How optimised is your task management stack?

We’ve all got our own unique task man­age­ment solu­tions. Recent­ly, I decid­ed to opti­mise mine — Here’s what I think makes a good task man­age­ment stack, and why it’s worth doing.

Pat Hong By Pat Hong from Linkdex. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Last week­end, I was struck by sud­den inspi­ra­tion to opti­mise my task man­age­ment. By ‘opti­mise’, I mean I’ve man­aged to hack togeth­er a solu­tion that meets all my needs and cri­te­ria with a bunch of apps and tools. I’m gonna call it my task man­age­ment ‘stack’.

It got me think­ing — every­one must have their own unique set­up, their own needs, cri­te­ria, and soft­ware inte­gra­tions, to get to what they need. So I’m inter­est­ed — what makes a good task man­age­ment stack, and what kind of solu­tions have oth­er peo­ple come up with?


Why optimise?

There’s an anec­dote that I heard once, that has stuck with me: Barack Oba­ma doesn’t choose what he wears in the morn­ing — he has a sys­tem.

As it hap­pens, it’s a con­scious deci­sion on his part to reduce unnec­es­sary ener­gy expen­di­ture on the mun­dane, and to pre­vent deci­sion fatigue.

And for me this is where a well-opti­mised stack comes in. Whilst, I’m fair­ly cer­tain remem­ber­ing to buy cat­food doesn’t require the same kind of deci­sion mak­ing as pre­vent­ing a cri­sis in the Mid­dle East — reduc­ing the amount of effort required to oper­ate effi­cient­ly day-to-day can at least help me to become a bet­ter, more pro­duc­tive per­son.

As expressed neat­ly by Fast Com­pa­ny “man­ag­ing deci­sion fatigue calls for the high-val­ue, low-effort sys­tem­iza­tion that entre­pre­neurs swear by. Whether or not our offices are oval, we need to find ways to reduce fric­tion in our days.”

And as the cur­rent Com­man­der-in-Chief voiced: “You need to focus your deci­sion-mak­ing ener­gy. You need to rou­tinize your­self. You can’t be going through the day dis­tract­ed by triv­ia.”

It’s very easy to find your­self stuck under a moun­tain of work and respon­si­bil­i­ties, and I’m sure that applies to all of us. So the hope, is that by opti­mis­ing our task man­age­ment, we can reduce stress, and improve effi­cien­cy.

As ever, and per­haps espe­cial­ly so when you are ‘opti­mis­ing some­thing’, any­thing worth doing, is worth doing well…

A little background..

I rely fair­ly heav­i­ly on task man­age­ment, for work, and also for all the mun­dane tasks that lit­ter life. Every­thing from emails, to gro­ceries, to bills — there’s an awful lot in mod­ern life I don’t want on my mind until it needs to be.

In my unop­ti­mised (or unen­light­ened) state, I man­aged all of this with a few dis­parate apps, name­ly Google Cal­en­dar, Notes (a stock Android app inher­it­ed from an old Sony Xpe­ria, clum­si­ly push­ing notes to…) Ever­note, and Wun­derlist — but none of this was con­nect­ed or synced, and the whole thing still relied on me to man­u­al­ly update, main­tain, and check reg­u­lar­ly.

Fur­ther, the set­up at work was depen­dent on the needs/preferences of the team — main­ly a Slack/Trel­lo set­up. Whilst I want to main­tain some lev­el of work/home task inte­gra­tion, what I real­ly want­ed was for my work and home life to be dis­tinct (but with the option to push the more impor­tant things, such as con­fer­ences and events, to Google cal­en­dar).

What does optimised even mean?

I’ve tried to pin down a few ele­ments that I think make a good opti­mised task man­age­ment stack.

Minimal maintenance, effort, and time required for upkeep.

The main rea­son any­one real­ly both­ers to opti­mise their task man­age­ment! Any nec­es­sary user input should require the least pos­si­ble amount of inter­ac­tion, and any­thing that can be auto­mat­ed, should be.

All functional requirements are fulfilled.

No mat­ter how many tools it takes, you’ll nev­er feel com­plete­ly sat­is­fied if you’ve had to com­pro­mise on your require­ments pure­ly because of the inbuilt lim­i­ta­tions of a par­tic­u­lar piece of soft­ware. Prac­ti­cal­ly, this means your stack should be inte­grat­ed across all your devices, if applic­a­ble, your teams or project col­lab­o­ra­tors, with tasks, reminders, check­lists — just about every­thing in sync!

Scalability and room for growth.

Yes, needs can and will change, but your stack should allow you to build on the con­cept with plen­ty of room for growth.

No more complicated than it needs to be.

Less is more.

My task management stack…

For those of you who are inter­est­ed, here’s what I’ve cur­rent­ly got oper­a­tional:

tmstack

(Excuse the deliv­ery! Hap­py to spec this up in a flow chart if there is inter­est…)

And in a prac­ti­cal sense, here are the main uses:

  • Take notes in Google Keep (online or offline).
    • Any of these can be ‘ele­vat­ed’ to task sta­tus by set­ting a reminder or due date — at which point it is pushed to Google cal­en­dar.
  • Google Cal­en­dar serves an over­all view of every­thing across weeks or months.
  • Trel­lo for a more in-depth view of projects, tasks, mov­ing parts.
  • Wun­derlist for a view of the day-to-day.

What defines your task management stack?

Every­one will have their own needs and require­ments from their task man­age­ment. Mine won’t be the most inno­v­a­tive, but what it does pro­vide is a intu­itive­ness and ease of use.

I’ve become accus­tomed to jot­ting stuff down as notes as they come to me, and with Google Keep that now feeds into my over­all work­flow (with the option to keep stuff as notes, by not set­ting a reminder or due date).

Com­bined with Wunderlist’s nat­ur­al lan­guage recog­ni­tion for smart due dates, I can now set a reminder in Cal­en­dar, or Keep: a sim­ple line such as such as “renew car insur­ance on April 1st”, and that will push/sync with Wun­derlist (which man­ages my reminders across devices).

For my per­son­al needs, this is ‘opti­mised’ because it let’s me use my apps intu­itive­ly, as I always have, ful­fills the four cri­te­ria for opti­mi­sa­tion out­lined above… And goes on to mould that into a flex­i­ble work­flow that min­imis­es effort and deci­sion mak­ing.

Verdict (was it worth it?)…

I’m cur­rent­ly a week in… and I’ve hon­est­ly found it very refresh­ing hav­ing a low main­te­nance sys­tem to man­age my tasks. Work­ing in SEO and mar­ket­ing so often hinges upon effec­tive team, and task man­age­ment. It’s a indus­try that requires good co-ordi­na­tion of teams, peo­ple, and man­age­ment of many mov­ing parts. And… when things are tick­ing along seam­less­ly, it can give great results.

It’s all the more rea­son to get every­thing work­ing seam­less­ly and in sync.


Do you have a task man­age­ment stack? What qual­i­ties or needs did you build yours around?

Pat Hong

Written by Pat Hong

Editor at Linkdex/Inked, Linkdex

Pat covers the SEO industry, digital marketing trends, and anything and everything around Linkdex. He also authors Linkdex's data analysis and reports, analysing the state of search in various industries.


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