I am currently trying to find a set of tools to manage a varied and complex task list. I have a number of types of task to manage and keep notes on leaving me with, what for me, is a complex set of requirements.
I need to track tasks that can have start, completion and due dates with notes and details on the status. These can have any number of sub-tasks that can be scheduled or delegated each with notes, related documents, email trails and so on.
I have a number of responsibilities that I have to monitor and responsibilities that I have delegated that need to be monitored to ensure they are being looked after. All the notes and observations need to be collated into feedback to individuals personally and to other’s managers, often as part of reviews and coaching as well with the long term aim of monitoring delegated tasks less or not at all.
I also have to keep abreast of technology and bring that knowledge and research to bear in reports and to discussions on one or more steering groups of which I am a member.
In addition I provide coaching in a number of forms to my reports and others in the business including (gently) upwards.
This results in a lot of data that I need at my finger tips. Committing it all to memory is not an option.
I have tried a number of approaches to date which were largely me thrashing about thinking there has to be an application that can take care of this for me. There are but sadly there appears to be no silver bullet. It appears that I have to engineer a solution for myself out of paper, existing apps and self-discipline. I was so hoping to replace the latter requirement with an iPad app.
Having been through a paper based system, text files and notepad (well gVim), using my Outlook inbox with categories, tasks and due dates. Not to mention Dave Allan’s Getting Things Done (GTD) approach using paper then Notepad then ThinkingRock I am now at a point where I use a couple of tools and am still researching another approach.
I currently use Microsoft OneNote 2010. A very good tool that integrates well with outlook and other windows apps. I maintain a document in OneNote that lists by topic all the things I am involved in and any tasks, notes and relevant links to documents and email.
At the top of the document is a pair of blocks .today and .tomorrow where I build the list of things I need to get done today or tomorrow. These tasks can have sub-tasks each with status icons, checkboxes and can be hyperlinked to the larger topic areas further down the document for more detail or other pending work
As you may know tomorrow never comes so items on my today list can be there for a number of days and my tomorrow list can stay as is until I decide something can be achieved and it gets moved to the today list. Or more often done and deleted.
This still requires a degree of discipline and maintenance as items in the today list can be completed and deleted and the linked topic needs to be updated and edited with progress notes or wiped.
I also maintain separate documents for my weekly meetings with managers and reports that I update as I go along but organised by meeting date.
This is working pretty well but still requires me to print and lug about multiple pages of paper. I don’t get on well with paper. So I am inevitably looking to improve the situation.
I have recently discovered a number of iPad apps that read OneNote documents so I can start to take that instead of paper.
Additionally I have always been a fan of and used mind maps, I use FreeMind on the desktop and recently started to use xMind Pro. Using these I am experimenting with managing all my tasks and data as a mind map with linked topics making it easier to see relationships and dependancies in tasks.
Now to try and get iThoughts(iPad) and xMind to sync easily through DropBox…