From personal work to organizing data analysis, learn how Dolores Cloward tracks it all in DropTask

profile-doloresclowardWithin her organization at ‘SMART Recovery,’ Project Management Professional, Dolores Cloward, requires versatility. Working within a fast-growing international company dedicated to providing peer support for those with addiction issues means that priorities tend to shift between different projects quickly, and Dolores was looking to improve her overall productivity to get more done during her working day. During her search for a solution that would help her achieve this while also working collaboratively, Dolores found DropTask, which blew her away right from the very beginning.

‘Over the last few decades I have filled many roles at SMART. Within a company that’s fast growing, it’s all hands on deck, which means that all of my skills from my career come in to play and why it’s vital for me to be on top of my game at all times. I am instinctively drawn to visually appealing technology, and with DropTask thoughtfully designed in the way that it is, it lets me see the big picture overview of the entire project while also zooming in on minor details when needed. I find the design just beautiful, and so highly intuitive as it allows smooth, seamless and crisp movements which are appealing across all of its platforms.
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Before DropTask I was finding it difficult to keep on track of personal and work related projects as I had no central hub for all of my notes, ideas, and tasks that needed action. Now, I use DropTask as my primary planner and organizer for SMART work, while also managing my independent consulting and personal tasks. I do this by having separate projects for all aspects of my life that I need to keep track on, and within these separate projects I create individual tasks that are associated with them.

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When I first signed up I was impressed at the focus that DropTask has brought to providing truly useful integrations. Along with the iMindMap integration, I also use the Google Calendar integration, which I find is vital while in the process of reordering my schedule. I assign Start and Due Dates to my tasks in DropTask and transport them into my Google Calendar, as it’s a great way for me to filter down what I need to work on for the coming the week.

dolores-start-due-calI have combined my Calendar with DropTask to ensure that I have everything that I need in one space, as I can combine my tasks with other important appointments that I have already in my Google Calendar. If I need to rearrange meetings or scheduled plans suddenly change at the last minute, I can effortlessly drag and drop my tasks into a different date in the Calendar and they’ll be instantly updated in DropTask. It makes DropTask really useable with a highly satisfying visual interface that works.

DropTask doesn’t just look pretty, the actual user experience is flawless and I just love that in software. The different views that are available within the Business account kicks off a different area in my brain. The Canvas helps me to envision the overall picture of the project, then I switch to the List View as it helps me to hone in and organize my tasks according to the level of Urgency that they have assigned to them. When I switch between these views I gain perspective and insight into the minor details within larger projects.

Within the app currently, I’m working on a new podcast, organizing some data analysis, putting together a virtual community party, all while preparing for PR and marketing materials to go live in a March webinar. The March webinar is currently at the top of my to-do list, and for this task I’ve relied on the iMindMap integration within DropTask. With this two-way integration, I can brainstorm my ideas and then transport them into DropTask as they appear as visual task circles. The integration makes the initial stages of planning a project easy, intuitive and enjoyable, something that I’ve never experienced before with task management software.

To learn more, sign up for free 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!

How to fall back in love with your work with DropTask

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Research shows that 53% of US workers love their work, and happier workers are 12% more productive in the workplace. As a result, this leads to workers being healthier and more sociable within their job role. But, if only half of the population love their work then what’s happening to the other 47%? When it comes to how we feel about work, there are often three categories that workers fall under:

1. The ones that are totally devoted to what they do.
2. The ones who tolerate their job and are on a countdown until they’re reunited with the weekend.
3. The ones who are constantly searching for that one job that they can be passionate about.

If you’re reading this and you fall under number 2 or 3, it’s time to reevaluate. The workplace is where we spend most of our waking hours, so it’s crucial that we enjoy the time that we spend there.

Use DropTask to fall hopelessly back in love with your work and follow our simple steps to rekindle the spark that could make you a happier, healthier and more productive worker.

Revisit the first attraction
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‘If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.’
Marc Anthony

Remember when you first started your current job? Just like in the initial stages of dating, you found each task and challenge placed in front of you exciting, and the thought of being granted responsibility made you weak at the knees. You’d even get up 2 hours earlier in the morning to prune and prepare for the day ahead. But now, three years down the line, rushing through the door is a frequent occurrence in your daily routine. When did things get so disorganized?

Take a step back to reflect on the positives in preparing for the day ahead, because the importance of daily and weekly planning plays a crucial part in how successful you are at work. Planning can reduce stress by a significant amount and gives you peace of mind that you have an action plan to work on. In DropTask, create Tasks for the priorities that need to be completed by the end of your day, and use the Assign feature to set that you’re accountable for their completion. Setting yourself up for the day ahead will not only increase your work ethic efficiency and drive you to hit specific goals, but it will also stand as a reminder of the bigger picture and why you fell head over heels with your job in the first place.

Enhance your relationships
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‘Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress; working together is success.’
Henry Ford

Maybe the word ‘love’ is not often heard uttered in the kitchen or the atrium of your workplace, but it has one of the biggest impacts on workplace performance. If you love the company and the colleagues that you’re spending your days with, you’ll naturally become more engaged and passionate about what you’re doing. To enhance your happiness at work, Collaborate with all members of your team and make an effort to bond with one another – after all, you do spend most of your day with these people.

Ensure you set aside time for lunch each day, break away from the desk, and make an effort to chat with your colleagues. Bonding with colleagues enriches the working day and as a result, keeps us energized and eager to produce more work. Use the Messaging feature to arrange a lunchtime date and use this time to offload, let your guard down and talk about anything but work. The latter half of your day is critical to your workplace performance and leaves a lasting impression on how you’ll approach your tasks for the following day. You’ll quickly realize that by taking an extra few minutes to reconnect with colleagues, you’ll be refreshed when returning to your desk and prepped to tackle your to-dos head on. You’ll then be able to leave the office in good spirits knowing that you’ve been a productive member of the team who has helped to move the project nearer to its completion.

Progress in an environment that you adore
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‘The only way to do great work is to love what you do.’
Steve Jobs

Your setting and workplace environment is a key factor in determining whether you’re going to be crazy in love with your work. Whether your preference is a quiet office or being in the center of a vibrant city, it’s important that your surroundings can nurture your growth and progression. If altering your work setting isn’t an option, take the opportunity to switch up your tasking environment. DropTask offers a visually engaging and refreshing approach to managing your day to day tasks and projects, and with notes, files and to-dos all in once place there’ll be no need to worry about falling back into old working habits because we’ll have you covered.

Having a visually appealing workspace with your tasks laid out in front of you will instantly uplift your mood, as you will be able to see who’s working on what, what’s in Progress and what has been Completed. With ‘Clean Desk Policies’ sweeping the nation, it’s said that employees who work at a clutter-free desk are more productive as it improves their efficiency when completing tasks. And as a result of boosting work-related performance, the ‘CDP’ also reduces work-related stress. Within DropTask, we’ve taken a similar approach with DropTask Workflow view that facilitates the flow of tasks as they progress effortlessly through stages within your project.  Tracking progress step-by-step is easy as each vertical swimlane can be divided into ‘to-do, doing and done’ sections, allowing you to keep a tight rein on your workload, so you can maintain focus on the to-dos that will contribute the most towards reaching your successful outcome.

Experiencing ups and downs with your job is completely normal, and in fact, is a continuous development point for maintaining a healthy relationship. Sometimes we just need a little perspective on how many hurdles we’ve overcome to get to where we are today. Dip into your Archived Projects to review your journey and the projects that you were first assigned to. Here, you’ll be able to reevaluate if there are any flaws in your path and feel optimistic about creating a positive and happy future ahead.

How do you get the most out of your working day? Let us know in the comments below.

Generating new ideas with DropTask in 2017

Despite the fact that it’s the shortest month of the year, February can be seen as just as challenging, if not more, than it’s blue predecessor. Sure, the days are getting shorter. But with grey clouds still lingering over our heads, it’s difficult to find the drive that’s going to play a pivotal part in your work-based performance. But don’t stress, with the aid of DropTask you’ll be able to transform February into the month of generating powerful ideas so you’ll be rearing to go for the prosperous year ahead.

Don’t let the creative spark burn out. Ditch the mundane thoughts and follow our tips to ignite your brightest ideas for 2017.

1. Don’t worry about being ‘creative’
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When asked to define creativity, Steve Jobs answered: ‘Creativity is just connecting things‘. But, this is easier said than done if you’re juggling an array of tasks across your home, personal and social life without any clear view of the bigger picture. By overloading your brain with information, thinking ‘creatively’ can be a huge challenge, and studies have shown that the signal that handles how we process our thoughts and decision making temporarily shuts down when we’re feeling overwhelmed. To avoid this feeling, simply create a project in DropTask and have a brain dump on the Canvas of all of the possible ideas that you could put into action. Further explore possible opportunities and ideas by using the iMindMap Integration, and spend time analyzing and preparing which ideas you’re looking to bring to life.

2. More heads are better than one
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An innovative idea is often the combination of smaller collaborative ideas combined into one. There’s often a stigma attached to asking others for help as this is perceived as a sign of weakness. But by building a positive rapport in the workplace as someone who helps others, you’ve already distinguished yourself as a team player. And as a result, others will want to help you to get your job done. Collaborating with the whole team can speed up the process of generating new ideas and bury the negative thoughts of them not being accepted. Invite your colleagues to your ‘ideas’ project so they can browse through all of the possible areas that you could approach next. And if you want a specific member to look at a piece of work, drop them a direct Message so they can guide you in the right direction and help link together the missing parts of your project plan.

3. Trial and error
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Remember, you can’t have a lot of good ideas without a lot of bad ones either. While in the process of drawing up your ideas, you must consider the circumstances that could hinder it and the ones that could allow it to propel into a successful reality. If you have a feeling of doubt before you even start, then something is not quite right. But, what’s the harm in testing out potential ideas? As John F. Kennedy said: ‘Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.’ When our ideas go down the pan, this is when we often realize that we’re meant to pursue different avenues. Connect all of the steps that you’ll need to take to launch your idea into action with visual arrows in the form of Task Dependencies. By having a clear structure in place, you’ll be able to identify if you’re heading down the right path. And if not, reorder your priorities by Filtering by Importance in the List View to ensure that the ideas at the top of the list are the ones that you’ll focus on first.

4. Pay attention to past experiences
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Research shows that learning from past experiences is invaluable for complex decision making and for facilitating the flow of ideas. We’ve all been there, pitching an idea to the rest of the team for it only to be shut down and pushed aside. What’s stopping you from revisiting old ideas and approaching them with a fresh outlook? When you think of those past ideas resulting in failure, take a look at them from a different perspective and note down the gaps in the initial planning stages of why they didn’t succeed. Look at them as ‘unapproached opportunities’, and start again. By taking into account your past failures, you’ll be able to rectify the mistakes that you made the first time around. And with a whole archive of Completed Tasks in DropTask, you’ll gain a quick boost of motivation and feel rearing to go with your next great idea.

How do you approach new ideas when your motivation is low? Let us know in the comments below.

The DropTask guide to popular productivity methods

We’re super fans of productivity here at DropTask, and we love exploring all the best possible ways to help you get more done, more efficiently. From GTD to tomato timers, there are multiple to-do methods out there. The challenge is figuring out which one/s work best for you.

In this post, we’ve rounded up 4 of the most popular, tried-and-tested productivity strategies, along with how to navigate them in DropTask. Take a look, try them out and find your best fit.

1. Getting Things Done (GTD)

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One of the most famous productivity techniques ever known is Getting Things Done (GTD), based on the best-selling book of the same name by productivity consultant David Allen. GTD promotes two key elements of task management – control and perspective. In a nutshell, it follows a process that turns your tasks into real, actionable items or things you can just get rid of.  Everything you keep has a clear reason for being in your life at any given moment – both now and well into the future.

With GTD, projects are different to tasks. A project represents a high-level outcome or result which involves multiple steps to achieve. A task represents the actions or steps needed to complete a project. In DropTask, you can break down your main Projects into separate Categories to reflect the type of tasks awaiting attention. Preferably, all your tasks should be organised by the place or context in which they can be done, or the set of tools available (e.g. @Office, @Calls, @Meetings, @Emails, @Home). You could also include a ‘Waiting For’ category for when an action has been delegated to someone else, or when you’re waiting for some external event before a project can be moved forward. A ‘Someday/Maybe’ category is also handy to store things to be done at some point, but not right now. In DropTask, you can use Tags to further clarify the context of your tasks and enable better Filtering, so you can work on targeted groups of actions at a time.

Once you’ve off-loaded what needs to get done from your head or inbox into DropTask, take an inventory to determine whether each item is actionable or not. If a task isn’t actionable, remove it from your project. If it is, consider whether you will:

  • Do it now (if takes less than 2 minutes)
  • Schedule it: Determine priorities and add Start/Due Dates so you can monitor the task in your Calendar.
  • Delegate it: Assign the task to to someone else.
  • Put it in the Someday/Maybe category (to be checked every month or so)

To keep things moving, engage in periodic reviews (at least once a week) to streamline and update your tasks, always focusing on the next logical actions. It takes a bit of setting up, but GTD is an ideal system for helping you pull everything together in an organized fashion so you can knock out tasks quickly.

2. Pomodoro/Sprints

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The Pomodoro technique is based on the idea of work sprints combined with short, frequent breaks to maximize focus while preventing burnout. Francesco Cirillo, the inventor of the method, originally used a kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato to set time increments for working on tasks (pomodoro is Italian for tomato in case you didn’t know!). With Pomodoro, you do a concentrated burst of work for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break, and then repeat the process until you’ve completed 4 sprints. After each 4-sprint cycle (which represents one ‘Pomodoro’), you take a longer break (say half an hour) to stretch your legs, grab a snack and recharge. It really is that simple. If you want to try this in DropTask, we recommend breaking down larger tasks into a smaller number of digestible subtasks that can be performed within 25-minute blocks. Create a Checklist of tasks and work through it using the segmented Pomodoro process, making sure to protect your time from any and all interruptions.

3. Kanban

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Kanban is a highly visual method that facilitates the flow of tasks across one project board (a ‘Kanban’). It’s great for keeping the big picture in sight as you can clearly see what you have to do right now, what’s coming up and what you’ve just completed. A versatile technique, Kanban is enormously helpful for tracking projects as they cycle through defined stages, such as the Auditing process – ‘Planning’, ‘Assessment’, ‘Reporting’, ‘Follow-up’. DropTask’s new Workflow View enables full-blown Kanban-style productivity. All your tasks are clearly organized in vertical swimlanes that are easy to switch between, keeping you in full control as you progress from ‘Do’ and ‘Doing’ to ‘Done’. The clear sequential structure of DropTask’s Workflow Board helps you keep a tight rein on your ‘work in progress’, so you never take on more than you can chew at any one time. For more info on how to Kanban with Droptask, check out this earlier blog post.

4. The Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Urgent/Important Matrix is another visual approach that makes prioritization simple. Famously referenced by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this technique divides your tasks into four quadrants along an XY axis, based on their level of Urgency and/or Importance.
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Examining your work in this way helps you plan and prioritize around your most important, high-value (but not necessarily urgent!) tasks – so they don’t get crowded out by pointless busywork or sudden distractions. Getting extra training or updating your LinkedIn profile might not be pressing requirements right now, but they’ll no doubt be of benefit to your career in the longer term. With the Eisenhower Matrix, you get a better grasp of which tasks need to be done right away, which ones can be put off or ignored, and which ones can be delegated to someone else. This concept can be easily executed in DropTask using the Urgency and Importance attributes. You can set the level of urgency for tasks using 4 values (low to very high) to best determine those that require immediate attention. Color-coded flags denoting importance from low (blue flag) to very high (red flag) will help you identify all your most critical tasks with a single glance.

How do you find these techniques? Do you have any favorite productivity systems we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below. If you’d like some help with implementing any of these methods in DropTask, email us at support@droptask.com and we’ll do all we can to assist. 

Fed up with your idle projects? Learn how to finish what you started

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Are you in the habit of starting projects, but not finishing them? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many of us are fast to get new projects into motion – a screenplay, a product, a new craft, a business idea or home improvements. We like ‘starting things’ because it makes us feel amped up, entrepreneurial and productive. But, completing them is another matter.

There are plenty of reasons why we lose that initial enthusiasm for our projects and hit the pause button mid-way, be they running out of cash, failure to plan effectively, stumbling on a roadblock, lack of commitment, or reaching a plateau. Rather than abandoning a project altogether, we leave it on the backburner week after week, month after month, anticipating that we’ll get around to wrapping it up at some point.

Every project sitting idle signifies wasted time, energy and resources, and sucks up far too much mental space. It could be a small task, an ongoing work project or something even bigger, like a lifelong passion. Whatever you have that’s undone, it won’t magically get finished without you taking action.

We’ve devised 4 simple hacks to help you see your projects through from beginning to end. Read on and get moving…

1. Be picky

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Before doing anything, take a look at all your unfinished projects and identify which ones are actually worth concluding. Which assignments have the tightest deadlines? Which ones are almost done? What about that never-ending work proposal that’s been going on forever? Remember that dream goal you got started on? Is it still something you care about and want to pursue? Decide which projects you want to finish first. Ranking your projects makes it clear what’s number 1 on your agenda and helps in fueling your motivation to go from one completed activity to the next.

Give your top priority project the go-ahead by forming a basic structure for it in DropTask. First, create a new Project to house all your to-dos. Inside that project, create color-coded Categories for grouping your micro responsibilities and tasks. For instance, you can organize your categories by project stages or themes, such as ‘Ideas’, ‘Research’, ‘Budgeting’, ‘Events’, ‘Marketing’ and so on.

2. Plan your actions in detail

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To get and stay organized, make sure you have a system for action planning. Having set up all your project categories in DropTask, create specific action steps in the form of Tasks to begin the process of making the project a reality. Without clear steps, you might find yourself stumbling around, not knowing which course to follow to achieve your desired results. Your tasks can be anything you need to do or any piece of work you need to produce to fulfil key aspects of your project – ‘Write cover copy’, ‘Commission artwork’, ‘Create webpage’ and so on. You can assign each task a Start and Due Date, and an owner (if you’re working with others). For each task, make sure you prepare, copy, link to or attach any notes or files you might need. If you have a series of tasks that depend on one another, set them up as Dependencies so you can clearly see how they link together in the correct sequence. The tighter your plan, the easier it will be to stick to it without getting sidetracked.

3. Eat a frog first thing

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“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” – Mark Twain. This entertaining quote contains powerful productivity advice. For any project you’re working on, there are tasks that are more important than others. The frog is the biggest, ugliest and hardest task on your plate – it’s the one that puts the most pressure on you because of its significance. Consequently, it’s also the task that you’re most likely to avoid in favor of crossing off the easier 3rd, 4th or 5th items in your to-dos.

But here’s the tip. If you aim to wolf down your giant task ASAP each day, then the rest of your work will be a piece of cake in comparison. According to behavioral scientists, willpower tends to be higher earlier in the day. Prioritizing your toughest task first means you’ll be able to apply your best energy and effort to it before ‘decision fatigue’ kicks in. Specify your frogs by setting Importance, Urgency and Effort attributes for your tasks in DropTask, and switch to Project List View to pull up a list of your most urgent ‘do now’ jobs each day. Eating the frog won’t be pleasant, but steeling yourself to do it allows you to make long strides in achieving your major goal and will nip chronic procrastination in the bud. You might not enjoy the taste, but you’ll love the buzz of accomplishment that comes after.

4. Stay committed to the end

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Maintain momentum on your project by checking in daily, weekly or monthly. We all know what it feels like to start a project all hyped up and full of zest, only to have our enthusiasm fade away once we’re in the thick of things. It’s worth reminding yourself regularly that every little bit you do now counts toward your end vision. Use DropTask’s Workflow View to visually map the development of your project from start to finish, while keeping your eyes firmly on the main prize.  Mark your progress on each task using the Progress Percentage bar, and look over your current achievements in the Completed Tasks View. Monitoring your actions makes you accountable to your final goal and helps you stay on top. DropTask’s Daily Summary Email will notify you of which deadlines are coming up and what tasks are overdue, making tracking effortless on your part. If need be, reschedule or reset any dates against your target, and set Reminders to keep you chipping away at those tasks. Persevere and it won’t be too long before you’re celebrating project success.

What’s on your finish list? Do you have any of your own methods for putting projects to bed? Tell us all about them in the comments below.

4 Ways to find your focus with DropTask

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Do you find it hard to manage distractions? Are you often overwhelmed by all the tasks on your plate or the data that’s clamoring for your attention? We’ve all experienced those days when we can’t seem to settle down and focus on one thing. With information overload a major pandemic in today’s world of work, it can be a struggle to free your mind of clutter and concentrate on the stuff that matters.

According to productivity wisdom, focus is essential for solving problems, being innovative and getting things done. There’s a famous quote by Stephen Covey that really resonates with us here at DropTask: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Of course, this is easier said than done. And that’s why we’ve introduced some handy new features to help you regain and sharpen your focus when work is looking a bit blurry.

Try these 4 hacks to get some clarity and save your sanity.

1. Narrow your focus with filters

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A powerful way to hone in on your tasks, DropTask’s advanced Filter tool makes it easy for you to locate what you need, when you need it. For instance, you can opt to view just your overdue tasks or those that have files or certain tags attached to them. With the ability to filter by a whole range of key identifiers – assignee, importance, keywords, effort, tags, due date, attachments and task status – targeted concentration is just one or two clicks away. While you can combine multiple filters, it helps to stick to a minimal number to maintain simplicity in directing your workflow. Think: what’s most important in this particular context?

To access filters from within your DropTask project, simply select the filter icon located in the bottom left-hand corner of your screen, then choose the filters you wish to apply. You can remove filters at any point by clicking ‘Clear’. A useful feature to help you spend less time spinning your wheels and more time moving forward on your tasks.

2. Zoom in for a closer look

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When your mind’s in disarray and you can’t seem to make heads or tails out of your tasks, it could be that you’re trying to take on too many things at once. Avoid workload overwhelm by strategically focusing on one project area at a time using DropTask’s new Pan+Zoom Categories feature. This allows you to pan and zoom in on specific project categories, so it’s much easier to get visual clarity and make decisions on what to do first. Click the ‘Categories’ button situated on the bottom right of your Canvas workspace, and then select the category you’d like to zero in on for ultimate focus.

3. Eliminate overload by collapsing your to-dos

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Information overload becomes a thing of the past with the ability to Collapse and Expand Categories in DropTask. By visually collapsing categories and the tasks within them, you can hide minor chores and allow yourself more space to fully engage with your heaviest priorities. Within the Canvas view, hover over the category you’d like to collapse and select the ‘Collapse’ option. Your category will then minimize into a smaller circle, with all its tasks hidden. This is a useful tool for keeping your workspace neat and tidy, drowning out the ‘visual noise’ of miscellaneous to-dos so you can avoid flitting from one diversion to another. Your tasks will remain discretely hidden until you’re ready to retrieve them. Click ‘Expand’ and your category will reappear at its normal size, along with all your tasks.

4. Check out the landscape with auto-layout

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To reclaim your focus, it’s sometimes necessary to take a step back and look at the big picture. When activated, DropTask’s new Auto-Layout tool smoothly pulls all your tasks to the center of the Canvas, so you can view your entire workload with ease and rearrange or re-prioritize as needed. From this greater perspective, you can determine the most optimal organization of your tasks, and save yourself time and energy later on. To switch on Auto-Layout, click the ‘Layout’ button on the bottom right-hand corner of the Canvas and you’ll find the option to toggle Auto-Layout on or off. With this clever tip, you can be confident that there’s nothing you’re forgetting or neglecting, leaving you free to focus and putting you in full control of the responsibilities ahead.

We hope these fresh new features inspire you to find your own focus. Let us know how you get on in the comments below.

Planning your new projects

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7 Steps to getting started with DropTask

A new year often brings exciting new initiatives. But when it comes to planning your upcoming projects, it can be hard to know exactly where to begin. Whether you’re launching a new website, devising a training course or hosting an event, you’ll no doubt need a clear project plan to help you stay on track to reach your goals. A good project plan will outline your key steps, deliverables and the team members involved in the project, keeping everything organized in one place.

Today, we want to show you how DropTask can become your go-to tool for managing just about any type of project – big or small, work or home. A beautifully fluid interface hides an incredibly powerful feature set for project management, and mobile app availability makes it easy for you to stay on top of your tasks while on the go.

Let’s start with the basics – creating your first project. Follow these 7 simple steps to design a foolproof project plan and move forward with confidence.

Step 1: Start a Project

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Create a fresh Project by clicking the ‘+ Create Project’ tab under the Menu. Give it a title. Your project can be literally anything! Teachers can create projects for each class or module they teach, product developers can create projects for each new launch they work on, bloggers can create projects to manage their publishing calendar and freelance contractors can create a project for each client.

With DropTask, you can share your project with family, friends or colleagues who will be working with you. Invite them by inputting their email addresses or via Google contacts.

Once you’ve done this, a blank Canvas will open up, all ready and waiting for you to start setting up your project.

Step 2: Define Project Categories

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Categories are an important part of your project, representing topics, goals, stages or job operations. They help to divide your project into more manageable sections. For example, useful categories for your Market Research project may include ‘Online Surveys’, ‘Focus Groups’, ‘Interviews’, ‘Field Experiments’, etc.

Add a category in DropTask by simply dragging the Category bubble from the top navigation bar and ‘dropping’ it onto your Canvas. Assign a color to your category to act as a ‘code’ for increased organization.

Step 3: Plan your Tasks

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Within each Category, map out your key tasks based on the deliverables you need to produce in order to meet the project’s goals. What are the specific action steps you’re expected to complete? If you run a business club, your ‘Quarterly Event’ category might include tasks such as include ‘Organize Catering’, ‘Send Out Invitations’, ‘Prepare Presentation’, etc. To add a Task, click on the Task bubble from the top navigation bar and drag it to the appropriate category. At any time, you can move or re-position your task on your Canvas or place it into different categories via drag and drop.
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Use the ‘Add Notes’ option in the Task Sidebar to include any comments or details you think are important to complete the task (e.g. client contact information, an outline of instructions), and upload task-related Files (documents, spreadsheets, photos) using the Paperclip icon to collate all your content neatly.
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For each task, determine who will be responsible for its completion. To Assign a task to someone – i.e. yourself, a team member, or multiple people – select your chosen member from the ‘Members’ panel on the left-hand side, and drag and drop them onto your task. Or use the dropdown menu available in the Task Sidebar. To collaborate, use the @ symbol in front of a person’s name when leaving a Comment for their attention. This will notify them directly in their dashboard and via email.
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Once your categories are filled with tasks, identify any Dependencies. Do certain tasks need to be completed before you can make a start on others? Use DropTask to define the order in which a series of tasks must be actioned. Drag and drop the ‘first’ task onto its dependent. An arrow will then appear representing the link between the two tasks. Being able to visualize task connections in this way is invaluable for keeping track of your project workflow.

Step 4: Set Start and Due Dates

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Next, estimate Start and Due Dates for each action step or deliverable in your project plan. Simply select a task to open up the Task Sidebar, then select ‘Start’ or ‘Due’ situated next to the Calendar icon. A date picker will pop up for you to choose your start or due date. Once dates are set, your tasks will be automatically recorded in your Calendar, helping you manage your time effectively to meet your deadlines. As well as one-off dates, you can set timescales on a recurring basis for Repeating Tasks. When selecting a due date for your task, you can opt to repeat it every day, week, month or year. Your repeating schedule will be visible under the ‘Due’ date in the Task Sidebar and the task will be repeated in your Calendar according to the frequency you have selected.

To add even more power to your time management, you can set Task Reminders from under the ‘Alarm’ icon in the Task Sidebar. You also have the option to include an additional note to prompt you on what you need to do when alerted. Staying on track has never been so easy!

Step 5: Prioritize Tasks

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Once you have all your tasks in front of you, prioritize them by setting Importance and Urgency attributes. In the hurly-burly of the workday, it’s easy to let your biggest tasks get crowded out by emails, meetings and other small, pressing errands. Identifying your most important tasks beforehand allows you to focus your attention on where you’ll have the greatest impact. In DropTask, you can assign various levels of Importance to your tasks, which are visually highlighted on your Canvas workspace by different colored flags. First, select a task to open up the Task Sidebar. Next to the ‘Flag’ icon, you have the option to choose from one of four priority settings – Blue (low importance), Gray (normal importance), Amber (high importance) or Red (very high importance).

To rank your tasks according to Urgency, find the ‘Urgency’ icon in the Task Sidebar and select a corresponding color – Blue (low urgency), Gray (medium urgency), Amber (high urgency) or Red (very high urgency). A colored lightning bolt will appear in the task circle, drawing your attention to the most time-sensitive tasks on your Canvas. Your most urgent tasks will also appear at the top of your task list in List View.

Step 6: Mark your Progress

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As you work your way through your project tasks, keep track of how things are progressing with DropTask’s Progress Percentage Bar.  Click on a task to open up the Task Sidebar. Near the top, you’ll find the progress bar. Simply move the progress slider along the bar to record the percentage of the task that’s been completed. This allows you to visually monitor your activity and offers a quick boost to your motivation, keeping you forging ahead. Once a task is complete, just tap the ‘Tick’ button at the end of the bar to automatically slide it to 100%.

DropTask stores all your completed tasks in the Completed Tasks view, where you can see all the tasks that have been removed from your active Canvas and Calendar after completion. There are two options for viewing your completed tasks: Project Completed Tasks (via the ‘Completed’ button on the top-right hand side of the screen within your project), and All Completed Tasks (by selecting ‘Completed’ from under the Menu.

Step 7: Finish up

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So, you made it! Your project’s all done and you can revel in your success. But wait! Instead of deleting your project and forgetting all about it, Archive it in DropTask. This clears up space so you can focus on your newest projects, while still keeping a full history of what you’ve done before that you can refer back to whenever needed. To archive a project that no longer requires auctioning, select the ‘Cog’ icon situated on the right-hand side of the top navigation bar. A pop-up window will open up, which includes an ‘Archived’ option. Click ‘Yes’ next to this to safely store your project. You’ll be able to view it again under the ‘Archived Projects’ section in the main Menu.

What are you waiting for? With these quick start tips, you have the basic structure you need to launch your next project. Already using DropTask for project management? Then let us know how you go about it in the comments below. 

For more info on how each feature works, head over to the DropTask Help Hub or contact us directly at support@droptask.com.

Do things differently in 2017

5 unusual productivity hacks that get results

Each January, masses of us set the same old New Year’s resolutions for what we want to achieve and how we want to work during the months ahead. And year after year, we rely on a standard set of productivity tips and tricks to drive us on our self-improvement journey. But research by leadership development author Kevin Kruse shows that the most productive people – whether entrepreneurs, students or Olympic athletes – tend to do things differently. Making the effort to approach your work in new ways puts you in a more experimental frame of mind, so you can discover and develop more positive habits to get the most out of your days.

Instead of following the crowd, why not consider quirky or unconventional ways to kick off a productive 2017? To help you out, we asked the DropTask team how they like to do things ‘out of the box’. Here’s a round-up of their weird and wonderful advice.

1. Count to 7 – Gareth, Head of Creative Media

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When compiling my to-dos, I try to think in ‘sevens’. There’s a very good reason that the most famous lists ever recorded consist of seven items – the 7 habits of highly effective people, the seven sins, the seven wonders of the world. It’s a good number for our brains to handle, as it’s well known that the human working memory can only hold about seven pieces of information at a time. Faced with more than that, we can become overwhelmed into inaction rather than taking action. So, for every project I’m working on, I’ll set down a maximum of seven tasks or milestones to make it appear manageable. That way I find it much easier to stay motivated towards my bigger goals, without stressing out.

2. Go mobile – Yogi, Head of Marketing

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Like most office workers, I spend most of my days sitting down at a desk. But long periods in my chair can cause my work rate to slow down and I become sleepy or achy. When this happens, I switch my work location by going to visit a colleague in another office or doing simple tasks on my phone or iPad while standing or moving about. At DropTask HQ we have standing desks, where you readjust your desk to a height that allows you to do your work standing up. This helps you avoid staying in one posture for too long and prevents your body and mind from getting sluggish. Worth a try if you ask me!

3. Hide your to-dos – Rowanne, Marketing Executive

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You might think it’s a good idea to leave your files and papers out on your desk, as a visible reminder of what you need to do. Or to keep your inbox and ‘work-in-progress’ documents open on your computer so you can access them quickly. But all this does is create a messy work environment – both physically and mentally – which can be an obstacle to getting stuff done. I like to take control of my workspace by tidying my desk every day and putting away my to-dos until I’m ready to work on them. And every week I take time to organize and clean out my digital stuff as well, including emails and apps. With my DropTask projects, I can stay focused on what’s relevant right now by simply Collapsing Categories, hiding any less critical errands and information. This gives me a stronger sense of control as I can avoid getting distracted while working on a high-priority task, but can quickly retrieve all my to-dos when the time is right.

4. Have a moan – Kevin, Lead Software Developer

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I’m not saying that it’s good to be a ‘Negative Nancy’. We all know that constant complaining and whining can be detrimental in the workplace. But if there’s genuinely something that’s preventing you or others from being productive, then it’s important to raise it as an issue. For example, if you’ve got a beef about a certain procedure that’s impacting on your decision making or performance, then you should complain about it – but in a constructive way. Stay away from personal judgments about who’s to blame and focus on finding solutions for positive change. This prevents resentment building up and opens the door to discussion on new, productive action for everyone to work better together.

5. Don’t manage your time – Ben, Developer

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There’s no denying that the modern work environment carries a high risk of burnout, what with working longer hours to combat overflowing in-trays, data being thrown at us non-stop and the immediacy of communication technologies. Often, we try to take control of these demands through time management methods that help us squeeze more into our day, cramming our calendars to the brim. The problem with this approach is that time is not renewable. However, energy is. You can’t add more hours to the day, but you can manage your energy to improve your concentration and focus to achieve important outcomes rather than mindlessly running through your tasks like a robot. My productivity plummets after a stretch of time and I get tired and foggy. For most of us, this happens after 90–120 minutes (known as our ultradian rhythms). Instead of trying to push through the slump, I break down my day into 90-minute ‘work sprints’. Following each 90-minute session, I take a break for 15–20 minutes to go for a short walk, listen to uplifting music or grab a snack. This helps to disengage my mind so I can completely refuel, before heading back refreshed for the next 90-minute work cycle.

What unusual or offbeat productivity strategies have you found effective? Share your experiences in the comments below.

How DropTask helped ‘Storyminers’ to complete one of their most complex projects of 2016

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Mike Wittenstein runs one of the world’s first experience design firms, ‘Storyminers’. He and his teams have helped over 700 companies in 25 countries. Here’s how DropTask for Business has helped him.
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In his own workplace, Mike was fed up with a disorganized amount of messy papers that landed on his desk when new client work started. Reminders, tasks for others, copy points, strategy notes, and other ideas seemed to be floating everywhere. The proper communication of key actions to others sometimes slipped. Then, he stumbled across DropTask, which helped him to organize and track the company’s entire workload in one productive workspace.

One morning I found myself at my desk with several piles of papers over an inch thick, with each stack and page mixed up within a disorderly pile which was getting me down. I needed to convert all of the information on the pages into my new Business/Marketing Plan for the New Year, but I just couldn’t get the information to flow into the new picture of the way that I wanted things to work. The problem I had was that the picture was in my head, and no-one else could visually understand the way I wanted the company to progress forward.

Then I came across DropTask. As soon as I created my first project, I felt more in control. I had all of the tools that I needed to work quickly and think nimbly. DropTask comfortably shaped itself around my working needs, and its visual nature of displaying tasks as circles showed me that it was different from other tools on the market. No matter when or where my ideas came to me, I could instantly input them into DropTask and watch them come to life as the new business model took shape. The ability to nest categories within one another made it easy to share the relationship each idea had with others on my team and let me quickly assess where my time needed to be spent.

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We also use DropTask to plan new accounts. Typically, the work begins in the Canvas view where all of our tasks are displayed as engaging circles which are easily accessible by using the drag-and-drop feature. Initially, we use this view to code everyone’s ideas in real-time. If members are having a 1:1 conversation, they simply use the ‘@’ icon, which notifies one another that they’ve been mentioned in a comment. As a team, we view the entirety of the year’s project, including its minor details, by zooming in and out of the Canvas, giving us the bigger picture of who’s working on what and what is yet to be completed.

‘It feels like we’re all on the same page, because we literally are!’

We have planned one of 2016’s most complex projects in DropTask for Business, including one of our key workshops, the ‘Reason for Being’. This workshop is part of the work that we do to help our clients to understand, in one sentence, whom they serve and what their value is to their clients. It sounds easy but it’s really hard work. Now, thanks to DropTask, it’s faster and easier. Using DropTask has helped us reduce the time that it takes to work on these workshops by 50%. It adds much needed simplicity to the planning process and allows us to quickly add information to our projects without losing any detail – something that we frequently experienced when we were limited to voice notes.
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Seeing in real-time where each key thought lands on the Canvas for our new 2016 business model helped us to pull all loose ends together and form a strategy which the entire team was able to understand. There’s something special that happens when you connect your thoughts in your head and share them on screen; It not only creates a lasting association which makes it easier to remember what order you need to act upon tasks, it also helps improve everyone’s understanding of the connections between tasks.
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With the help of DropTask for Business, we now share all of our ideas in one creative space, communicate with one another, edit task progress and assign ownerships, all before transporting our finished Project into iMindMap, in preparation for our next meeting with our clients. Now, team members and I can share the same context about work because DropTask for Business simplifies the whole process of planning, managing, and getting projects across the finish line.

To learn more, sign up for free 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!

What a year! A look back at DropTask in 2016

As 2016 says its goodbyes, we can’t help looking back and reflecting on the incredible journey we’ve made so far. Thanks to the loyal support and feedback of our users, the DropTask brand has gone from strength to strength. It’s been an eventful 365 days packed with feature improvements, added integrations, and of course the launch of our cutting-edge new version DropTask 2!  We’ve loved every minute and hope you’ve enjoyed the ride with us.

Here’s a round-up of our high points of the year, as well as a sneaky glimpse of what’s in store for 2017.

A recap of our best moments

New-look notifications

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As developments in our beta program steamed ahead, early 2016 brought the announcement of a transformed notification center. When it comes to our tasks and projects, we all want to be in the know. But what we don’t want is to drown under a wave of information, alerts and updates. With our new-style notification center, simplicity is the goal, so now you’re only alerted to key changes or updates to your tasks (such as reminders and comments). This limits interruptions and gives you the chance to focus and take action on what’s most important. Worried you’ll miss something? Your notifications won’t go anywhere until you’ve seen and ‘dismissed’ them, putting you firmly in control of information, not the other way around!

More powerful integrations

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While last year saw the release of our Evernote and Outlook plugins, we hit another milestone in the first few months of 2016 when we added even more cool integrations, allowing you to streamline the way you work across a bunch of your favorite services. From managing incoming emails to syncing calendars to file sharing, we have you fully covered:

  • Gmail and Outlook: Master your inbox and transform emails into actionable tasks, ensuring no inbound to-dos are forgotten.
  • Evernote: With two-way sync, you can bring your notes to life in DropTask or send to-dos straight into Evernote to build up your ideas.
  • Google Drive and DropBox: Instantly upload documents and images to tasks, making it easy to share important info and stay organized.
  • Google Calendar: Sync your projects with Google Calendar for a complete view of your schedule, with visual priority settings to keep you on track.
  • Google Contacts: Invite your existing contacts to collaborate on tasks, and get more done together.
  • iMindMap 10: See your ideas through to completion by exporting branches or whole mind maps into DropTask. Or collate your to-dos in iMindMap 10 to explore ideas further.

Beautiful task management – DropTask 2 unveiled

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You asked for it, you got it! The DropTask HQ was a hive of activity this year as we sought to implement our biggest shake up yet, taking on board your valuable ideas, comments and suggestions in our forum and community pages. Launched in September, DropTask 2 was the result of many insightful conversations and interactions with you guys – our faithful supporters – and is a proud achievement for us all!

In this completely revamped version, we unleashed a stunning new interface design and more fluid operation, with fresh features like:

  • Workflow View: Offers a Kanban-style workspace to map out your project workflow and take you from ‘Doing’ to ‘Done’ with ease.
  • Built-in Calendar: Brings together all of your tasks from every project and allows you to view them by Start Date or Due Date, helping you plan ahead and stay on top of your schedule.
  • Team Calendars: Check the availability of others by viewing their calendars and collaborate more effectively as a team.
  • Start and Due Dates: Assign start and due dates to your tasks to better manage your time and boost your planning efficiency.
  • Collapsible Categories: Eliminate information overload and improve your focus by hiding tasks to reveal only what you need to see at any given moment.
  • Auto-Layout: Activate this feature to optimize the arrangement of your tasks within the Canvas, giving you a centralized view of the whole picture.
  • Completed Tasks: Celebrate achievements with a historic view of all the tasks you’ve successfully completed.
  • Enhanced Filtering: Cut through the noise and focus on the tasks that matter with a variety of extra filter options, including Assignee, Importance, Keywords, Effort, Tags, Due Date, Attachment and Status (Not Started, In Progress, On Hold).

We love bold visuals here at DropTask, and this advanced, feature-packed rendition doesn’t let the side down. Now with four display modes (our original Canvas, Workflow, List and Completed), you can view and manage your workload with confidence, and bring teams together like never before. Learn more about DropTask 2 in our previous blog post.

Where we’re headed in 2017

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With an awesome (and super busy!) 2016 behind us, you may be wondering what could possibly be on the horizon for next year. To give you a hint, we’ll be branching out and looking to make DropTask accessible to more people around the world. New options for introducing reporting are also on our radar, giving teams greater insight into progress, performance, and management. And, in keeping with what makes DropTask special, we’ll be experimenting with some exciting alternative visualizations and enhancements.

Above all, what we’re most excited about in 2017 is helping our users achieve their productivity goals in bigger and better ways. Stay tuned for more by checking our blog from time to time, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for our hottest news and tips.

From all of us at DropTask, thank you for making 2016 our best year yet. See you in 2017!