There are so many task management applications you could add to your workflow in order to get a better handle on what you need, and want, to get done. In my experience, people that get into the task management space for the first time tend to dive in rather than test the waters first. That’s why they’ll spend money on something like OmniFocus or Things and abandon them because they seem to complicated or they’ll sign up for something like Asana or Evernote thinking that it can handle task management in a manner that is easy to set up and make happen (spoiler alert: it isn’t that easy).
Now I’m not knocking these apps. It’s just that for the uninitiated — and there are even more of those at the beginning of the year — they appear to unwieldy at first glance. I’m not suggesting you don’t try them, but be prepared for a learning curve that can vary in steepness. If you want to spend more time working with your stuff and less time working on learning the tools, then you’ll probably want to start with something a little less daunting.
Here’s what you should look for in a task management app if you are adopting one for the first time.
- Simplicity. Ideally you want something wth as small a learning curve as possible. Simplicity is subjective, so what is simple to you might not be so simple to another. An easy-to-use user interface and simple to grasp user experience is ideal.
- Scalability. More importantly, and often overlooked, is the app’s ability to scale. You want one that can grow with you and your needs, meaning that things like adding contexts to tasks, creating projects, and features of that nature should be “baked in” where possible or the app should be allow you to add them yourself in less conventional ways. For example, putting a colon or dash after a task an adding a context is something you can do that will add value to the task – and the app in the process. At the very best, the app should be able to stand the test of time. At the very least, the app should prepare you for the move to an app that’s more layered in the future.
There are many apps out there, but not many will be very effective for beginners in terms of hitting both simplicity and scaleability. And because the landscape of apps changes to rapidly and regularly, it’s tough to keep up with them all. (I’ll leave that to Francesco and the Keep Productive team.)
The idea that a whole suite of productivity apps is on the horizon and the beauty and simple interface of Any.do makes it an app that covers both requirements of a beginner’s task management app: simplicity and scaleability. That makes it worth looking at for the budding productivityist. (Web-based, iPhone, Android, Chrome Web Store)
If you’re more of a paper person then you might want to give my The Strikethrough System sheets a try (or stick with Patrick Rhone’s analog version of Dash Plus). They walk through the process of capturing, connecting, curating, completing, and even calibrating your tasks back to a more comprehensive system. The sheets walk you through the process of using them, and I find they offer more than a simple to-do list but aren’t as complex as Dave Seah’s Emergent Task Planner.
No matter which way you go (digital or paper-based) or what platform you use (Mac, Windows, Android, iOS), the important thing is to use a task management app of some sort…and for many of you there’s no better time to start doing that than when a new calendar year begins.1
Photo credit: kikashi via SXC.HU
1 That said, I’ve written a book on how you can start the year you want anytime you want in case you find that January isn’t the ideal time to start regularly using a task management app.