Category Archives: DropTask Tips

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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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

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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

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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

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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?

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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

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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
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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
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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
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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. 

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!