So what am I doing today?
I have this massive gap in my productivity tools.
I use a number of tools, on and off. In terms of task and time management, I love MyLifeOrganized; I want to use XMind more; and I’ve been playing with Handle. Oh, and Outlook’s calendar.
“Outlook?!” I hear you say. Yeah. Bear with me.
Each of these have great tools for prioritising and organising tasks. MLO has… well… everything. Contexts, Prioritisation, Hierarchical prioiritisation, Infinite Folders, Start Dates, Due Dates, Goals, Projects, the works. The theory is that you can build your entire model into it, flick to a ToDo view, and do the first thing on the list, knowing that you’re doing so with everything in mind.
Xmind is brilliant and beautiful at providing a one-stop shop for project tracking. You dump your mind into the mind map, then assign tasks, attach links, files, notes, comments, and everything else in context. It even provides for Gantt charts. Whenever you need to have a top-down view of everything going on a project, and add something to it, then XMind provides an excellent framework for that.
And Handle… Handle is much simpler – I don’t use the Gmail integration – but has quite a funky ‘blinkered’ view of what’s going on now. You add a task, set a reminder or due date, assign to a project, and forget it. When you view a day, or get an alert, you can see what’s happening there.
Each of these are excellent, market leading tools. None of these do what I need to.
What I need to do, is understand what I need to do today… and the next day, and the next… to succeed in the projects I’m working on. I need to be able to understand whether or not I can fit some additional work into a particular day. I need to understand – based on what my hectic days are looking like – when I can expect to finish a project based on the slivers of time I can allocate it.
In a sense, we’re talking MS Project with resource allocation and Gantt charts, but in a more consumable, multi-platform, minute-by-minute, task-by-task view.
Each of the tools have components of what I need, but each falls short:
- MLO allows you to set due dates, but doesn’t really allow moving them; as you identify you need to move something out, you would to manually change the due date calendar/text box for that entry, and then also for each entry after it in that project. It can’t ‘push’ out successive tasks automatically. What that means is that you set all the due dates for all your important tasks, then view the calendar view (on mobile only) to see an impossible glut of tasks in each day. The only way to then revise and tune this is to go to each task individually, change the date individually, then view each day individually to see how that changes things. Impossible.
- XMind allows you to assign dates to tasks graphically on a Gantt chart, with dependencies, and it will let you extend one and push out the others. This is great! But, aside from not having a mobile client, it also doesn’t have a task list or calendar view – so you can’t actually display the tasks that need doing now (and how they fit on your day), making it great for planning but useless for actual execution. This is a great shame, but task management is really more of an afterthought or ‘project lite’ feature, rather than a serious project/task management tool
- Handle does actually give you the calendar+task view, and lets you click on tasks and move them back. But then it’s less good at providing an overall view and picture of where you are.
- And so we come to Outlook. In practice, what I do, is based on the other task managers (usually MLO as my long-term task manager), I drop tasks into Outlook to make sure I actually focus on that task and block out the time to do that. The trouble is, this is a manual process.
Probably the closest to what I need, would be Xmind with better operational task management. Mindjet Mindmanager does actually offer such integration with task management such as Sharepoint, but is expensive, generally not easily readable by colleagues who haven’t paid for a licence (unless Xmind Free version), and I’m less keen on the UI. However, it does have some great operational features, such as the aforementioned task management, and also some hierarchical mathematical functions. It doesn’t seem to have the automatic task push-out / rescheduling, but otherwise is pretty close.
I do occasionally consider just going back to pen and paper to reset my methodology entirely, on the possibility that I have ‘app tunnel vision’. It does follow that the right app should
be possible though; just that no-one’s written it yet.