Category Archives: DropTask Tips

Yes, you’re busy but are you productive?

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3 Ways to go from needlessly busy to getting things done

Think back over the past few weeks. Have you been busy or productive? No, this isn’t a trick question. We’re not trying to trip you up. Being busy and being productive are not the same thing.

These days most of us are crazy busy. Busyness goes hand-in-hand with the modern world, where, thanks to our ‘always on’ digital culture and a haphazard economy, we feel the need to run our lives at breakneck speed and cram our calendars to the brim. Each day we scurry from task to task. There are deadlines to meet, emails to exchange, obligations to fulfill, papers to file, phone calls to answer and meetings to attend – we’re frazzled just thinking about it!

It can be tempting to see being busy as a sign of success; a symbol of your incredible work devotion. But while you’re on full-time ‘inbox monitor’ duty, how much are you actually accomplishing on the things that matter? Although staying constantly in motion can make you feel like you’re racing ahead, the reality is that you’re more likely to be stuck on a treadmill running nonessential errands. Stop confusing busyness for productivity, and you’ll get better results on your mission-critical projects.

So what can you do to be less frantically busy, but more productive? Here are some tips.

1. Trim your to-dos

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Many of us live our lives at such a furious pace that we lose sight of what’s important. Cutting down your to-dos might sound like counterproductive advice, but it actually helps you get more done in ways that count. Being productive means accomplishing the tasks that will bring you closer to meeting your goals – those that are in line with your core mission and provide the biggest bang for your buck in the business. Anything else is just busywork and will clutter up your day.

The Pareto Principle is the idea that 80% of your results come from 20% of your activity. So instead of trying to hurry through a long list of xx trivial items, choose 2 to 3 high priority tasks to focus on in a single day. This is what top CEOs, business owners and managers do. Prioritizing forces you to choose what’s most significant for you to work on right now and helps you remain focused, so you’re not just staying busy for the sake of it. That means tackling those big scary projects first, not claiming that you’re ‘too busy’ as an excuse. So even if you only get those 3 things done at day’s end, you’ll have been far more industrious than if you had completed 10 not-so-important items.

How can you get rid of the checklist mentality and apply the Pareto Principle to your workload? Try using DropTask to separate your high-value tasks from your low-value busywork. The Importance feature allows you to set the priority of a task from low (blue flag) to very high (red flag) in line with its expected impact. You can also define the level of Urgency (low to very high) and Effort (small, medium or large) of each of your items to best determine when and how to take action on them. If you find prioritizing tasks a bit tricky, this Inc. article suggests a useful strategy that takes account of the amount of effort needed as well as the potential for positive results.

2. Hit the pause button

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As humans, we’re designed to operate cyclically between spending and renewing our energy, not linearly like a machine. Think about your personal energy for a moment. When it’s high, you can concentrate well and produce great work. When it’s low, your productivity and work quality plummets. Forcing yourself to slog on when your energy tank is empty is not only harmful to your performance, it’s a sure-fire route to burnout. You might try to override your low points by downing a double-shot coffee or grabbing a sugary snack, but when you do this your stress hormones kick in to keep you going, so you end up working in ‘fight or flight’ mode rather than at full capacity. This means you become reactive to what’s going on around you and less able to think clearly, creatively or critically. The trick around this is to take frequent breaks and replenish your energy levels before they hit rock-bottom, so you can then bring more intensity and power to whatever it is you’re doing.  The 2014 Quality of Life @ Work study found that employees who take a brief break every 90 minutes report:

  • 28% better level of focus
  • 40% greater capacity to think creatively
  • 30% higher level of health and wellbeing

Instead of aiming to stay busy round the clock, schedule regular ‘pit stops’ into your DropTask projects and set Reminders to alert you take them. Plan in advance what you’re going to do in your breaks so you can optimize this time. Consultant Sami Paju recommends changing your channel of activity. We all have 3 channels of human activity – cognitive, physical and emotional. If you’ve been doing a lot of thinking and brainwork, then you need to switch off from the cognitive channel. Try taking a stroll, getting a snack, meditating or break out the crayons and do some coloring in to relieve stress. A great way to engage the emotional channel is to listen to music, watch funny YouTube videos or call a friend. Or get your physical channel going by hitting the gym, doing some stretches or running up and down the stairs. In just a short while, you’ll be able to regain your alertness and go back to work with gusto.

3. Single-Task

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For years, businesses have put the ability to multitask on a pedestal as something to be revered in their workers. But experts agree that multitasking doesn’t really exist. What we think of as multitasking is really ‘multiswitching’, bouncing from one task to another, and there are studies to show that it destroys productivity and concentration. Researchers at Vanderbilt University discovered that people who were given two simple tasks to perform at the same time experienced a huge slowdown in brain activity. They took up to 30% longer and made twice as many errors as those who completed the same tasks consecutively. Task switching causes time delays and scrambles mental clarity as the brain is forced to shift gears to a new task, so rather than being the smart way to work, it’s a dumb deal.

Forget trying to juggle multiple tasks at the same time and try chunking (or ‘timeboxing’) instead. When planning your day, aim to batch similar types of activities together and work on them in sequence, so you have fewer of those jarring start-up moments. Your work Categories might include Team tasks (such as training, appraisals or job assigning), Planning/Reporting, Meetings, Events, Admin Duties, Thinking/Decision Making, Emails/Phone Calls, Brainstorming, and so on. By ring-fencing your tasks like this, you can focus more intensely and get into a productive flow, without being distracted by every single ding or alert. There’s no need to stress about not insta-replying to emails either, as all-in-all you’re getting much more done.

The DropTask Canvas makes it easy for you to cluster tasks into categories through a simple drag and drop facility and gives you a great visual perspective on your entire workload, meaning you can avoid getting caught in mind traps. If you’re a manager, use DropTask to Assign well-categorized tasks to team members, and limit the number of responsibilities each person works on per day. This enables them to bring 100% of their attention to their most important projects and slashes the switching costs that occur when transitioning to new tasks.

How about you? Are you constantly trying to squeeze more into your day and rush through your daily to-dos? Make full use of DropTask to regain your focus and get your demands under control so you can be hyper-productive, not just busy. Any other tips? Please share 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.

Setting SMART work goals for the new year

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With 2017 just around the corner, our thoughts turn to our aspirations and goals for the coming year. For many of us, this involves making New Year’s resolutions for what we want to accomplish professionally. But while we may kick off the year with good intentions, the hard truth is most New Year’s resolutions don’t live long enough to see February. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, only 8% of people that set New Year’s goals go on to actually achieve them!

There’s a good reason for that, and it’s not just about lack of willpower or motivation. Often resolutions are simply too vague, over ambitious, irrelevant or not feasible enough to work. To avoid new year failure in the workplace, try making SMART resolutions for your career instead. Like SMART goals, these are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. What’s cool about this clever approach is that it transforms wishy washy New Year’s resolutions into powerful objectives that can be boldly actioned, helping you work smarter rather than harder.

What are you waiting for? Get ready for the new year with these SMART steps.

1. Make your work goal specific

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The first step in SMART goal setting is to define your goal with enough detail to make it crystal clear what you want to accomplish. Generalized goals such as “get more clients”, “write a book” or “find a new job” aren’t great for getting results because they don’t provide sufficient direction or motivation, and can be awkward to measure. By adding more clarity to each of these statements, we can narrow down exactly what we want to achieve:

  • Obtain three high-spend ($50,000+) corporate clients
  • Write a 60,000 word small business guide
  • Land a marketing position at xyz company

It’s simple but it works. Research by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham found that setting specific and challenging goals led to higher performance in 90% of cases.

To make your goal more specific, think about the who, what, when, where and why involved in making it a reality. DropTask users will know how easy it is to turn goals into actionable tasks, complete with added notes, files, sub-tasks and priority settings. You can even create an entire Project dedicated to your goals, which can act as a visual, clutter-free hub for all your goal setting and tracking activity.

2. Make your work goal measurable

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How will you know if your goal has been reached? Add precise targets, metrics or best practice standards so you can measure your degree of success. Try to use numerical values where possible as they’re more clear-cut. Things like sales volume/profit, units of production, word counts, costs to be reduced, budgets to work within, number of customers, clients to be contacted, time taken or ratios. For your email marketing, key goals might include “increase new subscribers by x%” and “increase conversion rate by x%”. If you publish regularly on a blog, you might set measures to write at least 2 blog posts and research 5 new post ideas every week. Is your goal too soft to evaluate in a quantifiable way? Then create a list of behavioural standards or observations to check progress, such as correct procedures to follow for dealing with customer complaints. Whatever the nature of your goal, making it measurable is a great motivator and helps you easily review how you’re getting on. At regular intervals, set aside 5 minutes to assess your progress using our Task Status feature – mark off the measures you’ve completed and re-plan or re-prioritize around your upcoming tasks.

3. Make your work goal attainable

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Setting goals is one thing, making sure you can achieve them is another. Facing a big mountain of a goal can be daunting – you’ll have little hope in reaching the top and risk losing confidence in your abilities. On the flip side, you shouldn’t set goals that are too easy either. Look to ‘raise the bar’ and go beyond your current level of achievement with goals that stretch your abilities. There’s a greater chance of hitting a larger goal when you build on it ‘bit by bit’ rather than through huge leaps. So, our advice is to start small. If customer satisfaction levels are low, aiming for a 10% improvement right away may be far too big an expectation. Aim for 5% instead, and once you’re there, look at increasing the challenge to take you closer to that 10%. Examine your own goal. If it’s looking a bit hairy, break it into smaller milestones so you don’t get overwhelmed. This is easily done using DropTask’s Checklist which allows you to add any number of sub-tasks to a bigger task. These can be completed and checked off individually, clearly showing progress. Repeating tasks can also come in useful for reminding you to stay on top of any recurring activities in your action plan.

4. Make your work goal relevant

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Are your work goals being set for the right reasons? Don’t set certain goals just because you think you should, otherwise you won’t be as passionate or committed to achieving them. Make sure that each goal is relevant to your overall vision for your career or to furthering the mission of the company. Ask yourself: Does this goal fit into the bigger picture? Is it worthwhile? When you have a sexy goal that’s relevant to your future, you’ll be far less likely to toss in the towel when any obstacles crop up along the way. Think about how you can align all your lower-level, short-term goals so that they advance the pursuit of your higher-level, long-term goals and you’ll be sure to stay on the right path. In DropTask, use Task Dependencies to visually display and maintain the structure of your goals as you move closer and closer to your achieving your ambitions.

5. Make your work goal timely

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Every work goal should be time-bound in some way, either with a deadline for completion, time scales for key milestones or a frequency cycle. Deadlines add a sense of urgency to a goal, bringing quicker achievement, and are the final anchor in making your goal real and tangible. Pick a sensible time frame to allow yourself some leeway for the unexpected, while still prompting you to press ahead. Quarterly deadlines can be quite manageable for most work projects, and prevent goals drifting: “I will reduce monthly expenses by 10% within 3 months.” Or set dates for key achievements along the route to a major goal, such as deadlines for the planning, development and implementation of a new IT system, and then further time frames for testing the system and training the team to use and understand it. Our in-built Calendar allows you to plan your work goals by Start and Due Date, so you can get started, maintain momentum and achieve all you set out to do, right on time.  With Team Calendars you have the ability to share your calendar with others, so you can garner support from your colleagues to help you stick to your goals. And they’ll be there to celebrate with you when you reach the finish line!

We would love to hear about your SMART work goals, so please leave a comment below. What other goal methods do you like to use? Happy goal setting for the new year!

How to stay productive over the festive season

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It’s coming up to that special time of year – the mince pies are out, cheesy Christmas tunes are blaring and everyone’s full of festive cheer. But with a relaxed vibe permeating the workplace, the winter season can end up being a productivity black hole. Minds drift to gift shopping, travel planning and holiday entertaining, and focusing on your work to-dos and deliverables is trickier than ever! It’s no surprise that lots of businesses opt to put decisions and new projects off until the new year.

How can you keep your productivity (as well as your festivity) on a high as the holiday season takes hold? We’ve put together a list of 4 ways to help you and your team dodge the end of year workflow ‘dip’ without dampening the Christmas spirit.

1. Get a head-start on year-end projects

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When it comes to end of year productivity, good planning is key. Start working on your upcoming projects earlier than you need to so you’re ahead of target when the Christmas chaos hits full swing. Do some brainstorming, prepare content, plan your milestones or set the wheels in motion to bring in new clients. In DropTask, create Templates for projects that will require similar actions, such as events, and you won’t have to start from scratch each time. While you’re getting organized, why not Archive any completed projects so that they don’t distract you from your new focus? With fewer to-dos on your plate later in the season, you’ll be able to eat, drink and be merry at office parties and social gatherings minus the guilt.

2. Don’t over-commit

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During December, the boundaries of work and leisure can start to blur quickly as people get into the holiday spirit, and colleagues won’t be as inclined to stay late and work overtime. Make sure you have realistic expectations of what you and your team can achieve in this period. Aim to prioritize any critical tasks during the first half of the month and don’t schedule any important meetings for the last two weeks if you can manage without them. You may have to say no to some obligations in order to meet your most important deadlines without overfilling your calendar (or losing your sanity!). Use DropTask’s Task Importance feature to keep sight of your main goals and wrap up the year in style.

3. Catch some winter rays

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When all the holiday pressure starts to get on top of you, take a break outside to get some daylight before the sun makes its customary 4pm disappearance. Lack of sunshine in wintertime can lead to lower energy levels and alertness, making you less productive. Seek out the sun to nourish your body and mind, or use a sun lamp at your desk to simulate the effects of natural light. This will give you a chance to refresh and recharge your batteries before jumping back into the fray.

4. Spread Christmas cheer

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Never underestimate the value of creating a fun and festive atmosphere in the workplace. Holiday decorations, Secret Santa, ugly Christmas sweaters and tasty treats might seem a bit childish, but they work wonders for morale, demonstrating that you care for your team members and want them to enjoy themselves. Try planning amusing games and contests for your workers to unwind and bond, such as a ‘decorate your space’ or most creative out-of-office holiday auto reply competition, or even a surprise visit from Father Christmas. Recognition through small gifts and rewards (gift cards, sports tickets, time off) can also go a long way in motivating people and making them feel valued. In a Workforce Mood Tracker survey conducted by Globoforce, 86% of workers say that being recognized motivates them to work harder in their jobs. So, no matter what, don’t forget to thank everyone for their year-round efforts in helping to make your business successful.

How do you and your team stay on the ball at work during the hectic holiday season? Share your festive productivity tips in the comments below.

 

Work-life balance and 5 ways you can achieve it

Work-life balance and 5 ways you can achieve it
Every business owner, professional or working parent out there knows what a struggle it can be to balance a heavy workload with a fulfilling personal life. Mastering the elusive ‘work-life balance’ can seem nigh on impossible when you’re taking tons of work home with you, cancelling social plans and answering emails at 11pm.

According to a global study by Ernst & Young, one-third of full-time workers say that maintaining a work-life balance has become tougher in the last five years. Longer work hours, lack of job security and new communication technologies make it increasingly difficult for people to leave work behind at the office, and the boundaries between home and work are blurring. But the stress that builds up from overwork and an ‘always on’ mentality can be costly, giving rise to health issues, relationship conflicts and disengagement. The need to unwind from the pressures of work, spend time with family and take care of your own wellbeing has never been more crucial. Indeed, getting the balance right can help you bring your best to all areas of your life.

Work-life balance varies from one individual to the next. Here are 5 tips to support you in finding the balance that’s right for you.

1. Work out your personal priorities

Work out your personal priorities

If you’ve been tipping over on the work side of the scale, then your private life is likely to have taken a hit lately. Take a good hard look at your priorities and consider how you can re-allocate time to the most precious things in your personal life, as well as your business. We all need personal goals to balance out our professional ambitions. To help you create space in your life for family, friends, rest and play, create a project in DropTask just as you would for a work-related goal, and manage it in the same way. Make yourself accountable by scheduling tasks for the next few weeks or months to pursue a hobby, attend your kid’s soccer match, go on a trip, volunteer or host a dinner party for friends. Focus on the people and things that are important to you so that your life reflects your priorities, not anyone else’s. We suggest aiming to give yourself something to look forward to at least twice a week, so you have an extra incentive to manage your time well. Don’t worry about trying to remember everything as DropTask will send you a Daily Summary Email to inform you on what you should be doing and when.

2. Learn to say “no”

Learn to say no
You’ll have an easier time sticking to your personal priorities if you learn the power of saying “no” once in a while. Trying to please everyone all the time is the short route to burnout, so it’s imperative to protect your time. You don’t have to volunteer for everything you’re asked to do. Get comfortable with setting boundaries and decline any energy-sapping requests, errands or meetings that fall outside of them. Have a chat with your manager or team to communicate your limits and agree on how you’ll work going forward – can you delegate or outsource any of your time-consuming but low-value jobs? Any feelings of guilt will soon melt away when you realise how much it can benefit your productivity and work-life balance. DropTask can help you with crafting and maintaining boundaries, allowing you to Assign Tasks to others and customize Notifications so that you don’t get overloaded.

3. Telecommute

Telecommute
If you have the option, consider working from home a few times a week. Freedom from the hellish commute and time-guzzling distractions of the office (impromptu meetings, interruptions by colleagues, and so on) means that your natural workflow can flourish unabated. As a result, you’ll gain much-needed extra time to take care of your personal responsibilities. With DropTask at your service, you no longer need to be sitting in the same office to share info, stay up-to-date on progress or give your full input on team projects. You can be just as productive and collaborative as your office-based colleagues, if not more, while lounging around in your pyjamas!

4. Unplug after hours

Unplug after hours
Here at DropTask, we love new technology. But there are occasions when even we admit you have to pull the plug on it. Checking your emails every 15 minutes when you’re supposed to be watching a movie with the kids doesn’t amount to true quality time and actually injects an element of stress into your evening. Try to completely ban work-related technology when you get home so that you can focus on your family, friends or yourself. Turn off your phone or screen your calls, letting them go to voicemail if they’re not urgent. Now relax and enjoy the moment.

5. Take care of the physical

Take care of the physical
No matter how jam-packed our schedule is, the one aspect we can’t ignore is our self-care. Block out a bit of personal time in your calendar to take a walk, meditate, eat a mindful lunch or do anything that will top up your tank. That way your health won’t get crowded out in favour of other more ‘urgent’ demands. Get out into the fresh air for an hour if you can, or head to the gym for a heart-pumping session. Can’t leave your desk? Then try some deep breathing exercises or stretches while sitting down (roll your neck and shoulders, flex your feet, stretch your arms), or do a 10-minute body-scan meditation. A little rejuvenation goes a long way in helping to bring more balance to your life.

Got any ideas for tip No. 6? What strategies do you rely on for creating a healthy work-life balance? Tell us in the comments below.

Why stepping out of your comfort zone should be at the top of your to-do’s this Halloween

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In business, it seems that it’s always the most daring of individuals who take the first step into the unknown. Without a following behind them and a feeling of doubt in their gut, it’s up to the lone wolf to take charge of their own future. By stepping out of our comfort zones we’re welcoming the prospect of revitalized change and personal growth, in the hopes of accomplishing something that’s beneficial to our lives. With corporate directors, managers and CEO’s often feeling trapped and not knowing where to turn next, little do they know that the door that leads them to their maximum potential is open right in front of them. But why is it that we’re still so apprehensive of stepping out of our comfort zone? The fear of ‘doing’ is just another way of fearing success. Tackle your fears today and take a step forward in what you might think is the wrong direction. See our 4 simple steps below, how coming out of your comfort zone with DropTask will help you to maximize your productivity output and to progress with those Projects you’ve got in the pipeline.
 

1. Become comfortable with taking risks.

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Risk taking is seen by some as unwise and dangerous, but for others it’s seen as the perfect opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Shake the curse of ‘being different’ and feeling threatened with the prospect of the unknown. Prepare well by planning out your strategic steps in DropTask’s signature Canvas View. With an overview of the bigger picture you’ll feel at ease from the offset, and can ensure that you’re asking yourself those hard high-level questions.

2. Gain control

Gain Control
When the prospect of stepping out of our comfort zone dawns, it’s easy to get caught up in self-doubt which can lead us into thinking that we’re incapable. You’ve already been courageous enough to take the risk, so now it’s time to take the reins and own it. Use DropTask to avoid slipping back into those old habits which hold you back from succeeding. The built-in Calendar allows you to plan your schedule weeks in advance so you can hit the ground running with your new venture. And with the ability to take a peek at other colleagues’ schedules in the Team Calendar, you can ensure that your team is fully aware of what’s creeping around the corner to avoid being startled by looming deadlines.

3. Reinforce your creativity

Reinforce Creativity
Research shows that when individuals foster their creative thinking, they often outperform their rivals in revenue growth. What’s holding you back from revisiting those ideas that were left in the shadows? With regular sessions of brainstorming and by nurturing your unconventional ideas, sparks of genius will arise which you never thought were possible. DropTask’s visual nature encourages interaction and subsequently boosts engagement, and with color, shapes and icons prompting you down the right path, the thought and act of getting things done is significantly less daunting. With a less formal approach, watch your ideas come to life and bury the uncertainties which hinder your success.

4. Accept failure

Accept Failure
Everyone in life has experienced failure, though admitting to it can be a tough pill to swallow. Failures are valuable experiences as they often bring to our attention what we can improve on to progress forward. Without failures, you may still be stuck down that dead end street which brought you no hope. In DropTask’s Completed Tasks View, you’re able to review your performance as you go, and see everything that you’ve overcome to get to where you are. With a historic view of Shared Files, Conversations, and the Project Members that you’ve collaborated with, you’ll be reminded of why you pursued your gut feeling and stepped out of your comfort zone in the first place – the thought of which now seems a lot less daunting than before.

Have some tips of your own? Share your experiences in the comments below and tell us how stepping out of your comfort zone has helped you. 

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

 

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.