When your task management system isn’t working for you


It’s not the app, it’s the system. If you have the right system, you can make it work in just about any app.

Or so we’re told.

I don’t think that’s literally true but there’s enough to it that if your system isn’t working, changing apps, as I did recently, might be the solution. At the very least, it gives you a chance to re-examine your system.

A few thoughts about apps and systems.

First, your system (and app) should serve you and make your life easier. It shouldn’t make you do a dance to keep up with it. It should sit by your side and tell you what to do next (because you decided that earlier) and give you the satisfaction of checking things off as you do them.

If it doesn’t, before you switch apps or radically change your system, consider looking for ways to simplify that system.

If possible, see if you can consolidate all of your task management functions into one tool.

You can have multiple lists or tags or labels but put all your work and personal stuff in one app.

In keeping with that, you should have one inbox. One place for all of your incoming tasks and ideas.

Because it’s simpler.

If one app/one inbox isn’t possible, because of partners or staff or whatever reasons, consider using two iterations of the same app, one for you and one for the team.
Less to learn and update.

Be realistic about the number of tasks and projects you can do each day, or at one time. Most of us take on too much, which leads to overwhelm and falling behind.

Keyword: a few at a time.

Then, make sure every task has a next action and a date when you’re going to do it, review it, or start it. Add a due date if there is one, but having a start date allows you to forget about the task until the start date, which allows you to give your full attention to what’s important today.

Then, update your lists “in the moment” rather than once a week or on some other schedule. When you complete something, tick it off. When you think of something, add it in. You can also do a weekly review, but that will be a lot easier to do if you’ve kept up with your lists in real time. 

Finally, if you switch to another app, don’t get bogged down learning and using a bunch of new features. Instead, consider turning off or not using most of the functions initially, and start with just an inbox and a place for today’s tasks.

This gives you time to think about what you’re doing and if there’s something you should change.

As you get more comfortable with the app and your new system, add back some of the other functions and see how it feels. If those work, you can add more.

That’s my take, and I’m sticking to it. Time to tick this off my list and see what’s next.