Category Archives: DropTask Tips

Get back on track with an end-of-summer project review

You’ve probably just enjoyed a summer of blissful vacations and time off spent with family and friends. As summer passes for another year, now is the time to catch-up, get back into your work routine and review the status of your projects. Assess your project’s objectives and set out goals to work more productively and see the rest of the year out successfully.

Conduct a project review with DropTask for Business to know where you presently stand. Ensure your projects are focused and planned well to achieve more this coming fall and winter.

Reflect on your progress

Reflect on Completed Tasks

Take a step back and focus on what you have achieved so far and spot if you have any outstanding tasks or projects. Review and evaluate your Completed Tasks to pinpoint areas for development. Take into consideration how you approached those compared to any tasks that have fallen behind. Perhaps tasks were not completed due to reasons beyond your control, or was it down to poor time management, lack of communication or resources? Now is a good time for honest reflection to get you back on track for the final few months of the year.

To gauge how many tasks are unfinished, use the Progress Percentage bar to see how far they are from completion, gain a greater understanding of what areas need improving and decide how to proceed with them.

Shift the deadwood

Project List View and new Canvas

You might have noticed your strategy going in different directions as the year has progressed. Priorities can change a lot over time. In your project review, pinpoint any stagnant projects in the Project List View and start to revive the ones you believe still remain relevant to your overall goals for the rest of the year. Dispose of the now-insignificant projects and start from scratch with fresh goals in mind on a new Canvas, which may well give you the necessary headspace to rethink your priorities.

See your changes in your Calendar, and if you’re part of a team, keep them up to date using the Team Calendar. With newly reviewed goals for the rest of the year, you and your team will benefit from having a revamped schedule and a clearer direction for your projects.

Plan to end the year successfully

Convert Task to a Category

Is someone struggling to complete a task on time or progressing too slowly on their own? Sometimes, a task that you thought was small and manageable escalates into something pivotal to your overall goals. Easily Convert a Task into a category and begin to section it into smaller, more manageable tasks. That way, it can be approached more realistically and improve the likelihood of the important things getting done.

Collaborative working brings the team together to reach their full productivity potential. Assign other team members to the larger tasks and reap the productive benefits of real-time team collaboration. Make changes that are instantly communicated to your team, speeding up the process and allowing you to work more efficiently.

Now you know where you stand with your projects and their associated tasks, you can begin to take action. Easily make adjustments and use DropTask’s full feature set for a productive end of year, be it setting more accurate deadlines, delegating more tasks or better juggling your priorities. Use DropTask to review the status of your ongoing projects and reignite your motivation for the rest of the year. With clear and refreshed goals, it is possible to make the end of the year your most productive yet.

Manage your tasks more efficiently and sign up today with DropTask – it’s free.

How to quit the harmful habit of multitasking for good

Many people see multitasking as an admirable skill, one that leads to success in the busy modern world. The truth is that multitasking is productivity’s biggest enemy. This ‘skill’ we strive to master is a hidden dagger sabotaging our efficiency.

A common misconception is that multitasking is the ability to perform more than one task at once. In fact, when we multitask, we actually flit between tasks, often completing them to a lower standard than we would have if we focused on one thing at a time. When we try to perform two or more cognitively complex tasks at once, such as replying to an email while apparently listening to someone in a meeting, we find that we’re more stressed and less productive. In short, multitasking is harmful to both our mental health and our careers.

So, why exactly is multitasking such a productivity killer? And how can DropTask help you fight the urge to multitask? Read on to find out the answer to these questions and more.

 

Save time on tasks

Save time on tasks

Despite popular belief, it actually takes us a lot longer to accomplish anything when we multitask. John Medina, author of Brain Rules, reports that people whose work is interrupted take 50% longer to finish a task and make up to 50% more errors. This makes sense when you stop and think about it. Say you leave one task unfinished and run off to complete another, by the time you get back to your original task you will probably have lost track of your progress. This means you have to spend extra time getting settled back into the work at hand.

DropTask’s Checklist feature enables you to break tasks up into subtasks, allowing you to work methodically until the overall task is complete. Checking off quick, small checklist items helps you keep your motivation and momentum, making you less likely to become discouraged or distracted. If you eventually find yourself unable to complete more subtasks, for example if you need to take your lunch break or have a meeting to attend, you can still get a clear idea of how much work you’ve completed by glancing at the checklist overview visible on the task circle.

 

Fight fatigue

Fight fatigue

Multitasking is exhausting. Our brains are not built to cope with flitting from one complex task to the next in a short space of time. Instead, we need to properly focus and commit to completing one task before beginning another.

Keep your DropTask Calendar up to date with your tasks and deadlines so that you can manage both your workload and other people’s expectations of your time. With the Team Calendar, your colleagues will be able to instantly see when you’re busy and will be less likely to interrupt you during an important task. Start Dates and Due Dates allow you and your team to clearly see when you are planning to begin a task as well as which task is due next. You can then focus on completing tasks in order of priority instead of getting distracted by less urgent tasks and trying to multitask at the last minute.

 

Shield yourself from distractions

Shield yourself from distractions

Being reactive rather than proactive with your workload is incredibly unproductive. Gloria Mark, a professor at the University of California, found that when people are interrupted it typically takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to their work, and most people will do two intervening tasks before going back to their original project. This switching leads to a buildup of stress.

One way to manage distractions is by Emailing Tasks into DropTask. When an important task does crop up unexpectedly, you can send it over to DropTask in an instant, ready for the next time you log in. The task is then off your mind, ready for you to deal with when you can. You can even set a Start Date on the task to show your colleagues when you’ll see to it.

Another way to deal with distractions is by prioritizing tasks. You can mark certain tasks as Important and Urgent and Collapse lower priority categories. This way, you’ll feel less overwhelmed and distracted at work – out of sight, out of mind! You can always expand collapsed categories again when you are ready to commit to something new.

 

Protect yourself from stress

Protect yourself from stress

Attempting to perform too many tasks at once can cause your stress and anxiety levels to soar, which in turn can lead to burnout and sick days at work. When the office environment is too fast-paced and encourages employees to multitask, morale is lowered and there may be a higher turnover, which could be costly to companies.

DropTask provides you with the tools to be productive at work as well as a complete overview of your projects, allowing you to work methodically at your own pace and pinpoint where you and your team are with tasks. The Progress Percentage bar displayed on the task circle allows you to see exactly how far you and your colleagues have come with your tasks, giving you that extra push to finish your great work. A clear overview of your progress, along with the ability to set Reminders to prompt you to take important action, obliterates the need for multitasking and ensures that you and your teammates are less anxious and less stressed at work.

Sign up to DropTask for free today to kick your multitasking habit for good. Know someone who is a serial multitasker? Why not do them a favour and show them this blog? They’ll thank you for it later.

Maximizing your ‘Productivity Peak’ with DropTask

According to society, you’re either a morning person or you’re not. However, productivity is not that straightforward. Josh Davis, the author of ‘Two Awesome Hours’, believes you have a two-hour ‘Productivity Peak’ each day. But, how do you get the most out of your hours of peak productivity and make the most of those less productive periods? DropTask can help you to maximize your output when productivity does strike. Plus, it can trigger and maintain motivation for you and your team throughout all parts of the day. Here’s how…

Prepare for productivity to strike

Create a Project

If productivity can peak at any time, you need to be poised and ready to make the most of it. Davis’ idea is that there are two ‘best mental hours’ each day, so it’s essential to maximize your output during this period. To prepare effectively, start a DropTask project and create categories and tasks for all that you need to achieve on its canvas. Set Start and Due Dates for a practical way to control your own workload, so that when productivity does strike you can beat those deadlines fastest approaching. In your project, Assign Tasks to team members. That way, your project’s workload is shared and when somebody’s productivity peaks, it is to the whole team’s advantage. Use the task Progress Sliders to keep your team up to date with your progress and to gain an overview of how the entire project is moving along. Using DropTask’s markers of Importance and Urgency, add clear visual cues to your project and give yourself an easy to digest overview of where your time and effort is best spent when productivity does hit.

Stay motivated with a collaborative team effort

Comments and Messaging

If everyone on your team has at least two hours of peak productivity, that’s a lot of hours filled with completed tasks and feelings of accomplishment within your team. The buzz of finishing a task or hitting key project milestones can become infectious, and you can spread this feeling using DropTask’s Comments and Messaging feature. Comments and Messaging enable you to give a friendly boost to team members with motivational comments and collaborative support, all of which help to promote a warm working environment where productivity can thrive. With a real-time, visual overview of your project, you can watch team to-dos move from started to complete throughout the day. This clear project progress will spark a sense of shared productivity and achievement within your team, even when you’re not sat in the same office.

Break down larger tasks using Checklists

Checklists

The prospect of a big task requiring a lot of effort can be quite overwhelming. You might sit there fearing the enormity of the job at hand. Rather than freezing in panic, begin to break the task down into smaller chunks that can be more quickly and easily achieved. DropTask’s Checklists will break the task up into sub-tasks. With a breakdown of your task to-dos, you can prioritise those requiring the most effort for times of peak productivity, and leave the less challenging sub-tasks for those not-so productive periods. Checklists help you to remain focused and motivated by quick wins, regardless of your productivity level at that time and track your progress every step of the way. With every sub-task ticked off, you’re one step closer to task completion.

Make time to clear some headspace

Team Calendars

Alongside those more strenuous tasks, use DropTask’s Calendar to schedule time for your physical health. Davis thinks that our physical health combines strongly with our mental health and if they suffer, so will our productivity. Have a go on the treadmill, take a lunch break, head outside for a stroll. While it may seem trivial when compared to the significance of your tasks, a change of environment will trigger new levels of productivity that you wouldn’t achieve otherwise. The adaptable nature of DropTask allows you to factor in these breaks when you need them most. We would suggest including them in between your most demanding to-dos to give yourself quick boosts throughout the day. The Team Calendar allows everyone to factor in these important breaks and your project progress will improve as a result.

DropTask gives you a real-time overview of your tasks, goals and team projects to set yourself up for greater success, so you can remain productive throughout the day. When your ‘Productivity Peak’ strikes, you will be ready to maximize your output and achieve more than ever.

Make the most of your productivity and sign up for free with DropTask.

3 Ways to boost your happiness and productivity during summertime

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According to a worldwide Gallup study, only 13% of people are happily engaged at work. That leaves a whopping 87% of workers who aren’t happy or emotionally committed to their jobs. Surely with the summer season right around the corner and with vacations, beach breaks and sunny BBQ’s on the horizon, our happy vibes should permeate in the workplace?

There’s almost universal belief that you don’t have to be happy at work to succeed or be productive. But research by positive psychologists like Shawn Achor is turning this theory upside down, with academic studies showing that a positive mindset results in 31% higher levels of productivity. Happy, engaged people are better workers. FACT. They process information more effectively, think more creatively and make more accurate decisions. So, the best way to unleash your potential and that of your team is to first maximize your own happiness and wellbeing.

Being happy at work shouldn’t be a rarity. There are many ways you can enhance your good-time feeling at work. Here are just a few tips to put a smile on your face this summer season.

1. Get to know one another
make friends
No matter how much we might like to work alone, we humans are social creatures at heart. Liking your co-workers and enjoying their company is the cornerstone to creating a fun, trusting and cooperative workplace. In a job satisfaction survey by the Conference Board research group, ‘people at work’ is cited as a key determinant of job satisfaction, with 60.6% of workers saying it makes them happier in their vocation. A good friendship network acts as a worker support system and promotes an open environment for resource and idea sharing.

Encourage friendship-building in your team through off-site play days or social lunches. Make the most of the warm weather and take a walk outside with your colleagues, and use this as a chance to bond with each other over an ice cold lemonade. (Trust me, you’ll feel refreshed when you return to the office.) Continue to build friendly connections with one another and use the Comments and Messaging feature in DropTask to stay in touch and share helpful information, all to make that working day that little bit less stressful.

2. Always look for the good
chase small wins
Research by Harvard professor Teresa Amabile and psychologist Steven Kramer reveals that one of the best ways to boost positive vibes while on the job is to make progress on meaningful work. Having a gigantic work goal ahead of you can feel overwhelming. But there are lots of small steps you can take each day or week to move you forward and increase your enjoyment on the journey. But when the view outside of the office window is teasing you, cracking on with work can sometimes take a backseat to daydreaming about summer plans.

Thinking positively and maintaining motivation are some of the key factors in maintaining happiness at work. While motivation pushes you forward to succeed, a positive frame of mind will help you to overcome obstacles that may stumble upon your path. Fuel your drive to keep moving forward and take a glance at your Completed Tasks. You’ll want to avoid spending too much time looking back, but you can review a library of all of your accomplishments which may just provide you with a boost of encouragement to keep going. Combined with a rush of feel-good hormones, you’ll be determined to get back to the work at hand which was pushed aside after the sun made its long awaited appearance.

3. Brighten up your workspace
Brighten up your workspace
Look at how your workspace is organized. Is it attractive and vibrant? Is it cluttered? Is it dull and drab? You’ll be surprised by how much your physical surroundings can affect you on a mental and emotional level. Take the outside for instance, studies show that warm weather not only boosts our creativity but makes our brain more mentally fit. Bring in the joyous feelings from outside and do some rejuvenating to get rid of the junk on your desk and purify your office space. Ditch messy paper to-do lists and notebook planners and consolidate all of your tasks into DropTask. As new-agey as this all sounds, the process of de-cluttering signals respect for your work environment and brings in a fresh, positive energy.

Quick tip – Research shows that colors not only affect our mood, but also have a profound impact on our productivity. Decorate your workspace with DropTask’s unique color palette to stimulate your creativity. Next, encourage your team to customize their workspace by adding Cover Images to tasks. With a tweak here and a splash of color there, it can do your mood the world of good.

Maintain your productivity and happiness this summer with DropTask. Sign up for free today: www.droptask.com/signup

How do you stay happy at work? Share your tips in the comments below and help others find something to smile about.

How to become an invaluable asset to your company

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With the right mix of professionalism, attitude and teamwork you can become a model employee and your company’s most valuable asset. In a world where company goals and employee responsibilities are rapidly changing on a daily basis, there’s one thing that always remains the same; striving to become the standout individual in the business can do wonders for both personal and business progression. So, what exactly does a model employee look like? Whether it’s showing enthusiasm regardless of the task that’s placed in front of you, or demonstrating dedication by staying longer than your required working hours, these minor things mean a lot and can determine if we’re truly irreplaceable in the running of a business.

If you’re ready to step on the career accelerator, follow our three simple steps on how to become an invaluable asset to your company and an employee that any company would be lucky to have.

Step 1: Be professional
unprofessional

Sounds obvious, right? Affecting the maintenance of our job and the advancement of our careers, being professional is vital when cementing our reputation as a model employee. A 2012 ‘Professionalism in the Workplace Study’ conducted by York College of Pennsylvania, researched which key factors are important to an employee’s professionalism, and their findings showed that time management and work ethic efficiency were large contributors.

Skills like effective time management and work ethic efficiency can all be ramped up with the use of DropTask. Time management is a desirable skill for most professionals, particularly if you’re responsible for making decisions or working in a high pressured environment. But, being efficient with time management can do much more than just make you standout from the crowd, as it’s considered to play a big part in achieving a long-term career. As well as being an important factor in the initial stages of recruitment, the York College of Pennsylvania study showed that 92.9% of HR managers agreed that an employee’s professionalism has an substantial impact on potential promotion opportunities. So, if you’re looking for ways to become the exemplar employee, it’s time to brush up on how you conduct yourself in the workplace.

By using a simple planning tool like DropTask, you’ll be able to prioritize and adopt a more focused approach to completing your work with efficiency. As a result, you’ll reach high productivity levels and will be admired by your employer as a member of the team who strives to meet and exceed all targets, regardless of the amount of pressure involved.

Step 2: Have a positive attitude
positive

There’ll certainly be times where you’ll have to deal with strict deadlines, difficult co-workers, and tasks that seem impossible to complete, and as a result it can be easy to slip into a state of stress and negativity in the workplace. This is in itself one reason to be noticed by your employer; but you’ll want to avoid attracting attention for the wrong reasons. Remain calm and collected by breaking down the various stages of your project in a clear and concise manner before you start taking action. You can do this using DropTask’s Workflow View for a visual road map that leads you step by step towards completion.

To uplift your mood and boost engagement, add personalized Cover Images to tasks. Cover Images will not only brighten up your workspace, but will allow you to identify areas of work in an instant. No one likes a negative Nancy, and with an upbeat and positive vibe permeating around the workplace, your employer will take a concentrated interest in the quality of work that you produce and your consistent effort to perform to a high standard.

Step 3: A willingness to develop
team

A requirement needed to earn both company and personal success is the ability to work within a team. By collaborating with others, you’ll be exposed to a wide range of personalities and a greater set of skills, while also having the chance to enhance your own. Group work and shared projects can also be a great opportunity for you to demonstrate your own initiative. You can do this by assessing your strengths and subsequently Assigning yourself to tasks, even if they present a challenge. See this as an opportunity to help others as well as develop your own personal skills. By showcasing your range of abilities, you’ll solidify your status as a valuable member of the team.

If you’re feeling up to the challenge, you may also want to volunteer as the project admin. With the added responsibility of overseeing project developments and meeting estimated timescales, you’ll demonstrate to senior management that you’re always willing to go the extra mile. And with valuable experience in managing a team and taking a collaborative project from its initial stages of planning all the way towards the finish line under your belt, you’ll show that you can take on further responsibilities; a great positive to flag up in your next performance review. With your leadership skills on a continuous uphill progression, you’ll be an employee that a business can rely on to deliver.

What do you think makes a model employee? Let us know in the comments below.

Enhance your productivity by eliminating these bad workplace habits

3 Bad Habits
In this day and age, we’re always ‘too busy’. If we’re not at our desks; we’re on an important business call, if our meeting gets postponed; we’re rearranging for another date, and if we’re on our break; we’re responding to emails. Why is it that everything’s so rushed?

If I said that the way to be more productive is by doing less, how many of you would believe me? According to Christine Carter, sociologist and happiness expert, we live in a ‘more is more’ culture. What we have is never enough, and we’re fighting a continuous battle with ourselves to wear ‘busyness’ as a badge of honor. But often, when we have less things to focus on and we’re more selective with our energy and time, we can take a step back to realize that doing more isn’t necessarily better.

The key to achieving more is working smarter not harder. See how DropTask can help you to project maximum productivity output below, without having to exert yourself.

Don’t: Multi-task

Effort

Yes that’s right, you read correctly. Although many of us are under the false impression that multi-tasking enhances our productivity, it’s actually one of its killers. Anything from answering the phone to sending a marketing email; multi-tasking makes it difficult to return to the original task at hand. If you ever feel as though the pressure is mounting or that your workload has suddenly been taken up a notch, it’s probably because of the constant juggling and inability to find a way to cope when multiple deadlines are looming.

People often forget that when we have to engage in an important conversation or make a crucial decision like signing off on a project, we need to focus solely on that task to avoid any mistakes being made. If you’re easily distracted by miscellaneous tasks, you need to cut back on what’s being displayed in front of you. Collapse Categories so that work that doesn’t require your immediate attention is discreetly hidden away. With limited information on display, use the Effort attribute to enlarge the size of your task circle and the Importance icon to channel your focus and priorities. This will not only draw your attention to what you’re currently working on, but even in the scenario where you do get pulled away, you’ll be able to easily find your focus when you return.

Don’t: Delay

Dates

We often make excuses to avoid tasks that require a lot of effort. The ‘I’ll do it tomorrow‘ excuse is a popular one in the workplace, but one that results in little productivity and missed deadlines. The tomorrow syndrome not only rejects opportunities, but results in a looming backlog of work. It goes without saying that sometimes we really are just too busy to begin new work, but when our excuses are being used more frequently than the tasks we complete, then something’s not quite right.

As we get wrapped up in our busy working day, it’s important to remember that unexpected tasks that get placed in front of us can be a chance for us to excel. The next time this occurs, instead of pushing the task to the bottom of the pile, take advantage of it. If your time is sparse, assign a Start and Due Date to the task for a time that best suits you. It may be that you will start it tomorrow, but the difference is that you will actually start it (instead of letting the opportunity pass by). With dates assigned to your task, your Calendar will automatically be updated, meaning that any work that you have scheduled will be slotted into your plan for the coming weeks. With a clear and concise roadmap of everything you need to do, you’ll be able to limit your distractions and remain on track to ensure you’re getting the most out of your working day.

Don’t: Leave things unfinished

Research shows that 80% of American employees feel as though companies are expecting too much work from too few people, with 70% of employees admitting to feeling as though they have to work overtime to finish their uncompleted tasks.

But when 75% of employees rate teamwork and collaboration as ‘very important’ in the workplace, why is it that we aren’t we taking advantage of the great benefits that come with working as part of a team? Instead of falling into the habit of leaving work unfinished, take a quick glance at the Team Calendar to see if there’s a colleague who has a spare moment to lend a hand. By working collaboratively and using the ‘at a glance’ indicators in the Project Browser, you can gain instant feedback on the project that you’re working on, such as what’s currently ‘in progress’ and what’s been completed – without the hassle of nagging for an update. As the saying goes, ‘two heads are better than one’, and once you’ve identified the issues that were previously stalling your project from moving into the next stage, you’ll be able to eliminate the knock-on effect that could’ve staggered your progress later down the line.

Which workplace habits are stalling your productivity? Let me know in the comments below.

Are you using your time wisely?

time-importance
We’ve all been there, frantically typing as many words as we can to try and increase the word count, only to realize that what we’ve actually written makes no sense at all. Or, scheduling seemingly ‘important’ meetings for every hour of the day, only to result in frequent trips to the kitchen for coffee refills. As well as draining our physical and mental energy, these types of days can fool us into believing that we’re being productive with our time, when in fact, we’re barely making a dent to our hefty workloads.

Leaving the office with a true sense of accomplishment isn’t as difficult as you first might think. Follow our tips below to avoid falling into the trap of wasting crucial hours, and turn every minute into a productive one with DropTask for Business.

Enhance your concentration

assigning-tasks

Manic days at the office occur far too often. Even on our days off, conversations with friends become comparisons of how busy we are:

‘Hey, how’s work going?’

‘Busy. Just busy.’

When we’re juggling an array of different tasks that are beyond the scope of our job description, we often dip into less important jobs which aren’t of any real benefit to us. To put it bluntly, we procrastinate. Research shows that we procrastinate by doing useless or less important things, and by doing so, we neglect our long-term goals and targets. To avoid this, take a look at your workload and assess which tasks require completion. If you have an urgent task that is less important, identify whose skills are best suited for the job and use the Assigning Tasks feature to delegate it. Similarly, if you can identify which tasks are important but not urgent, get them scheduled. Simple deductions such as this will allow you to have more time on your hands to focus on the very important and very urgent, without procrastinating on the things that don’t require your time or input.

Increase your motivation
reminders

When we have a lot on our plate, our brains go into overdrive. But research has shown that overworking does little to help our concentration, and subsequently defeats the objective of remaining motivated and productive. Running around in a state of busyness can also leave us feeling deflated when we’re trying to channel our creative juices.

Avoid working in a rushed and disorganized state by splitting your time into designated segments for specific pieces of work. Take ‘The Pomodoro Technique‘ for instance. Created by Francesco Cirillo, this technique is based around the idea of working in sprints, combined with short frequent breaks to help maximize focus throughout the day and to eliminate the feeling of burnout. The next time an unusual amount of work crops up, try breaking each hour of the day into fragments. For example, use Reminders as a prompt for when your break is due, or further personalize them with a note to indicate which area of work you should be focusing on next. With a tight timescale to stick to, you’ll be able to work more effectively, as opposed to watching the hours speed by and having nothing to show for it.

Resolve unfinished problems
move

When a deadline is approaching we’re forced to re-evaluate and shift priorities accordingly, but all too often, the tasks that are placed at the bottom of the pile get neglected in the long-term.

Start by looking at the Project Workflow to identify any bottlenecks that could be preventing work from moving to the next stage. Once you’ve found an unfinished task, tie up loose ends by taking action to complete, delegate or delete it. A range of built-in functions within DropTask, such as the Duplicate and Move feature, allow you to take quick actions to ensure that you limit your distractions to remain on track.

Welcome more opportunities
calendar

As a result of good timekeeping and honing key transferable skills, opportunities in the workplace can flourish, such as managers becoming increasingly trusting when looking to delegate responsibilities within the team. However, getting the most out of our hours in the workplace is a difficult skill to master, and sometimes when an unexpected issue arises, our workplace performance can take a hit. Of course, we can’t predict when these instances are due to spring up, but we can prepare for the chances that they may happen.

By getting into the habit of scheduling, your diary will be organized months in advance, giving you clear visibility into what’s on your plate, how much of your resource it will require, and any spare time that you may have to work on other activities to further your career, such as researching training courses that could add to your qualifications, or enhancing your LinkedIn profile. As well as stopping you from taking on too much than you can handle, gaining effective time management skills and demonstrating your own initiative at work will not give you the ability to comfortably re-prioritize for any unexpected situations that may arise, but will result in overall job satisfaction, leading you towards brighter career prospects.

How do you manage your time? Let us know in the comments below.

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.