//First of all, what the blooming hell happened to LiveJournal? Ugly ugly ugly.
I've been experimenting with various task systems and apps for the past year or so. Well, I've always been somewhat fascinated with task management - that's what reading Lifehacker does to you! - but I've never really had proper opportunity to use one.
Funny, it should have been an integral part of all my IS projects but somehow we just never did... One of my profs had this obsession with GTD but I spent more time laughing at his physical label makers and endless folders that I've never quite dived in.
Since we're in agency work, projects for me change on a monthly basis. I typically handle 2 or 3 active projects at any point in time, am the backup for 2 or 3 projects by other colleagues, and would also have 1 or 2 'latent' projects that I'm not actively working on but still take care of from time to time.
I find that I like to have multiple time views of my tasks: today, tomorrow, this week, next week, this month, and next month. The first category speaks for itself pretty easily. For tasks that are not crucial (which usually mean due TODAY anyway) but need to be done reasonalby soon (within these two weeks), I would rather than set arbitrary dates.
The problem with most task management apps is that once you've set a due date, it works as if that's the day you should work on it - rather than "the date you must complete it by, but you have from now till then to do your thing".
I've been predominantly using Kanbanery
because I found it to be one of the most flexible task apps. My "Columns" are based on these time views, and they have labels called "Task Types" (which you can colour, although the colour picker is a bit finicky to play with) which I use to denote the project names. I like that I can drag task items up and down or across columns quite easily. I have another column called "Pending" under which I'll park task items that I'm waiting for others to get back to me on.
Some things that are a bit annoying about Kanbanery:
- Although I'm not big on setting due dates, I think reminder notifications would be pretty useful for about 30% of the tasks. Especially for the Pending stuff, so I can remember when to hound others.
- Adding / deleting / changing task types involves a lot of navigating and mouse clicking.
- No Android support. Not a dealbreaker but it'll be nice to have.
I'm also considering that Gantt charts might be helpful to denote phases in my projects. i don't want to indicate these on my regular calendar as it's cluttered enough by appointments already. Gantt timelines can also be a way for me to break down tasks that have a lot of back-and-forth with other parties. But when it comes to bite-sized tasks, indicating them on Gantt seems overkill!
Anyway, I finally started hunting for free Gantt webapps and I was recommended an Asana + Instagantt workaround. Asana, I gotta admit is pretty slick.
What I like about Asana
- Google log-in means I don't have to think about more sign-up info
- Interface is quite clean
- Has mobile app if I were to require it
- Sub-tasks are full-featured: you can specify due date and description, and if you're crazy enough you can break these sub-tasks into smaller sub-tasks..
- Decent filters that tangentially address my preferred time views.
- Can connect to Instagantt 3rd-party app
Annoyances about Asana:
- Projects can't have colours assigned so other than the background, everything else looks kinda bleak. Bleah! Colours are really helpful as a visual cue.
- Modifying attributes for sub-tasks involves way too many clicks and Asana is a little slow to load. Okay, a lot of things require more clicks than I would like
- The task details pane tracks every single action (e.g. changing due date) you make which adds to clutter.
- Can't wrap my head around what the "Upcoming" status is all about.
- Or why you can make a task a "Priority Heading". Or how a I don't really know what the intended use case is, since you can already Star a task. It looks like a category, and you can also create a "Priority Heading" without first creating a task.
- Keyboard shortcuts are awkward.
- The shortcut for creating a new task doesn't take into account the project you're in so you can often accidentally create tasks without projects. And it's hard to find these things.
I really wanted to like Asana. It's definitely feature rich and has a lot going for it. Apparently it's also used by cool startups like Uber, Dropbox and Pinterest and hey, if they think this is a big deal, I would too - right? But perhaps my needs are a little different. I think the nature of my work requires more flexibility other than the standard task management/collaboration system. I mean, how many people do you know that want to play around with Gantt without involving teams? And Kanban boards don't seem to have taken off that much either.
Anyway, here's a wishlist of not-so-commonly-requested things I'd also like to see:
- A very flexible "due date" system that will allow me to set a range like "this week". It's just more intuitive to think and hit a "this week" button than to manually select the date for that week's Friday. Okay, Any.Do had the feature but I hated the app.
- I would like to be able to virtually assign tasks to others - purely for my own reference. Currently, you can only assign tasks by first inviting others to the system. Haven't found any webapps/software that don't require this.
- Ability to set Gmail msgs (not the whole thread) as tasks, with or without due dates. - Any.Do was clunky but I suppose I shld try Boomerang!
- Time reminders - a lot of times, I get deadlines to send something within the day so this would be very helpful.
PS. I have tried Any.Do twice and still vehemently hate it. But I can't articulate it well even to myself. Maybe I should give it one last chance?