Don’t have time for time management? Think again

Managing your time

4 Small tips for getting big things done

People often think that they don’t have time for time management. Small business owners and managers commonly fall into this trap. They’re so busy being busy, that they never sit down to adequately plan or even look at their to-do list. If this sounds like you, then it’s high time you acknowledged that this could be what’s standing in the way of you and your team getting ahead.

Not meaning to go all deep and philosophical (we know you’re far too swamped for that!), time is the most precious currency in life. Once spent it cannot be replaced. With a finite number of hours in the day, you can’t buy or hoard time ready for when you need more of it. Doesn’t it make sense to manage how you spend your time to ensure that you use it wisely? Without some form of time management, you can easily lose time on the wrong things or end up running in circles, trying to do everything all at once. Worse than that, you might even delay getting started on the big projects that count. According to cognitive psychology research by John Bargh and colleagues, your brain will attempt to ‘simulate’ productive work by avoiding heavy projects and tackling lots of menial, low-value tasks to fill your time. It cleverly tricks you into thinking that you’re super busy, but the real work that produces measurable results remains undone.

At DropTask, we’ve long been fascinated by how entrepreneurs, professionals and businesses of all sizes manage and make best use of their time. Through our observations, we’ve discovered that time management doesn’t have to be a massive burden or effort to execute. The biggest gains in productivity often come from the small investments you make, the minor tactics and habits that only take a portion of your time. So far from being a waste of time, a good time management system can be the ultimate time saver.

Here are four little things that you and your team can do to deliver more value in less time, pronto.

1. Carry your tasks with you

DropTask Calendar

Keep your to-dos and calendar on your smartphone or tablet, so you can access them at a moment’s notice. Unless you have superb powers of recall, trying to store numerous tasks and meetings in your working memory is a recipe for disaster. And there are inevitably going to be times when you can’t make it back to your desk or notebook to retrieve your to-dos. Take advantage of the portability technology can offer so that you’re always prepared. DropTask is available on Android, iPhone and iPad for you to access anytime and anywhere, so there’s no excuse! The app supports real-time collaboration on tasks too, with changes automatically synced and updated while you’re on the go, guaranteeing that you’re never out of step with your colleagues.

2. Use a template

Project Templates
Rather than wasting time writing out your recurring activities each day, create your own Project Template which includes your most common to-do items. This ensures you don’t forget all the small odds and ends you need to do, especially when unique or unexpected demands call for your immediate attention and crowd out your day. Even better, create templates for your bigger initiatives as well, and you’ll avoid that overwhelming feeling that can sometimes paralyze you at the start of a new project. This is incredibly easy with DropTask’s Template feature, which allows you to set up multiple projects, break them down into standardised steps and keep track of each phase of development, from initial brainstorming and task allocation through to completion and evaluation.

3. Set start and due dates for your tasks

Start and End Dates

Just as you set dates for meetings, make sure you set dates for getting started on tasks as well as deadlines for getting them done. Don’t wait until you can “get around to it”, make an appointment with each important task in your calendar, so that it doesn’t slip off your radar. DropTask’s built-in Calendar allows you to schedule tasks by Start Date or Due Date, so you can really focus your attention and stay on track to meet all your major deadlines. Identifying start and end dates forces you to realistically consider how long your tasks will take and helps you put your priorities in order. This simple trick makes time management in the workplace much easier as you can tackle the things that need to be done on a time constraint before moving on to tasks with more flexible timescales. Using DropTask, any shifts or changes in priorities can be accommodated in an instant by effortlessly dragging and dropping your tasks around the Calendar. Aim to fill up your calendar with meaningful work instead of endless meetings, and be reasonably disciplined with yourself to power up your productivity. Research by MIT and INSEAD business school professors in 2002 found that students who imposed strict deadlines on themselves for assignments performed far better and were more consistent than those who didn’t. Challenging deadlines can buck us up to achieve more and are a practical strategy for curbing procrastination. So create manageable start and end dates for your tasks – and stick to them!

4. Stay notified

Notifications

Being organized saves tons of time. But you don’t need ultra-complicated systems to keep on top of your work; you can boost business efficiency simply by automating how you and your team stay informed. Notifications and Reminders are great for alerting you to any note-worthy changes or looming deadlines, so you and your colleagues never miss a trick. Instead of trying to mentally and physically manage everything yourself, let DropTask track your work for you. Every morning, DropTask will send you a Daily Summary Email to let you know which tasks you should be working on, as well as which ones are overdue, due today, and due tomorrow. You can even set multiple reminders on important tasks so you can delegate, action or follow up as needed. Shaun Kennard, CEO of Vestack Group describes how he witnessed a “20% increase in each person’s productivity, and an even bigger influence in business effectiveness” by using DropTask to keep tabs on the core activities undertaken within each company unit.

Whether you’re working solo or with a team, these four little actions can have a BIG impact, helping you optimize your time and squeeze more out of your day. Have some time management tips and tricks of your own? Please share them in the comments below.

New to DropTask? Learn more about the benefits by signing up for a free account today.

Do, doing, done – how Kanban helps your flow

Workflow

What do you look for in a productivity system? Here at DropTask, we believe that the best productivity methods are those that keep your to-dos in front of you and give you full visibility into what’s happening with your workload. The Kanban approach does just that, enabling you to plan work, monitor progress and review completed tasks all on one visual board (a ‘Kanban’).

The name ‘Kanban’ derives from the Japanese word for ‘signboard’ and the method has its roots in automobile manufacturing. But don’t let that intimidate you, it’s actually one of the simplest tools around for supercharging your day-to-day productivity. With Kanban, tasks are organized in columns, usually by progression (e.g. To-do, Doing, Done). As you power through each of your action items, they are moved along to their new columns, helping you sustain a smooth, continuous workflow. Kanban is ideal for professionals and teams who like to see the big picture at a glance. When using this technique, you have a full view of everything on your plate – all your tasks, due dates, priorities – so you’re never at a loss as to what to work on next.

Getting started with Kanban is easy, as there are only two fundamental ‘rules’ to follow.

1. Visualize your workflow

A Kanban board gives you a simple space in which to lay out and organize your to-dos. Tasks are arranged in vertical columns representing different categories or stages of your workload, so you always have a clear picture of what you need to act on, the progress you’re making and what you’ve accomplished. As an example, for your blog you could set up for columns for Writing, Editing and Published, and each task would relate to a specific article. While for launching a new product, your columns might be based on different marketing activities, such as PR, Advertising and Events. Kanban is super practical for projects that cycle through stages, such as auditing, recruitment and product development. During a recruitment drive, for instance, you can track job applications as they make their way through each step of the process, from CVs to Shortlisted to First Stage Interviews, and so on.

As well as helping you master your individual output, Kanban really comes into its own when used for team collaboration. A public Kanban board is a powerful visual aid for viewing the entire status of a team project and getting a handle on all its phases. Working together, teammates can quickly highlight priorities, allocate manpower where it’s most needed and identify any bottlenecks in workflow. The upshot is that teams spend less time discussing work and more time doing it!

DropTask’s Workflow Board is built around Kanban-style task organization, with columns automatically created for all your to-do categories. Moving tasks is as simple as dragging and dropping them into the right column to visualize your progress. You can add as many details as you want to each task, including visual cues for priority, due dates, checklists, reminders, notes and attachments. Before you know it, you’ll have a visual collection of action points you can readily dive into.

2. Limit what you take on

One of the biggest advantages of Kanban is that it helps you avoid taking on too much in one go. Each task moves through standardized stages so you can track your progress step-by-step. If tasks start piling up in one of the columns on your board, then you know you have too much on your plate! Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry, authors of Personal Kanban: Mapping Work / Navigating Life, recommend applying Work-in-Progress limits to restrict the number of things you work on at the same time – around three ‘in progress’ items should be about right to stop you getting overwhelmed. This capping of tasks keeps a tight rein on your workload so that you focus on the to-dos that matter most, without the inefficiencies of multitasking. The clear sequential structure of DropTask’s Workflow Board means you can quickly see how your categories are filling up, nudging you to concentrate on finishing your current jobs before starting new ones. Not only will you stay out of crisis mode, but you’ll never miss a deadline.

Step-by-step: Create a Kanban Board with DropTask

Now that you know what Kanban’s all about, give it a go using DropTask to get your to-dos under control. Here’s a step-by-step guide to build your board from scratch:

Step 1. Create a project

First things first, click the + Create Project tab under the Menu to set up your project. Give it a name and add any other team members who will be working with you. We’ve called ours ‘Personal Kanban’ and we’ll be using it for at-home tasks.

1-create-a-project

Next, click on the Workflow option in the top right of the main navigation bar to view your Kanban-style board, which will be empty of categories or tasks at this point.

 2-workflow-view

Step 2. Set up your categories

These represent how your to-dos will be grouped (i.e. your Kanban columns) and can take the form of ‘work topics’ or progressive stages of your workflow. We recommend that you start small with three simple columns labeled ‘To-Do’, ‘Doing’ and ‘Done’ (or ‘Backlog’, ‘In Progress’ and ‘Complete’ if you want to be more formal about it) until you get a feel for the system.

  • To-do – work waiting to be done.
  • Doing – work in progress right now.
  • Done – work completed. Done and dusted!

To create your categories in Workflow mode, start by clicking the Create a category option in the left-hand column.

3-categories

Type in your category name and select a color, and your first column will appear. You can add as many columns as you like from here by simply dragging the Category bubble from the top navigation bar and dropping it into an empty column. We’ll be using three for this example – To-do, Doing and Done.

4-workflow

If you ever find you need to re-order your columns, click and drag the re-order icon, situated next to the category label.

5-re-order

Step 3. Add your tasks

To add a task to a column, click on the Task bubble from the top navigation bar and drag it where you want it. This will open up a box for you to input your task and any other details that might be needed, such as members, start date and due date in the appropriate fields.

6-task

Keep repeating this step to fill your board with tasks. At any point, you can edit or add more detail to a task by clicking on it to open up an information box. You can red flag your high priority tasks, add notes or attachments, and even define the Effort (small, medium, large) needed to get it done.

7-task-details

Step 4. Keep things flowing!

Now get to work! Use drag and drop to move your tasks across the board in keeping with your progress. Set your own policies or rules for how you manage your workflow. For instance, every time you move a task into the ‘Done’ column, make a point of pulling in the next task from the ‘To-do’ column to keep things moving. And be sure to set a task limit for your ‘Doing’ column so you only juggle x number of tasks at the same time.

8-keep-flowing

Try turning your own ‘to-dos’ into ‘dones’ with the Kanban method and see if it helps lighten the load, or use it with your team to manage the flow of your projects from start to finish. The Kanban view is exclusively available to members of DropTask for Business. Upgrade from just $99/year. Learn more.

Got Kanban experiences of your own to share? Let us know in the comments below. 

Back to School with DropTask

DropTask canvas view

4 Simple tips to kick-start the new semester

School is back in session! It’s time to hit the books and get productive. But before you settle into class, remember there’s one tool you definitely shouldn’t be without this semester – we mean DropTask of course. For students who need a helping hand juggling academic schedules and incoming assignments, DropTask is the ultimate all-in-one task app that will see you back to school with confidence. And as it’s conveniently available on any device – smartphone, laptop, tablet and online – you’re guaranteed to stay ahead of the learning curve.

Here’s your first lesson. Follow these 4 smart study tips to get the academic year off to a flying start.

1. Get ready for class

Categorized tasks
Right, so there’s English, History, Biology, Algebra, Music, Geography, Languages…Whether you’re heading to high school or college, you’re going to have several different classes to manage each week. Use DropTask to keep track of your syllabus and you’ll easily be the most organized student on campus! First thing’s first, create a separate Project for each of your main subjects. This acts as ‘folder’ to contain all your info and to-dos for that class.

Next, add Category bubbles to represent the various topics or activities you need to get a handle on for each subject. For instance, you might have categories for Homework, Reading List, Group Work or Exams. By picking specific colors to code your categories, you can bring a sense of calm and order to how your school work is organized, as well making it easy on the eye. Once you’re all set up, start inputting your tasks as and when they begin to roll in. This entire process takes only minutes but gives you quick at-a-glance overview for each subject that you can access from anywhere.

2. Keep on top of homework

Task details
Homework is a fact of life for every student, and you might need some help staying on top of it. To make homework as painless as possible, make sure you add it to DropTask as soon as it’s assigned. By that we mean straight away, so you can avoid a last-minute panic when you realize that papers are due in tomorrow. To do this, simply drag a Task bubble into your Homework category and type a brief description. You can even add your own comments or instructions from your teacher (as notes or file attachments) to capture all the details in one place.

Now it can feel daunting having a huge homework task staring you in the face. One great way to relieve the pressure and make it more manageable is to break it down into sub-tasks. Say your assignment is to ‘Write a 2-page essay on Macbeth’. This could be divided into smaller, more doable pieces such as: ‘Gather background research,’ ‘Prepare an outline,’ ‘Write introduction’ – you get the gist. This is easily done in DropTask as you can add a checklist of items needed to complete each task, and get a buzz of satisfaction each time you check one off.

3. Take control of your time

Time management
As the semester picks up speed and assignments mount up, some students can fall behind. Make sure you’re not one of them by setting Start Dates and Due Dates on your tasks, and use Reminders to give you an extra nudge when a deadline’s approaching. Don’t wait until the last minute to get started on a class report. Block out specific times to dedicate to your homework, group projects or exam study in your DropTask Calendar, which you can schedule according to start or due date to keep tight control of your tasks. By building a routine around your workload, you can quickly get back into the swing of studying and bang out those term papers on time.

4. Organize your school notes

Notes on tasks
At school, there’s always a reason to take notes, and you want to make sure they’re as organized as possible. More and more students are taking advantage of Evernote; a super-useful app for capturing and storing lecture notes, class handouts, research, reference lists and other material (photos, screenshots, audio, web pages) on your subjects. DropTask features two-way integration with Evernote so you can turn your Evernote notes into actionable tasks to get your school projects underway, or plan the content of your study sessions before that big test. And vice versa, you can send your existing to-dos from DropTask into Evernote where you can collect everything that matters and further develop your work. Then, as you make progress, use Tags in Evernote to update a task’s Status in DropTask. DropTask’s sync with Evernote connects two powerful productivity apps together, so students no longer need to juggle their notes manually and can easily track their next steps for getting things done.

FEATURE FACT: The name of your notes will become the task title and the body of the notes will become the task description.

An awesome tool for school. From outlining your syllabus to planning your homework to scheduling study time – with DropTask on your device, you’re in good shape to start the semester and ease yourself back into the school swing. We’d love to hear what works for you. Tell us in the comments below how you use DropTask for study success.

New to DropTask? Learn more about the benefits by signing up for a free account today.

Introducing DropTask 2, with an exclusive limited-time offer

 

DropTask 2 features

Watch our video above to see what’s new

 

We’re so excited to introduce you to DropTask 2! Fully charged with a bundle of powerful new features and a stunning redesign, our latest update has been developed to help you plan, manage and achieve anything beautifully. And today, we’ll be unveiling what we’ve been working on and why it’s our most powerful update yet.

DropTask 2 is a big step ahead – visual smart and friendly. 

– Stefan Fedor

We’ve come a long way since DropTask 1, and over the past year we’ve worked on evolving the app’s original capabilities with the vision to transform it into the ultimate productivity solution that’s visual, powerful, and friendly enough for the entire team.  One of our biggest focuses for the new version was to open the path for a clearer way of working, so when you log in the first thing you’ll notice will be our brand new user interface. Designed with simplicity in mind, our improved navigation creates an intuitive user experience for a DropTask pro as well as a beginner, and gives you easy access to all of your projects – including multiple ways to view them.

Filter

With this in mind, it was important that we enhanced the filtering abilities with the addition of extra options, as well as a clear and simple way to access them from all of your main views.

Filtered Tasks

You’re now able to filter your tasks by anything from Keywords and Status (Not Started, In Progress, On Hold), to tasks that hold attachments. This will enhance your ability to find information quickly, so you can concentrate on particular areas of a project at times when less focus is needed on the bigger picture.

Auto-layout

As a further power-up to this ability, we’ve also introduced Auto-Layout, which when activated, pulls all of your tasks to the center of the Canvas with a smooth, synchronized visualization to help you see everything with ease.

Eliminating information overload

Collapse and Expand

When it comes to data management, ‘information overload’ refers to the challenges that one may face with problem solving and decision making when presented with too much information. For example, top-down lists can be overwhelming, and with limited structure, don’t quite allow you to accurately map out what your project might entail in the same way that a visual representation can.

Our brains have a limited means to process and absorb information, which is why we’ve introduced Collapsible Categories.

Expand Tasks

By collapsing individual categories you can eliminate overload to easily digest the information that’s important to you at that time. Your tasks will be discretely hidden, and can be quickly retrieved at any time.

Creating a workflow

Workflow View

One of the most exciting additions to DropTask is our brand new Workflow View, offering a Kanban-style workspace that will add simplicity to even the most complex project cycles.

Once you’ve unloaded your to-dos into the Canvas, switch to the visual Workflow for more of an agile approach, where categories will form into ‘lanes’ that represent various stages within the project.

Workflow

Categories can represent anything from status and progress, to something more custom to fit your project cycle. If you’re looking to prioritize work to ensure that you maximize your resources, then working with Kanban can help you limit the amount of work that’s in progress and identify where the bottlenecks are within a delivery pipeline. The focus is all on getting things in a ‘done’ and ready-state. You can see an example of this in the image above.

Scheduling and team management

Time management enables us to work smarter, so we can achieve more in less time. In DropTask 2 you can remain one step ahead at all times with the brand new Calendar feature. Plan forward for deadlines, important appointments and must-do errands by simply adding Start Dates and Due Dates to each of your tasks. They’ll be instantly scheduled within your Calendar, where you have the flexibility to toggle between Start and Due so you can easily view your priorities and track what’s next in your journey.

Calendar

This exciting addition also comes with the ability to view other peoples’ calendars, so you can check on the availability of your entire team and gain an overview of what’s on their plate.  You’ll be able to view another person’s calendar as long as you’re collaborating on a project together.

Get started today with our exclusive launch offer

To celebrate our new release we’re giving away an entire year of DropTask for Business free when you upgrade to any of our 2 year plans.

Save big and go long, with team plans from as little as $1.42/month.*

Claim Offer

*Offer valid when you purchase any two year Business plan. Monthly price based on 36 months, when paid upfront. Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer.  Offer ends 23rd September 2016. 

As Labor Day dawns, empower your team to achieve more

Labor Day
The first Monday in September marks Labor Day – an annual tribute to the success and contributions of American workers. For businesses large and small, the coming of Labor Day represents a clear opportunity to celebrate achievements, re-energize teams and reinforce the promise of an even greater future.

Why not show your appreciation for your team this Labor Day by empowering them to be and achieve more? Spread a mood of optimism and provide ample opportunities for teammates to grow so that everyone can find satisfaction in their work, while at the same time helping to meet the organization’s goals. Here are 3 clever ways to empower your team for success.

1. Help people build their strengths

Assigned Tasks

Aim to designate and delegate tasks with the strengths of your team in mind. Research by Gallup indicates that workers who have the chance to use their strengths every day (rather than focusing on their weaknesses) are 6 times more likely to be engaged in their jobs and 8% more productive. When you design your teammates’ work around their strengths, you enrich their jobs in ways that help them feel good and want to perform better. Try and ‘work in’ people’s strengths by involving them in interdepartmental teams or giving them extra assignments they’ll enjoy. Be careful not to just dump any old chore on a colleague or bury them in meaningless errands because you know they can handle it. Delegate important responsibilities and visible projects, ones where team members can get recognition and satisfaction as well as build their skill sets.  When handing over duties, ask yourself, “Is this task an opportunity for someone to develop their strengths in…?” DropTask supports strengths-based work allocation among team members, helping you clearly define responsibilities for the workers most suited to a task. Be explicit about timings and expectations, and supply any other useful information or resources using notes or attachments. Then simply drag and drop a co-worker’s profile onto a task and let them drive it forward. For added guidance and motivation, you can set the Importance (with a red flag) and Effort (small, medium or large) of tasks too.

2. Reveal the bigger picture

Task Dependencies

Engaging your teammates to work on their strengths is one part of the equation, but if you want to inspire people to even greater heights, then you need to unveil the big picture. Show your colleagues how they contribute to the bigger purpose in the work they do and they’ll open up to more opportunities and challenges. As positive psychologist Robert Emmons says, “Seemingly small tasks can have tremendous meaning if they are framed as connecting to something larger.” In DropTask, projects can be shared with an unlimited number of people, so everyone is working from the same page and toward the same major goals. Invite team members to collaborate on your most high-level projects, and let them combine their individual strengths and expertise for an optimized outcome. DropTask’s captivating visual canvas allows everyone to ‘see’ the status of a project clearly and presents a uniquely beautiful way to communicate with others and grab their attention. Kate Harthan, Operations Director at a leading promotional products company, highlights how valuable it is to have all information available at a glance in DropTask: “It is refreshing to have a visual representation of what is going on in the office that all employees are able to edit. It has helped reduce my boss’s time spent managing employee projects, and it has increased our response times and overall success of follow-up with customers.” As an added bonus, the daily summary email sent out automatically by DropTask each morning gives increased visibility on progress and kick-starts motivation, so day by day, your teammates are fired up to raise their game.

3. Share decision making and goal setting

Permissions and visibility

Foster an alliance with your team members by letting them have input into the decisions and goals that affect them. While it’s not practical in all circumstances, you’ll be surprised at how much turning over some of your power will engage the troop. Involve your people in looking at new ways of understanding their tasks and possibilities for moving forward, without poking your nose into every aspect of their decision making. Encourage them to set their own goals and challenges for their work, even if it isn’t required. On the other hand, if a goal is fixed and non-negotiable, allow team members to determine how they’ll get there. Holding people accountable for results creates a deep sense of responsibility and ownership, as well as focus and determination – with minimal pushing from you. Worried about losing control and things getting out of hand? Member permissions can be set in DropTask, giving you full control over what others can see and edit. This ensures the right people always remain accountable and responsibilities aren’t muddied. For instance, you may decide to give someone the ability to only see and edit the tasks that they’ve been assigned to, or merely grant them read-only access. Advanced settings also allow you to prevent members from deleting tasks and groups that they didn’t create, as well as restrict their ability to invite others to your project without your consent. Combined with DropTask’s other project management capabilities, you can empower your team in all the right ways so they fully understand their goals, the tasks they’re assigned to and can make sound decisions on their given responsibilities.

This Labor Day we’re giving you 1 year free when you upgrade to any 2 year plan from as little as just $1.42/month*. Save big and go long with our limited time offer.

Redeem Offer*Price based on 36 months, when paid upfront. Offer ends Sept 23rd.

Individual Work Vs Teamwork

Individual Work Vs Team Work

Knowing when to go it alone, and when to pull together

As Rio plays host to the 2016 Olympic Games, we find sports fever taking hold across the planet. No matter what your favorite sport is – rowing, gymnastics, triathlon, volleyball – you can only marvel at the incredible performances put in by so many talented athletes and teams. At DropTask, this got us thinking about the many parallels between this glorious sporting event and the workplace. Just as in the Olympic Games, today’s businesses have individual and team sports, and it’s always best to play by the rules of each game so you can emerge triumphant as opposed to wallowing in defeat.

So, individual work vs teamwork. The question isn’t “which is better?” as they’re both needed for a well-rounded enterprise, but “which is better for what?” Let’s take a look at the kinds of tasks that call for you to work independently and those that benefit from more of a group effort.

Individual work: when flying solo works best

1. Tasks that need high concentration and focus

1. Tasks that need high concentration and focus

Group work can be a bad move in some contexts because it interrupts focused thought. All the chatter might be fun and liaising with others creates strong bonds, but less work gets done. An intriguing study known as the Coding War Games found that programmers tend to work faster when coding as individuals without distractions. And as a general rule, designers, engineers, writers, and artists do their best work alone. For tasks that require pinpoint accuracy and mental clarity, it’s better to find your own private space to be productive. Author of Brain Rules John Medina reports that people whose work is interrupted take 50% longer to finish a task and make up to 50% more errors. If you need to focus on an intricate job, block out time in your DropTask calendar to tackle it single-handedly. You’ll get it done quicker without outside disruptions messing up your groove or pointless meetings eating up your time and energy. Use DropTask to brief your team so they know when you’re going to be in a focused work session and don’t want to be disturbed – then get cracking with those tasks!

2. Learning new skills

2. Learning new skills

Everyone has their own individual learning styles and preferences, and there’s mounting evidence to show that solitude can help us learn. Psychologist Anders Ericsson famously said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something. According to his research on peak performance, the best way to master a skill is to go directly to the part that’s most challenging for you personally. This usually means going it alone as you isolate the tasks that are just out of your reach and strive to upgrade your performance bit by bit. In his words, “If you want to improve, you have to be the one who generates the move. Imagine a group class – you’re the one generating the move only a small percentage of the time.”

Visuals – such as icons, images, logos, symbols, colors or shapes – play a massive role in our learning. Educational studies have found that up to 75% of the population prefers visual/spatial thinking, and meaningful visuals can ease ‘cognitive load’, improving the overall learning process. DropTask is all about visual task management to support the natural processes of the brain. If you’re on a training course and want to get some serious study done, or looking to lock down a new skill, then take advantage of DropTask to manage your learning from start to finish. Create a project for your skills development and schedule all your study actions by Start Date and Due Date. You’ll have a complete visual presentation of your course which is much easier to comprehend than pages and pages of notes, and reaches more of your senses all at once. With DropTask’s inclusive features, not only can you visually track each learning milestone, you can also store all your study materials in one neat space, making for a clutter-free mind.

Teamwork: when it pays to be part of a group

Brainstorming – generate more, better ideas

1. Brainstorming – generate more, better ideas

Teamwork is a fun, stimulating and useful way to produce tons of ideas, fast. Team discussions offer more scope for creativity in comparison to working solo, especially if they bring together people with diverse backgrounds and experiences. If your group brainstorming sessions always fall a bit flat, then perhaps you haven’t been playing by the rules. For collective idea generation that works, you need to foster a playful environment where people can share their ideas without judgment. Use Alex Osborn’s (the ‘father of brainstorming’) principles as a guideline:

  • Go for quantity: Don’t stop at the first, most obvious idea. Creativity is a numbers game. Aim to extract as many ideas as possible and you might just hit upon a real breakthrough.
  • Seek out crazy ideas: Avoid groupthink by encouraging teams to shoot for insane and exaggerated ideas. The wilder the better. Ideas that seem completely ridiculous or far-fetched on first sight can always be toned down to something more practical later on.
  • Suspend judgment: Postpone any criticism or analysis of ideas until you’ve generated a sufficient number to work with. Snap judgments, whether positive or negative, will destroy the seeds of potential ideas as people fear to speak up in case their suggestions are rejected.
  • Combine and build on ideas: Two bad ideas can combine into a great one. Try snowballing on other people’s ideas to create more robust solutions or merge two radical ideas and see what happens!

Provide team members with a visual platform on which to capture and connect all their ideas, like iMindMap’s brainstorming view. Once you’ve got a pile of options ready, don’t forget the most crucial step – taking action on the best ones. Nothing kills group motivation and creativity faster than new proposals that come to nothing. Use DropTask to get moving on your ideas and secure total buy-in from your colleagues. Invite team members to collaborate on joint projects, and define specific actions and timelines to make things happen. That way, the whole team can share in the moment of victory.

two heads are better than one

2. Problem solving – “two heads are better than one”

Two or more people are always better than one for solving problems. In a team, everyone is unique and can apply different skills and viewpoints to explore a problem from multiple angles. Leave it to one individual, and they’re at risk of becoming overwhelmed and reaching illogical conclusions. Open communication is key for effective team problem solving, but the use of numerous messaging channels such as email, phone and text can be more of a hindrance than a help. Important messages can easily get lost in a wave of back-and-forth emails. Agree upon just one medium to make your team play more manageable. DropTask provides a shared space that makes it easier for each individual to think like a united team when tackling complex problems, rather than acting the lone ranger. People can ask questions, share files and update progress, all in real time. This open environment acts as a great support mechanism for team members during challenging times, as people can look to one another for help and guidance, leading to better decisions. With everyone (including remote colleagues) working from the same page, you can be sure that no one will be left in the dark and that the best solutions will always come to light. After all, a collaborative team is a winning team!

As you can see, a blend of both independence and interdependence is a must for optimal productivity in the workplace, and DropTask supports both. When do you prefer to work alone or in a team? Hit the comments and let us know.

 

Bust The Summer Slump

Summer working

5 Ways to be red-hot productive this summer

It’s August and summer is in full swing, bringing with it warm weather, vacations, BBQs and smiles. But while the temperature and people’s spirits may be rising, chances are your workplace productivity is cooling down.

Like many other businesses, you might be feeling the summer slowdown right now. With hazy days come lazy ways in the office. It’s hot, clients and customers are away, and colleagues are zoning out, dreaming of lying on a beach or sitting in a beer garden somewhere. Add to that the irresistible lure of distractions like Pokémon GO and it’s no wonder projects are coming to a standstill as summer heats up.

According to CNBC, organizations across all industries often report a loss of productivity and ROI during the summer, including household names like Yahoo, Google and Oracle. Other surveys have found that 25% of workers feel less productive during June, July and August than in the rest of the year. And a 2012 Harvard study reports that people make more errors and take longer to complete assigned tasks during sunny days than on rainy days.

That’s not to say that you and your team should write off the summer season because of the productivity slump. Take advantage of the lull to embrace a flexible summer schedule, rejig your priorities, power through the stuff you’ve been putting off, try something new, and set the stage for an active September. Here at DropTask, we’ve put together a few tips to help you bust the slump and stay on track during the summer months, while still enjoying time to kick back (or chase Pokémon!).

Flexible timing

1. Embrace a flexible summer schedule

So, you’re one of the unfortunate few left holding up the fort while your teammates are away. Don’t be glum about it, there are ways that you and your fellow workers can enjoy some of the fun summer has to offer and still get things done at the same time.

The key is to be flexible. Studies demonstrate that teams with modified work schedules (such as half-day Fridays) show increased productivity, growth and engagement in the summer. Ensure expectations are set and be clear on which deadlines won’t budge, but give yourself and your team more options on how work is carried out. Empower colleagues with the ability to adjust their work hours around their most demanding tasks or to work remotely if possible. DropTask is the ultimate teleworking tool, enabling you to share work and collaborate with anyone, no matter where they are. Real-time technology allows for instantaneous updates on tasks, so team members are always on the same page.  Mark Pohlmann, project manager at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise describes how he uses DropTask to manage teams working remotely across various sites around the world.

Manage your time better and keep track of your availability using DropTask’s new built-in Calendar. In a forthcoming update, you’ll soon be able to view each other’s calendars and leave status or progress updates on tasks. Don’t forget to schedule frequent ‘sunshine breaks’ to eat lunch outside, grab an ice cream or take an afternoon walk. The brief mental break and hit of Vitamin D will reduce the pressure and refresh your productivity when you get back to work. A good way to boost morale is to institute Summer Fridays—where people take the afternoon off or leave early on Fridays rather than work a full day. This gives them the chance to beat traffic and get a head start on their weekend, but encourages them to be that extra bit more focused and productive when in the workplace.

DropTask on laptop

2. Rejig your priorities

Summertime presents the perfect opportunity to fine-tune your priorities and stay busy in the right ways. With many workers off on vacation, make use of this quiet time to step back, reflect on work completed, revive your aspirations and set new goals so you can hit the ground running come September. If you’ve constantly got your nose to the grindstone, even at this time of the year, you can easily lose sight of your main ambitions and waste energy on tasks that don’t align with the bigger picture. Instead of getting bogged down in the minor details of your work, do some deep thinking on a grander scale and plan your strategies for moving forward. For instance, aim to take on weightier, more complex projects in the winter months and schedule new products, campaigns or other deliverables for late spring, before winding down for the summer.

DropTask offers flexible planning features so you can figure out both your long-term goals and more immediate, upcoming tasks. On a day-to-day basis, it can help you stay on top of your to-do list and avoid pointless summery distractions. Take a few minutes at the beginning or end of every day to outline and prioritise your tasks according to your biggest goals. We recommend that you tackle your most difficult or high-grade tasks early in the morning, and leave the easier low-grade ones for later in the day. This is doubly important in the summer as productivity can dip dramatically after lunch, so your mornings need to be super productive! Come the afternoon, you can go out and enjoy a bit of sunshine without feeling guilty about what you’ve left behind.

Team working

3. Power through the stuff you’ve been putting off

If you find that the summer season provides a little breathing space, take advantage of an empty office to finish any projects or bitty tasks that you haven’t been able to give your full attention to. Complete any reports, reviews, budgets or updates that have languished behind in favour of more pressing matters. Catch up with your admin, tie up loose ends, organise your desk and zero out your inbox. Focus on accomplishing all your unfinished tasks, rather than simply filling the hours from 9 to 5. You’ll feel great satisfaction every time you ‘pop’ a task bubble on your DropTask dashboard. . When the workplace gets busy and crowded again, you’ll be thankful you made the effort.

Working at a screen

4. Try new things

Summer is ideal for experimenting and switching things up. Now is the time to test new tools or trial new systems you’ve been thinking about implementing, especially if work is starting to feel a little stale lately. For instance, if you’ve been wanting to try out a new productivity app such as DropTask or creative problem solving approach, go ahead and give it a go while the office is relatively peaceful. Play with new features and options so you can figure out what works and what doesn’t for you and your team.

Summer brings an expansive feel to life, so it’s a good time to build new skills and fill out your shoes. If there’s a new subject you want to learn or habit you want to develop, go for it, even if it’s just starting a new fitness regime. The same goes for your team. Give your workers, particularly the young ones, a chance to take on new developmental challenges or wear new hats. Deloitte research shows that millennials don’t just want to spend their time earning a paycheck; they want to invest time acquiring skills and knowledge to grow personally and professionally. What better time of year than the summer to let them do it? Once the autumn leaves start to fall and deadlines loom close, you’ll have a more powerful and skilled team at your disposal.

September preparation

5. Set the stage for September

As well as taking stock of your situation, rearranging your priorities and putting to bed your unfinished tasks, look to ready yourself for the colder seasons with something brand spanking new. Redesign your website or logo, create a backlog of content, or put together a presentation or white paper to establish yourself as an industry leader. While you’re at it, clean up your LinkedIn profile, Facebook page and any other online bios floating around. As the summer draws to a productive close, a fresh new you will be ready to take center stage.

Staying productive in the summer doesn’t have to be a challenge. Use DropTask to help you beat the office doldrums and make summer your season to shine. How do you and your team like to be productive during the summer? Share your thoughts, tips and experiences in the comments below.

 

Coming soon, in DropTask 2

DropTask Collaboration

Over the past year we’ve been working behind the scenes to bring you a brand new version of DropTask – and we’re so excited to share what’s on the horizon.

Complete with a beautiful redesign and a whole host of powerful new features and abilities, DropTask 2 takes things to the next level so you and your team can come together and achieve anything. The visual nature of our brand new Workflow Boards are perfect for agile working methods such as Kanban, and the vertical swimlanes make transitioning through stages within a project a total breeze.

DropTask on iPad

If you’re already a user of DropTask, you’ll know that we love the simplicity that visuals can offer, over a long (and often uninspiring) list of to-dos. So, in DropTask 2 we’ve made way for a cleaner (and clearer) way of working with all-new eye catching icons and a palette bursting with color. In fact, we’ve applied the same concept to our UI, our new Notification Centre, and even the workspace Canvas – so you only see the things that you want and need to see. And as if that wasn’t enough, we’re also excited to introduce the brand new DropTask Calendar.

DropTask Scheduling

Strengthening your ability to plan and organize – which is key for producing those all-important deliverables on time, the new built-in calendar let’s you focus on what you should be working on today, and what’s due in the future. We know the nature of unexpected interruptions and the impact they can have on your day too, so we’re making sure that you can easily reschedule if your priorities need to change.

DropTask 2 is shaping up to be really special and this is just a teaser of what’s to come. To learn more, we’d like to invite you to participate in our beta program where you can contribute towards development testing and get early access before the official release. To take part, simply drop us an email at support@droptask.com and we’ll see what we can do.

New to DropTask? Learn more about the benefits by signing up for a free account today.

Improving business processes & increasing effectiveness by 80% with DropTask

The Vestack Group of companies deliver a broad range of services and each company has their own goals, hierarchies and communication channels. With Group wide goals and provisions also in place, CEO Shaun Kennard, was in need of a solution to coordinate the multitude of activities.

Shaun Kennard - CEO, Vestack Group“As CEO, I faced the problem of keeping tabs on all of the key activities that were being undertaken within each company and the progress that was being made. Trying to communicate with others, as well as set, delegate, and action different tasks based on various topics and companies, became very challenging. Many tasks were emailed to others, but once sent, they were assumed to be delegated or done, and were not followed up with – which became a nightmare in itself.

“I was primarily looking for a balance between price, functionality and simplicity.”

Through some research, I came across DropTask. I did investigate a few other software options but I was primarily looking for a balance between price, functionality and simplicity. In the end I decided on DropTask. I received very good support from the team at DropTask, which I must admit made the decision even easier.

As with any new business tool or process, it did take a bit of time to change people’s attitudes and to get our staff using the software. The primary factor in getting our staff on board was buy-in from management; once they bought into the app we gradually moved more and more support functions into DropTask. We also offered basic training and support to all of our users, but with DropTask’s biggest advantage being that it is so visual and takes a simple approach, it is very easy to use.

HOW WE USE THE APP

Using DropTask within the team

Our method for using DropTask is easy; each company creates their own projects with the name of the company and the specified topic as the project title. Within the project, secondary topics are defined using groups; each group contains our tasks and everything that needs to be done.

Whether its meetings, financial feedback or risk management progress, many of our projects are continually updated and will never be completed. As they don’t have logical start or finish dates, DropTask is used as an ongoing tool for our tasks.

DropTask has been effective in seeing some projects through from inception to completion, such as event days. All stages of the project are managed in DropTask; from the initial planning and task allocation, to preparation and evaluation after the event has been held. We would also envisage using DropTask to manage the launch of a new product – from the inception stage right through until the final launch.

“Many of our projects are continually updated…DropTask is used as an ongoing tool for our tasks.”

DropTask is also used as a short and long term planner by each user. Consequently, their time management can be made much more effective by planning their day, listing the key tasks (as Subtasks) to their daily planner and then ensuring they focus on it. All team members are encouraged to use the app to its full potential. Not so much in terms of the different features, but thinking about our business processes and limiting the management thereof on DropTask only; thus not duplicating systems.Scheduling and managing meetings in DropTask

For example, in addition to meetings being scheduled through DropTask, we also have the app open during meetings, so interactions can be immediately recorded and actions created. As a result, we have moved away from diaries, agendas and minutes.

“I would argue that in respect of the matters we use DropTask for, we have increased our effectiveness by 80%.”

We have found that the functionality of DropTask is spot on; we’re not overloaded with unused icons and features and the visual simplicity reduces the busyness of projects and prevents data overload. Since using DropTask I would say there has been a 20% increase in each person’s productivity, and an even bigger influence on business effectiveness. By this, I mean the way that we deal with issues, delegate tasks, remind each other and ensure focus. Effectiveness will of course impact productivity, and I would argue that in respect of the matters we use DropTask for, we have increased our effectiveness by 80%.

We have been offered various alternative task management tool options, but with DropTask working the way it has, and with it also continually improving key functionality within the Group, I cannot see us moving to another solution.”

Improve your productivity and effectiveness by signing up for free today at www.droptask.com/signup

Already a DropTask user? Share your story with us at contact@droptask.com for your chance to be featured in a future post!

Productivity vs. Creativity

Productivity and creativity are often said to be opposed and at battle with one another; in order to be productive you have to sacrifice creativity, and if you wish to be creative, you must forgo being productive.

Creativity focuses on the quality of work and the development of new ideas – giving little thought to time. Productivity on the other hand, is about putting the wheels in motion – it focuses on getting things done and reaching goals in the most effective way, in the least amount of time.

But does a trade-off between the two have to exist, or can productivity and creativity be balanced so they’re not fundamentally at odds with one another? After all, if we’re to be successful we need to be both productive and creative.

You may be creative and have amazing new ideas, but without productivity, those ideas are simply that – ideas. Similarly, if you’re productive in your work but don’t have any creativity in your process, you become stuck in a routine and are likely to miss out on new opportunities.

As you can see, both productivity and creativity are important, and although the possibility of combining them is questionable, we’ve got 3 steps which will allow you to synchronise them; so each can do what it does best when appropriate.

1. Separate your tasks

Identify whether tasks are productive or creativeIn any project you’re likely to have a mixture of both creative and productive tasks. The key is to break down your project and identify whether productivity or creativity is best suited for each one. It’s important to do this because even though a project might be creative – for example, designing a new website – it doesn’t necessarily mean that every task within that project will be creative too. Tasks such as brainstorming ideas and designing the layout are creative, but actions such as proofing and publishing web pages are more about being productive.

2. Schedule creative time

Schedule time for creative thinking and activitiesOnce you’ve identified the tasks that primarily require creativity, allocate yourself time and space to undertake some creative thinking. Whether it’s 20 minutes or several hours, it’s important to schedule time in your day which can be spent away from your usual activities, so you can brainstorm new ideas and gain fresh perspectives.

3. Establish a workflow

Set up workflows to enhance productivity and efficiency

For the productive tasks, a workflow of activity should be set up to optimize efficiency and to limit work in progress. By mapping out each stage of your project cycle, you can easily monitor work as it passes through the cycle, and quickly address any bottlenecks; ensuring tasks flow through each step of the process smoothly – which is essential for a fast and consistent delivery of work.

How do you balance creativity and productivity while you work? Share your top tips with us in the comments below.

Learn more about the benefits of DropTask and sign up for a free account today.