ approach), there are still inherent weaknesses to this way of planning your work and
Task Dumping Grounds.
For a start, ‘going electronic’ won’t stop traditional, daily lists from turning into dumping
grounds for all the new tasks, ideas and thoughts that hit you through the day. So, while you may
have a focused agenda in the morning, by the end of the day it is lost in a sea of irrelevant and
inappropriate tasks that hide what you really should be doing.
What’s more, very different types of activity often make it on to a single To Do list, so it’s
easy to find yourself constantly switching between writing, phoning, thinking, analyzing, meeting
and researching modes - if you’re to get all your daily jobs done.
Not surprisingly, continually swapping between skills and thinking patterns is a far less
productive way to work than when you focus only on similar tasks. Batch processing tasks (grouping
like activities together, using a ‘context’ can be a quick productivity gain).
Overly-Specific Task Data.
To Do list software can even end up adding to our stress levels, by requiring us to enter due
dates and set job durations for tasks and projects that can’t realistically be predicted at the
We enter these dutifully, only to be bombarded later by ‘task overdue’ reminders , when in fact
few of these tasks will be as relevant or crucial on that particular day as they might have seemed
when you first set them up – days, weeks or even months ago.
That only serves to put us under extra pressure and make us feel as though we are getting
There is a Better Way...
However, while standard To Do list software might seem rigid and inflexible, there is a new
generation of ‘smart’ task management software that allows us to create ‘living’,
productivity-enhancing lists that can be continually adapted to our needs.
Unlike traditional To Do list software, these smart applications think of tasks not just as
things to be done, but as parts of a larger project. These projects, which can cover any and all
aspects of our lives, don’t have to be big - anything that requires two or more action steps to
complete can be considered a project – and you can create as many as you want.
You might include not just current and up and coming projects, but also
someday/maybe ones - very quickly you could end up with 40, 50, even a hundred projects on
Multiple Contexts = 'Living Lists'.
And while most To Do list software will let you attach tasks to a single project, smart task
management apps let you ‘tag’ a task to multiple ‘contexts’ such as a particular place, person and
type of activity.
This means that your tasks aren’t compartmentalized into single ‘vertical’ To Do lists, but can
in fact span several ‘virtual’ lists – calling up one of these ‘contextual lists’, 100% relevant to
your current situation, will instantly show you the most effective things you could be doing at
So, for example, if you need to create a new marketing brochure, one of the tasks could be
‘Phone copywriter about brochure’. Using smart task management software you could tag that task
with the copywriter’s name, his or her location, the project in question, the particular action
required (make a phone call), any associated reference material and time-specific information.
Now the task is no longer simply an item locked to a single To Do list, but a fluid piece of
information that can be recalled as and when most appropriate.
Better User Experience.
Smart task management software often also offers a more interesting user experience, compared
with simply keeping and monitoring an electronic To Do list. Some for instance, like our very own
ShoutDone, offer refinements such as a
'spotlight’ view that can help eliminate distractions and keep you focused on the next
most important task to be accomplished.
Of course, when mobile and multi-site working is increasing, it makes sense to ensure that any
task management software you choose will work on different platforms and devices.
In this way, you can have access to your Daily Task lists and your entire task management system
wherever you are, as long as you have access to a computer, laptop, iPad, or smartphone.
You may even want to consider selecting a task management system that supports cloud computing,
so you can share up to the minute project information with your colleagues.
In conclusion, if you are feeling the stress of trying to handle multiple projects and tasks,
using smart task management software offers a highly effective way forward. In fact, in today’s
fast moving business environment, you really can’t manage without it.