Category Archives: DropTask Features

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.

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!

iMindMap 10 – Out now!

iMindMap 10 - Out now

A creative powerhouse to make your ideas unstoppable

Christmas has come early as we celebrate the latest evolution of a much-loved tool for Mind Mapping this week. Give a big, hearty welcome to iMindMap 10!

Loaded with sparkling new features and enhanced functionality, this supercharged new version will ramp up your creativity like never before. Bigger and better in every way, iMindMap 10 offers a complete kit to help you capture, sort and transform your ideas into tasks before launching them into action in DropTask. Now with five different views, it’s the perfect digital thinking space for any activity, from brainstorming and mind mapping to full-blown project planning – you name it. Choose how you want to work for infinite productivity.

In iMindMap 10, you’ll encounter the most inspiring and free-flowing work environment yet. Get ready for more authentic branch drawing, in-line access to thousands of Mind Map templates, fast consolidation of ideas, optimized brainstorming, advanced categorization, added imports and integrations, and a whole new view for managing your projects. Paired with its visual partner DropTask, you can convert your brightest ideas into practical tasks, enabling you to seamlessly plan, prioritize and bring them to life in the real world.

Here’s an overview of the smart features you can expect to find in the newly enriched iMindMap 10…

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1. Manage projects from idea to implementation

Get your ideas off the ground with an entirely new view. The introduction of the Time Map View is a productivity game changer, bridging the gap between Mind Mapping and timeline project planning. Whether you’re launching a new product or arranging a party, you get a fully equipped workspace to move any kind of project across the finish line. Add brightly colored tasks to your Time Map using the click and draw method that iMindMap users are familiar with, and set Time Scales by specifying custom start dates and durations for your projects and tasks. For ultimate organization, group your responsibilities and priorities into clear Swimlanes, and visually track your most important Milestones as they appear at the bottom of the timeline.

No matter how big your project, checking your progress is a breeze with graphical cues indicating what tasks have been planned (yellow icon), started (green icon), put on hold (red icon) or completed (checkmark), as well as alerting you to any tasks that are overdue. At one glance, you get a clear view of what’s ahead, making it simple to coordinate your workflow and perform at your best. With complete switchability from Mind Map View to Time Map View (and back), watch as your Mind Map branches convert to tasks, keeping all their properties, so you can follow through on your ideas and take them to new heights. Go full steam ahead on your tasks by exporting your Time Map into DropTask, and benefit from real-time collaboration on team projects.

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2. Get inspired

iMindMap 10 brings instant access to the world’s largest Mind Map collection via its all-new Biggerplate Mind Map Library Integration. You can now search and download thousands of time-saving Mind Map templates and inspiring examples all from within iMindMap. Whether your purpose is business related, educational or personal, find useful maps to kick-start your ideas and spur you into action to reach your goals. Simply download a template of your choice and edit it to suit your needs. Likewise, you can also inspire others by sharing your own creations with the global Mind Mapping community in just a few clicks.

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3. Consolidate your ideas with ease

New updates to the Fast Capture View give you extra flexibility in gathering and consolidating your ideas at full speed, so those precious ‘aha’ moments never slip you by. Change the color of idea bubbles to categorize your ideas and create a structure that makes sense to you; then relax in the knowledge that these will be carried across to your branches automatically when you switch to Mind Map View. Add cover images to your idea bubbles for a double visual hit, bringing your ideas to life and boosting your ability to memorise and recall important info.

Revive lacklustre brainstorming sessions and give immediate shape to your ideas with the optimized Brainstorm View. Brand new conversion tools give you the freedom to organize your growing pile of ideas in a format that best fits your preferences. As your ideas develop, add or convert them into new groups to bring greater order to your thoughts, or input them as a list – it’s up to you! For the ideal recall tool, try the new Flashcards. Whether you use them as revision or speaking prompts, they’re handy for keeping extra info hidden until it’s needed.

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4. Go organic

iMindMap 10’s Branch Drawing Tool has been remodeled to make your Mind Mapping experience even more natural and intuitive, so your ideas can radiate from branch to branch without restriction – just like they do in your mind. The organic movement of the drawing tool feels effortless and helps you work quicker, freeing up more time for in-depth thinking. All your essential editing and customization tools are now conveniently located at the end of each branch, exactly where they’re needed most, so your thinking remains fluid and uninterrupted. Simply click to open the all-new Pop-Up Edit Menu to easily access editing tools and keep your work area neat and tidy. The most fundamental Mind Mapping element has been refined, and it’s oh so powerful!

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5. Create some order

The latest rendition of iMindMap brings two cool new systems for categorizing information – Tags and the Icon Manager. These updates offer a way of ordering any of your iMindMap creations in a way that’s totally unique to you. Define your Tags by various themes, such as team members, task importance, topic or performance metrics to set up your own classification system for any purpose, and assign them to branches, sticky notes, idea bubbles or tasks. If you’re more visually minded, add meaningful Icons to create an attractively organized yet clutter-free workspace, and benefit from a sharpened focus for getting more done. A robust filtering system helps you refine your project by Tags or Icon to find information quickly and get a clear view on what matters most at that very moment.

importers-and-email

6. Enjoy more flexibility

iMindMap 10 gives you more options and greater flexibility than ever before through its new Software Importers. Now you can access and edit maps created within other software through iMindMap, and work seamlessly with colleagues and friends who are using alternative map formats. Once you’ve brought your ideas together, don’t forget to action them! Two-way integration with DropTask allows you to take your ideas further with optimum efficiency. Alternatively, switch from bubbles to branches by exporting your DropTask projects into iMindMap for an extra brainstorming boost within a vibrant, interactive canvas. And that’s not all, iMindMap 10’s Email Integration also helps to streamline the flow of your communications by allowing you to send your iMindMap creations directly by email from your workspace. No more switching between iMindMap and your inbox to share your work.

All these convenient updates are designed with one goal in mind – to produce a faster, more focused and more visually engaging work experience. Find out more about these features and other additional improvements over at www.iMindMap.com

Tackling information overload with DropTask 2

Information overload

Emails, reports, Twitter, news, YouTube videos, reminders, websites, RSS feeds, blogs, Facebook, IMs, texts, Skype….Information is everywhere! We live in a hyper-connected world where the gadgets and gizmos of modern work life make outrageous amounts of information available to us at the click of a button. For the most part, this is awesome because we can find what we need to know, when we need to know it. But as legions of us in the workplace are discovering, you can have too much of a good thing.

It’s hard to keep a straight head and focus on your to-dos while being bombarded by a relentless flood of data, which soon plunges you into ‘information overload’. According to a study cited by Jonathan Spira, author of Overload, a shocking 94% of people have at some point felt so overwhelmed by information to the point of incapacitation. The result? Things don’t get done, or they get done badly.

DropTask’s visual display can clean up the clutter

Cleaning up clutter

The fact of the matter is linear, top-down lists don’t cut it as a tool for managing dizzying quantities of information and tasks. Under the crushing pressure of ‘infomania’, our brain has a tough time processing text and separating the trivial from the important. And even a to-do list of only one page can become unwieldy if there’s no obvious structure to it. Plus, let’s be straight, it’s bland. A visual representation like DropTask’s colorful, shapely dashboard is much less taxing mentally and helps to simplify info and to-dos with crystal clarity. Dr. Dimitrios Tsivrikos, business psychologist at the University College London (UCL), highlights the value of visuals for getting to grips with complex data: “Research has proven that by visually presenting information, data processing demands on the brain can be reduced”.

To avoid drowning in a deluge of tasks, use DropTask to pull everything together in one place so you can see the whole view of a project, from the bigger picture right down to the smaller details. In other words, both the forest and the trees! Unlike linear, text-heavy tools, DropTask allows you to build an eye-catching and coordinated framework around the contents of your task list, putting you in firm control and warding off overwhelm.

Let’s take a closer look at how the all-new enhancements in DropTask 2 can help shrink the clutter and give your brain the breathing space it needs to be super-productive.

1. Filter through the flood

Filter through the flood

For a simple way to cut through the noise and find what matters most, use the new Filter feature to (you guessed it!) filter tasks, either by Assignee, Importance, Keywords, Effort, Tags, Attachments or even Status (tasks not started, tasks in progress and tasks on hold). By narrowing down your field of vision, you get a clean glimpse of only the things you need and want to see, whether you’re tracking performance or sifting through priorities. If you want stress-free task management, this is it!

2. More ways to manage – Workflow Boards and built-in Calendar

Workflow and Calendar

The latest rendition of DropTask offers not one, but two glistening new ways to view and organize your information, projects and tasks:

  • Kanban-style Workflow Boards – Pave a clear path through your tasks and track your progress with ease. By setting staged categories like ‘To-do’, ‘Doing’ and ‘Done’, you can model your workflow along vertical swimlanes and get an instantaneous view of where you are and where you’re going. As you work through your to-dos, your completed items stay visible giving you a sense of sequence and mucho satisfaction.
  • Built-in Calendar – The key to combating information overload is to be organized. With DropTask’s new Calendar feature you can stay on top of what you should be doing today, and what’s due in the future. Need to reschedule? Simple. Just drag and drop to reprioritize your tasks in the right order, so you always know what needs immediate attention.

3. Sometimes less is more – Collapsing Categories

Collapsing categories

While it’s essential to capture all the details you need to remember, there are times when you just need a quick snapshot of your current situation. This is where DropTask’s nifty new tool for collapsing and expanding project categories comes in. It gives you the added flexibility to keep your eye on the bigger picture at all times, without getting flustered by the bitty errands and chores still on your plate. With your most critical data consolidated into one compact space, it’s easy to locate key information and concentrate your efforts, minus the strain.

Rather than letting an influx of information get the better of you, use DropTask to organize and bring clarity to it. All your tasks are brought together on a single eye-grabbing dashboard, putting you right at the center of the process so nothing slips through the cracks. You’ll spend less effort trying to find what you need and more on getting stuff done. How do you conquer information overload?  Offer up some tips in the comments below.

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

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.

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

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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.

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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.