Updated: Oct 19, 2019
Most people think they are too busy to manage their time. But the truth is a good time management system can double your productivity – and reduce stress.
TaskAngel To-Do List combines power and simplicity in a unique productivity tool, that’s powerful enough to manage complex and critical projects, and yet simple enough to run your shopping list.
In this post, you will learn how to take back control – step by step – boosting your productivity and taking the stress away.
1. Productivity essential – make one list
If you feel stressed – or even overwhelmed – by your workload, you’re normal because we all have hundreds of things to do. We write them down in all kinds of places – on scraps of paper or post-it notes, or on the fridge door, in letters waiting for action and emails sitting in our inbox, and in our heads and the heads of our kids and other family members and colleagues.
The first step in taking back control is to capture all of these things into a single list. You will find TaskAngel To-do List is ideal for this, because you can keep the same list on your iPhone, iPad, and PC, or even your Windows phone, and keep them all in sync. So you can take all the tasks everywhere with you, in your pocket and on your desk. Now your productivity improvement journey can begin.
2. Capture every task
Unfinished tasks are like monkeys, riding on your back and fighting each other for your attention. What is worse, more and more jump on every day and at night they swirl around in your brain, keeping you awake.
Some tasks are really complicated. For example, perhaps you are organizing a family celebration. It should be fantastic but if it goes wrong everyone will blame you and they all keep changing their minds about what they want! Or maybe you’re a project manager and you have to hit each milestone – in every work-stream – to prevent the project going off track.
On the other hand, some tasks are simple but critical. Renewing a passport is easy enough but if you forget to do it on time you won’t be going on that foreign trip. And if you’re a student you are expected to complete your assignments every week and hand them in, or you’ll fall behind and fail your exams. Or maybe you’re a mum who has to remember to send your kid to school with the right ingredients for their cake bake or face their bitter tears!
Take a couple of hours and put every one of your tasks into TaskAngel. Offload every monkey that’s on your back – all your unfinished business.
Scan your inputs
Make sure you flush out every monkey wherever it is hiding. Make sure to go through your inputs systematically step by step:
1. Gather your loose paper into one pile. Letters, scribbled notes or receipts. Then decide what actions must be taken for each one if any and tap them into TaskAngel. Include essential actions only. 2. Glance through your email quickly for action items and copy and paste them into TaskAngel as you go. Again, essential actions only. 3. Go into your social media and capture any essential actions arising from your conversations there. 4. Go through your calendar, look at recent events to capture any actions arising and look at forthcoming events to capture any preparations you need to make. Put them all into TaskAngel. 5. Are there still some tasks roaming free in your brain? Tap each one into TaskAngel to bring it into existence and give it a sharper focus. That will bring your stress levels right down.
Wow – that was hard! Now it’s time to take a break. Go for a walk, have a coffee or phone a friend.
Now you will already be feeling better because all those monkeys are out in the open and you can control them. But there are far too many of them – you can’t possibly do all these things so it’s time to start pruning!
3. Prune your list
You can’t do everything unless you are superman. So if you’re overloaded you must reduce your workload and do less.
Although you might think everything is essential it really isn’t. So go through your list from the top and think about what will happen if you don’t do each task. Who will care?
Of course, many tasks really are essential so leave those ones on the list. But wait – are you the only person on earth who can do them? If not, try to delegate. Remember – a problem shared is a problem halved.
What if someone has delegated a task to you, or maybe you have promised to do something for a colleague or friend. If so try to simplify it. Cut to the chase and buy some time. And remember if people are used to you failing to deliver your promises, they may be prepared to renegotiate a new commitment if they are convinced you will deliver this time.
Remember productivity is all about concentrating on what really matters and getting it done.
4. Set priorities
OK – so your list is a bit smaller now but there’s still an awful lot on your plate. And whether you have a hundred or a thousand on your list, in truth you can only do one of them at a time. It’s no good if you keep jumping from one to another and get nothing done properly.
So you have to make choices. Help yourself by setting consistent priorities. And don’t try telling yourself everything is the top priority – that’s the same as making everything bottom priority. It’s just a recipe for procrastination.
In TaskAngel you can set the priorities of each task to Top, High, Medium or Low. And there is a special Negative priority that you give any task that is such low priority you don’t even want to look at it.
As a rough guide for best productivity, your task priority profile should be something like 10% top, 25% high, 50% medium and 15% low.
Hierarchy of needs
We can learn a lot from Abraham Maslow, a psychologist from Brooklyn, New York, born in 1908. His most famous work was published in 1954. Maslow realized our most basic needs are inborn, and they have evolved over tens of thousands of years. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, each need must be satisfied in turn, starting with the most basic needs for survival itself. Here is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
1. Biological and Physiological needs – air, food, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc 2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc 3. Belonging and Love needs – work group, family, affection, relationships, etc 4. Esteem needs – self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc 5. Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
Maslow believed that these needs must be satisfied in the given order. For example, you can’t expect someone to develop their full potential (level 5) if they are having problems with their marriage (level 3). And they can’t be an effective team member (level 3) if they are suffering from insomnia (level 1).
So think about your personal hierarchy of needs and set your task priorities to support them. Mostly, when you are considering time management you are probably thinking about levels 4 and 5. But if you don’t have levels 1-3 in good shape you are building your castles on sand.
5. Break down big tasks
When you start your day, you look at the tasks on your list and decide which ones you are going to do that day. But for this to work each task must be a manageable size – something you can bite off and swallow in an hour or two.
Of course, many of your tasks are much bigger than this – even something as straightforward as decorating a bedroom might take you three or four days.
So to overcome this, TaskAngel lets you break down your big tasks into subtasks. Each parent task can have as many subtasks as you like and you can arrange them in any order.
As an example, ‘Decorate Tom’s Bedroom’ can be split into subtasks like:
Decide color scheme
Buy paint and brushes
Each subtask should take around an hour or two because lots of smaller subtasks make your time management work too fiddly and bigger subtasks are too burdensome.
6. Use dates sparingly
TaskAngel has a wide variety of filters that make it easy for you to keep an eye on the tasks that are becoming urgent.
But don’t be tempted to invent bogus due dates just to force a task to the top of the list, because that will restrict your flexibility and draw your attention away from tasks that are genuinely due or overdue. And don’t routinely set every important task to be due tomorrow. It’s a productivity killer – tomorrow never comes!
Of course, you must use dates when necessary. Sometimes they are imposed on you. For example – “Deliver completed the build by 31 March”, or “Renew my passport before it expires on 15 June”.
TaskAngel lets you set due dates and start dates for any of your tasks and filter on them. Furthermore, you can optionally set due times and start times for any task.
7. Use reminders
When tasks do have due dates, you must remember to do them on time. TaskAngel lets you set reminders for any of your tasks and makes sure you are notified when each reminder is due.
Even this feature gives you a lot of control – you can arrange for a reminder to be triggered when the task is due or in intervals of minutes, hours, days or weeks ahead of time.
By the time you get this far, your task list will be quite long, and you don’t want to be constantly wading through it, picking your next task out of a list of hundreds of tasks. TaskAngel lets you filter your task list in all kinds of ways, so you can pick from a subset of your task list – maybe only ten or twelve tasks at a time.
To start with you can organize your tasks into folders. It makes sense to have different folders for each of your projects. Or use them to group tasks in other ways according to your interests. For example here are some of my folders:
Organize your folders so that each contains up to twenty tasks and if one your folders has more than twenty split it into two or three folders.
TaskAngel lets you create as many folders as you like and call them anything you want. When you first install TaskAngel, you just have one folder, called ‘Inbox’. All your new tasks go into Inbox. Put a task into a different folder by editing the task and changing its ‘Folder’ property.
It’s easy to list all the tasks in a folder – just tap on the folder in your filter list. Furthermore, while you are working on a folder, any new tasks are automatically put into that folder.
9. Set goals
As your task list gets more under control, start to get a bit more proactive. Instead of just dealing with all the work other people throw at you, think about where all this activity is taking you. Is it where you want to go?
Better productivity will get you to your goals faster and with less effort. TaskAngel lets you define three levels of goals:
How you use the levels is up to you. I like to use 3 months for short-term goals, one year for long-term and lifetime goals are beyond a year.
You can link goals in a tree structure. Short-term goals can contribute to Long-term ones, and Long-term goals can contribute to Lifetime ones. One of my goals is ‘Get onto Google page 1’, which contributes to ‘Build My Business’.
When you tap on a goal, it shows you every task assigned to that goal including any tasks assigned to lower level goals that contribute to it.
10. Assign contexts
When picking a task from your list, only some of them can be done right this minute. For example, you can’t decorate Tom’s bedroom while you’re at work. So to avoid being confronted with tasks you can’t do, you can assign ‘contexts’ to them. A context gives you a sense of where you need to be when doing a task.
Common contexts might be Work, Home, Shopping, Computer or School. TaskAngel lets you define as many contexts as you want and call them what you like.
For example every time one of your projects requires you to go shopping for something, define a task in the project’s folder and assign it the Shopping context. Then when you go shopping, pull out your iPhone, tap on the shopping context and that’s your shopping list, right there!
11. Choose your next action
TaskAngel can’t make the decisions – that’s your responsibility. But it can help with your decision making.
Take a look at all the tasks in one of your folders, perhaps there are twenty tasks in there. Which ones can you do right now? Maybe not all because some depend on other people doing things, or perhaps they depend on other things you haven’t yet done. If any of the tasks are available for action right now, flag them with ‘Next Action’ status.
Then tap on your ‘Next Actions’ filter. TaskAngel gives you a list of every task that can be done right now. Pick one of them and just do it!
12. Keep in sync
You can use the same task list across all your devices – iPhone, iPad or Windows PC. This means you can do your task reviews and daily plans while sitting at your PC or iPad and then carry the same list around with you on your iPhone.
You have a choice of two synchronization services – Toodledo and iCloud.
But if you just want to keep your task list synchronized across iPhone and iPad, TaskAngel lets you do it using iCloud.
Whatever sync service you pick, TaskAngel keeps your to-do list synchronized seamlessly and automatically. Syncing continues to run when you switch to another app. So your best productivity assistant will be there to help when you need it, wherever you are.
So that’s TaskAngel – a unique time management tool that really will boost your productivity!
Andrew Boswell MyPocketSoft