Using Smart Task Management Software to Reduce Distractions and
Keep You Focused.
The pace of today’s business environment is relentless and unforgiving - we seem to have more
and more to do today, and tomorrow will be even worse.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tasks facing us, and our approach to the
day becomes unfocused and unproductive.
To overcome the avalanche of demands and distractions that threatens to engulf us, we need an
effective means of bringing structure to the things we have to achieve each day.
The 'Old Guard' - Written Lists.
A traditional written To Do list can work up to a point, but simply doesn’t have the flexibility
or ‘muscle’ to handle a large number of varied and overlapping tasks. And, with managers now having
to deal with multiple live projects at any one time, working with a paper-based system is not just
time consuming, but simply inappropriate.
If you then decide to move on to software that mimics the To Do list model, you will probably
find that it isn’t the interactive and responsive tool we’ve come to expect now that we’re used to
the exciting interfaces and opportunities offered by iPads, iMacs, tablets and smartphones.
Working with list-based software means we still have to type in tasks, then copy or
transfer them from day to day and from project to project - a dull and repetitive process that
gradually leads to ‘list fatigue’.
Another problem with traditional To Do list software is that it can be used as a dumping ground
for all the new tasks, ideas and thoughts that strike us through the day.
As a result, the morning’s carefully constructed To Do list can, by the evening, be so
overfilled with inappropriate ‘task debris’ that the important stuff is lost beneath.
Ending up with long lists of 'undone' tasks is not only unproductive, it's psychologically
It can lead us to lose sight of the ‘bigger picture’ - what we need to achieve and why - and to
‘task pick’ instead, tackling just the easy small things on our list so that we have something to
show for our efforts at the end of the day.
If you recognize these ‘symptoms’, it’s time to ditch the traditional To Do list and opt for a
smarter approach to task management that will help you take control and organize your life more
effectively and productively.
The New Generation of Task Management Software.
While traditional To Do list software sees tasks as ‘things that need doing’, the new generation
of project-based task management applications offers a more flexible path to productivity by
allowing you to give multiple ‘contexts’ to each of your tasks.
Such smart task management solutions recognize that while some things can be done pretty much
anywhere, like reading a report, others can only be undertaken in the right ‘context’, so they let
you ‘tag’ or attach different ‘contexts’ to each of your tasks.
For example, if you are creating a new brochure, one of the actions could be:
‘Phone Steve about copywriting’.
Using smart task management software you could tag this seemingly simple action in a number of
ways, so it appears not just under the project heading – Create Brochure – but also under @phone
(so you can group it with other calls when you are in telephone mode), or @Steve (so it appears
alongside every other job being done by Steve).
And, because you can add as many contexts as you like to every task, there’s no requirement to
write it out anew or copy it to different lists - it’s already there.
By filtering your tasks by context, you will have immediate focus not only on what needs to be
done, but also on what you can actually do at that precise moment, a ‘living list’ that is always
appropriate for a particular location or circumstance.
This way of working also has another advantage. A To Do list usually involves a range of very
varied activities, such as writing, talking, researching, analyzing and organizing. But repeatedly
swapping between thinking patterns and behaviors is anything but productive, as we have to refocus
each time we tackle a different type of job.
Grouping tasks by context is a far more efficient way of using our time and getting things
Chunking Down Bigger Tasks.
Splitting tasks by context also encourages us to think in terms of smaller, more easily
achievable actions. With traditional To Do lists, it’s very easy to add items that are simply too
large. So, ‘Create new brochure’ finds its way onto our list, when really it consists of 20, 30 or
even 50 much smaller tasks.
‘Unpacking’ a single large and unwieldy task into lots of smaller, achievable tasks, also
prompts us to think in terms of the ‘next action’ needed to move a project forward.
Taking Your To Do List With You.
Another benefit of the new generation task management software is its ‘portability’. We can be
working on the road one day, working from a remote office the next, and from home at the weekend.
If you work in different places, cloud-based task management software could be the answer.
With cloud-based applications, your software and information live on a remote server, not your
computer. 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 whatever platform you’re
And if you are working as part of a team on a project, you can all 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.
Keeping You Focused.
Of course, even when you know exactly what you have to do, you can still be distracted by the
many other tasks that catch your eye as you gaze at the screen. To combat such ‘visual
interference’, some task management systems, like ShoutDone, linked to below, even offer a
‘spotlight view’ that lets you focus only on the most important tasks that you should be doing
And checking out task management software should be at the top of your list.