One day I had a friend of mine, a carpenter, calling me and sharing how overwhelmed he was about his life. Before bed, he would lie down and try to remember all the things he had to do.
I shared a basic task management workflow with him, and he was stunned by the insight of the method. At that moment, I realized that not everybody knows about task management…something I had taken for granted while working as a knowledge worker for about ten years.
Time has changed
Task management skills have become a necessity for almost everyone. Thanks to email and other asynchronous communication tools, most people have to manage tasks that aren’t asked of them within the confine of their 9 to 5.
Task management isn’t an option if you are a knowledge worker; it’s a must. Without it, you will both go insane and do your job poorly. A new generation of apps came online in the past few years to help us deal with the increasing complexity of remote work and asynchronous communication. But those tools aren’t the solution in and of themselves…what is most important is the workflow and the system used to work with them.
What you need to know about task management
First and foremost, you will have to choose a tool to work with. As I suggest for most people to get Hubspot for their CRM, I suggest Todoist for task management. The reason is that they have the fastest way to capture on all device. I can capture in one-click all tasks in my email inbox; I can press a keyboard shortcut to have a window popup on my computer, and on my phone, they have a one-click “quick task” widget.
They also integrate with so many other tools that make it easy to create automation where I need them.
If there is one thing you want out of your task management app, I would say that you can capture tasks as quickly as humanly possible, reducing the friction and making capturing tasks effortless.
But as said above, what you need is a system. There hasn’t been a better system for productivity than David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” method.
The whole process revolves around a 5 step workflow of:
This process is explained in detail here on the Todoist blog.
The main benefit of proper capturing of tasks
Too many people are overwhelmed by everything they have to do in life. They have a cloud over their head, thinking that their mind is the right place to store information. The mind is great for connecting and solving problems, but it is terrible at storing information. Once you free your mind of all these “to-dos,” you will free up a lot of mental bandwidth you didn’t know before.
Learn to be literate with your tool
Whatever app or tool you use for your task management, you must dedicate some time to mastering it. The process is called becoming digitally literate. Learning your tool will increase your productivity and also help you make the tool an extension of yourself.
Take some time to read blogs, create habits and workflow that work with you and finally learn some keyboard shortcuts to make your life easier.
Warnings about the productivity trap
One of the illusions people may be under is that you will finally get to do everything you could do with excellent task management. That’s not the case.
You may be able to increase your output; you may be a lot freer to think about other things, but it won’t turn you into an omnipotent god. There isn’t enough of you to do everything. Part of learning to delegate is to embrace that reality…but even then, we all have to acknowledge that we are finite.
Also, some tasks are never meant to be done. Some tasks are so trivial that they gather dust in the corner, but that’s okay.
Finally, just because you have noted that you should do something, it doesn’t mean that you will feel like doing it when the time comes. Procrastination is a foe we must learn to tame, and it can be a challenging thing to accomplish.
I hope this article was helpful, but I wonder what has been your journey so far in the task management/productivity space. What practical lesson can you share with others that you think I worthwhile?