Category Archives: DropTask Tips

Work-life balance and 5 ways you can achieve it

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

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

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

1. Work out your personal priorities

Work out your personal priorities

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

2. Learn to say “no”

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

3. Telecommute

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

4. Unplug after hours

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

5. Take care of the physical

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

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

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

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

1. Become comfortable with taking risks.

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

2. Gain control

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

3. Reinforce your creativity

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

4. Accept failure

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

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

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

 

Tackling information overload with DropTask 2

Information overload

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

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

DropTask’s visual display can clean up the clutter

Cleaning up clutter

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

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

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

1. Filter through the flood

Filter through the flood

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

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

Workflow and Calendar

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

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

3. Sometimes less is more – Collapsing Categories

Collapsing categories

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

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

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

Don’t have time for time management? Think again

Managing your time

4 Small tips for getting big things done

People often think that they don’t have time for time management. Small business owners and managers commonly fall into this trap. They’re so busy being busy, that they never sit down to adequately plan or even look at their to-do list. If this sounds like you, then it’s high time you acknowledged that this could be what’s standing in the way of you and your team getting ahead.

Not meaning to go all deep and philosophical (we know you’re far too swamped for that!), time is the most precious currency in life. Once spent it cannot be replaced. With a finite number of hours in the day, you can’t buy or hoard time ready for when you need more of it. Doesn’t it make sense to manage how you spend your time to ensure that you use it wisely? Without some form of time management, you can easily lose time on the wrong things or end up running in circles, trying to do everything all at once. Worse than that, you might even delay getting started on the big projects that count. According to cognitive psychology research by John Bargh and colleagues, your brain will attempt to ‘simulate’ productive work by avoiding heavy projects and tackling lots of menial, low-value tasks to fill your time. It cleverly tricks you into thinking that you’re super busy, but the real work that produces measurable results remains undone.

At DropTask, we’ve long been fascinated by how entrepreneurs, professionals and businesses of all sizes manage and make best use of their time. Through our observations, we’ve discovered that time management doesn’t have to be a massive burden or effort to execute. The biggest gains in productivity often come from the small investments you make, the minor tactics and habits that only take a portion of your time. So far from being a waste of time, a good time management system can be the ultimate time saver.

Here are four little things that you and your team can do to deliver more value in less time, pronto.

1. Carry your tasks with you

DropTask Calendar

Keep your to-dos and calendar on your smartphone or tablet, so you can access them at a moment’s notice. Unless you have superb powers of recall, trying to store numerous tasks and meetings in your working memory is a recipe for disaster. And there are inevitably going to be times when you can’t make it back to your desk or notebook to retrieve your to-dos. Take advantage of the portability technology can offer so that you’re always prepared. DropTask is available on Android, iPhone and iPad for you to access anytime and anywhere, so there’s no excuse! The app supports real-time collaboration on tasks too, with changes automatically synced and updated while you’re on the go, guaranteeing that you’re never out of step with your colleagues.

2. Use a template

Project Templates
Rather than wasting time writing out your recurring activities each day, create your own Project Template which includes your most common to-do items. This ensures you don’t forget all the small odds and ends you need to do, especially when unique or unexpected demands call for your immediate attention and crowd out your day. Even better, create templates for your bigger initiatives as well, and you’ll avoid that overwhelming feeling that can sometimes paralyze you at the start of a new project. This is incredibly easy with DropTask’s Template feature, which allows you to set up multiple projects, break them down into standardised steps and keep track of each phase of development, from initial brainstorming and task allocation through to completion and evaluation.

3. Set start and due dates for your tasks

Start and End Dates

Just as you set dates for meetings, make sure you set dates for getting started on tasks as well as deadlines for getting them done. Don’t wait until you can “get around to it”, make an appointment with each important task in your calendar, so that it doesn’t slip off your radar. DropTask’s built-in Calendar allows you to schedule tasks by Start Date or Due Date, so you can really focus your attention and stay on track to meet all your major deadlines. Identifying start and end dates forces you to realistically consider how long your tasks will take and helps you put your priorities in order. This simple trick makes time management in the workplace much easier as you can tackle the things that need to be done on a time constraint before moving on to tasks with more flexible timescales. Using DropTask, any shifts or changes in priorities can be accommodated in an instant by effortlessly dragging and dropping your tasks around the Calendar. Aim to fill up your calendar with meaningful work instead of endless meetings, and be reasonably disciplined with yourself to power up your productivity. Research by MIT and INSEAD business school professors in 2002 found that students who imposed strict deadlines on themselves for assignments performed far better and were more consistent than those who didn’t. Challenging deadlines can buck us up to achieve more and are a practical strategy for curbing procrastination. So create manageable start and end dates for your tasks – and stick to them!

4. Stay notified

Notifications

Being organized saves tons of time. But you don’t need ultra-complicated systems to keep on top of your work; you can boost business efficiency simply by automating how you and your team stay informed. Notifications and Reminders are great for alerting you to any note-worthy changes or looming deadlines, so you and your colleagues never miss a trick. Instead of trying to mentally and physically manage everything yourself, let DropTask track your work for you. Every morning, DropTask will send you a Daily Summary Email to let you know which tasks you should be working on, as well as which ones are overdue, due today, and due tomorrow. You can even set multiple reminders on important tasks so you can delegate, action or follow up as needed. Shaun Kennard, CEO of Vestack Group describes how he witnessed a “20% increase in each person’s productivity, and an even bigger influence in business effectiveness” by using DropTask to keep tabs on the core activities undertaken within each company unit.

Whether you’re working solo or with a team, these four little actions can have a BIG impact, helping you optimize your time and squeeze more out of your day. Have some time management tips and tricks of your own? Please share them in the comments below.

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

Do, doing, done – how Kanban helps your flow

Workflow

What do you look for in a productivity system? Here at DropTask, we believe that the best productivity methods are those that keep your to-dos in front of you and give you full visibility into what’s happening with your workload. The Kanban approach does just that, enabling you to plan work, monitor progress and review completed tasks all on one visual board (a ‘Kanban’).

The name ‘Kanban’ derives from the Japanese word for ‘signboard’ and the method has its roots in automobile manufacturing. But don’t let that intimidate you, it’s actually one of the simplest tools around for supercharging your day-to-day productivity. With Kanban, tasks are organized in columns, usually by progression (e.g. To-do, Doing, Done). As you power through each of your action items, they are moved along to their new columns, helping you sustain a smooth, continuous workflow. Kanban is ideal for professionals and teams who like to see the big picture at a glance. When using this technique, you have a full view of everything on your plate – all your tasks, due dates, priorities – so you’re never at a loss as to what to work on next.

Getting started with Kanban is easy, as there are only two fundamental ‘rules’ to follow.

1. Visualize your workflow

A Kanban board gives you a simple space in which to lay out and organize your to-dos. Tasks are arranged in vertical columns representing different categories or stages of your workload, so you always have a clear picture of what you need to act on, the progress you’re making and what you’ve accomplished. As an example, for your blog you could set up for columns for Writing, Editing and Published, and each task would relate to a specific article. While for launching a new product, your columns might be based on different marketing activities, such as PR, Advertising and Events. Kanban is super practical for projects that cycle through stages, such as auditing, recruitment and product development. During a recruitment drive, for instance, you can track job applications as they make their way through each step of the process, from CVs to Shortlisted to First Stage Interviews, and so on.

As well as helping you master your individual output, Kanban really comes into its own when used for team collaboration. A public Kanban board is a powerful visual aid for viewing the entire status of a team project and getting a handle on all its phases. Working together, teammates can quickly highlight priorities, allocate manpower where it’s most needed and identify any bottlenecks in workflow. The upshot is that teams spend less time discussing work and more time doing it!

DropTask’s Workflow Board is built around Kanban-style task organization, with columns automatically created for all your to-do categories. Moving tasks is as simple as dragging and dropping them into the right column to visualize your progress. You can add as many details as you want to each task, including visual cues for priority, due dates, checklists, reminders, notes and attachments. Before you know it, you’ll have a visual collection of action points you can readily dive into.

2. Limit what you take on

One of the biggest advantages of Kanban is that it helps you avoid taking on too much in one go. Each task moves through standardized stages so you can track your progress step-by-step. If tasks start piling up in one of the columns on your board, then you know you have too much on your plate! Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry, authors of Personal Kanban: Mapping Work / Navigating Life, recommend applying Work-in-Progress limits to restrict the number of things you work on at the same time – around three ‘in progress’ items should be about right to stop you getting overwhelmed. This capping of tasks keeps a tight rein on your workload so that you focus on the to-dos that matter most, without the inefficiencies of multitasking. The clear sequential structure of DropTask’s Workflow Board means you can quickly see how your categories are filling up, nudging you to concentrate on finishing your current jobs before starting new ones. Not only will you stay out of crisis mode, but you’ll never miss a deadline.

Step-by-step: Create a Kanban Board with DropTask

Now that you know what Kanban’s all about, give it a go using DropTask to get your to-dos under control. Here’s a step-by-step guide to build your board from scratch:

Step 1. Create a project

First things first, click the + Create Project tab under the Menu to set up your project. Give it a name and add any other team members who will be working with you. We’ve called ours ‘Personal Kanban’ and we’ll be using it for at-home tasks.

1-create-a-project

Next, click on the Workflow option in the top right of the main navigation bar to view your Kanban-style board, which will be empty of categories or tasks at this point.

 2-workflow-view

Step 2. Set up your categories

These represent how your to-dos will be grouped (i.e. your Kanban columns) and can take the form of ‘work topics’ or progressive stages of your workflow. We recommend that you start small with three simple columns labeled ‘To-Do’, ‘Doing’ and ‘Done’ (or ‘Backlog’, ‘In Progress’ and ‘Complete’ if you want to be more formal about it) until you get a feel for the system.

  • To-do – work waiting to be done.
  • Doing – work in progress right now.
  • Done – work completed. Done and dusted!

To create your categories in Workflow mode, start by clicking the Create a category option in the left-hand column.

3-categories

Type in your category name and select a color, and your first column will appear. You can add as many columns as you like from here by simply dragging the Category bubble from the top navigation bar and dropping it into an empty column. We’ll be using three for this example – To-do, Doing and Done.

4-workflow

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

5-re-order

Step 3. Add your tasks

To add a task to a column, click on the Task bubble from the top navigation bar and drag it where you want it. This will open up a box for you to input your task and any other details that might be needed, such as members, start date and due date in the appropriate fields.

6-task

Keep repeating this step to fill your board with tasks. At any point, you can edit or add more detail to a task by clicking on it to open up an information box. You can red flag your high priority tasks, add notes or attachments, and even define the Effort (small, medium, large) needed to get it done.

7-task-details

Step 4. Keep things flowing!

Now get to work! Use drag and drop to move your tasks across the board in keeping with your progress. Set your own policies or rules for how you manage your workflow. For instance, every time you move a task into the ‘Done’ column, make a point of pulling in the next task from the ‘To-do’ column to keep things moving. And be sure to set a task limit for your ‘Doing’ column so you only juggle x number of tasks at the same time.

8-keep-flowing

Try turning your own ‘to-dos’ into ‘dones’ with the Kanban method and see if it helps lighten the load, or use it with your team to manage the flow of your projects from start to finish. The Kanban view is exclusively available to members of DropTask for Business. Upgrade from just $99/year. Learn more.

Got Kanban experiences of your own to share? Let us know in the comments below. 

How to Manage Interruptions at Work

It’s the start of a new day; you’re raring to go and feeling inspired to tackle those all-important and must-do tasks. But suddenly, you get interrupted and thrown off track.

Whether it’s by a phone call, email, over-heard conversation or colleague stopping by your desk, these unplanned activities might steal your attention – distracting you from the task at-hand.

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that the typical worker is interrupted or switches tasks, on average, every three minutes and five seconds. What’s more, once focus has been lost, depending upon the complexity of the task, it can take over 23 minutes to regain focus and return to the original task. Not only is valuable time lost and wasted through interruptions at work, but the number of errors and mistakes can also increase, affecting the overall quality of your work.

Time is one of the most cherished resources, and although some interruptions are inevitable and beyond your control, many can be controlled or prevented. Below, we’ve got some top tips that will help promote discipline and aid forward planning so you can protect your time and invest it in the projects and tasks that are most important to you, and achieving both your personal and business goals:

Break down your day

Sending emails and checking mobile for updatesIt’s all too easy to get distracted by the email announcing cakes in the staff room, or the latest trends on Twitter. But these distractions disturb your trail of thought and productivity, and with no set time frame, it’s hard to manage how long is spent on trivial tasks.

So, instead of dipping in and out of your inbox or continuously refreshing social media sites, set aside blocks of time dedicated to regular activities such as responding to emails, making calls and updating social media. Having specific time slots for different activities throughout the day will reduce unnecessary amounts of time being spent on low importance tasks, and higher priority tasks will have your full attention for more sustained periods – without interruption.

Listen to music

listen to music while you workIt’s been found that listening to music at work can increase accuracy and speed, with 9 out of 10 workers performing better when music is playing. Music allows you to block out other sounds and surrounding noise from the environment or other colleagues – making it easier to concentrate on getting things done. Putting in your headphones will also act as a visual ‘do not disturb’ signal to team members – meaning they’ll be less likely to interrupt you while you work. So the next time you need to work without disruption, plug in, tune in and zone out.

Asses the situation

Time pressures at work

When interrupted and asked to take on a task by someone else, it’s only natural to drop what you’re doing and rush to get the job done straight away. While your willingness to help and eagerness to complete the task will do wonders for your credibility, it will increase the pressure to meet your own deadlines, as the time you have to complete your work will be reduced.

So, when you take on any extra tasks you should always assess how long it will take you to do, what will be required to get started and when it needs to be done by. If you’re not able to fit the requested task into your own schedule, delegate it to a team member or ask a colleague for a helping hand to get it finished. But remember, if it’s not feasible for you to take on the new task, you can of course say no, followed by a short explanation of why you’re not available to help this time around.

Relocate

Quiet work space at DropTask HQ

Open space for distraction-free work at DropTask HQ, Tec Marina.

When you really need to get something done but find yourself surrounded by interruptions, temporarily move to a different location. Whether it’s a conference room, an empty desk, the cafeteria or even the outside seating area (weather dependent of course), escape to a place where you’ll be able to focus and get on with your work with fewer distractions. Remember, this should only be a temporary measure, and if you do choose to move, it’s important to communicate with your team so they know your whereabouts.

Plan ahead 

Use DropTask to plan aheadSome things just don’t go the way you expect them to, but by planning ahead and using a tool like DropTask, you can limit the amount of disruption to your work before it occurs.

When organizing tasks, prioritize where your time should fore-mostly be spent, and define the order for completing them. Then, if you are faced with interruptions or delays, disruption will be minimal as higher priority tasks will have been completed first and any lost time will instead affect tasks with lower importance and less urgency.

If you do get held up or a colleague, manager or client is waiting on you for information, then be proactive in communicating with them. Leave them a comment or update a task’s status to keep them informed of how you’re doing. If others are aware of your progress, they’re less likely to interrupt you for an update.

Finally, when setting deadlines for your work, allow yourself some extra time to complete them. A little leeway here and there means if any unforeseen delays, problems or distractions do arise, you can be flexible in responding – without falling behind on deadlines.

How do you cope with or limit interruptions while you work? Share your top tips with us in the comments below.

Learn more about the benefits of DropTask and sign up for a free account today. 

3 top tips for tidying up your to-dos, plus get yourself a sweet treat in our Easter sale!

DropTask Easter Sale Bunnies

Here in the UK, spring has sprung and with the holidays just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to clear clutter and get organized. Excessive clutter can lead to a loss of time and money for many organizations, and it’s thought that over 4 hours per week is wasted by employees looking for items that were not returned to their original places. As well as this, if staff members are not easily able to keep track of things then it can lead to duplication of work and expending valuable resources.

Combined with the emotional effects (such as a lack of motivation, stress and unhappiness), a cluttered workspace can have a damaging impact upon productivity. A survey conducted in America found that 90% of Americans admitted that clutter had a negative impact on their life – with 77% of respondents stating their productivity was affected.

Being organized helps to promote smoother work processes, and satisfaction is established when everything can easily be located. So, by taking time to clear your clutter, you’ll feel far more in control and less stressed while you work. But remember – being organized isn’t restricted to your physical working environment. As technology continues to advance, it’s important to also consider your virtual workspace. So, why not give your to-dos a tidy? Cleaning up your tasks will bring focus to what’s important, and provide a state of calmness while you work – boosting motivation and maximizing productivity. See below for some top tips for polishing up your projects…

1. Archive projects

Archive ProjectsDo you have completed projects that you no longer want to see, but don’t want to delete? Archive old work to clear distractions and bring focus to the job at hand – remaining safe in the knowledge that old projects are always there if you need them.

2. Action emails

Send emails to DropTaskAs your email inbox grows, incoming information can quickly become lost or forgotten. Try separating your tasks from correspondence and turn a ‘please do’ into a ‘to do’, by emailing it straight into DropTask – where it’ll wait until you’re ready to take action.

3. Define order

Define order with Task DependenciesDon’t waste time trying to identify next action steps – we can take care of that for you. Maintain structure within your projects and keep an eye on upcoming duties using Dependencies. Creating visual links between tasks will help you clearly define the order in which tasks should be actioned.

DropTask Easter Sale! Get 3 Months FreeSo there you have it; 3 quick tips to ensure you stay clutter free and remain on target to achieve your goals. Plus, to put a spring in your step this Easter, we’re giving away 3 MONTHS FREE of DropTask PRO, offering all of the features mentioned above as well as extras such as Task Assignment, File Sharing and Messaging – plus much more, when you join today.*

Redeem Now


* Offer valid on annual DropTask PRO subscriptions only and expires on Tuesday 29th March 2016. Cannot be used on subscription downgrades or in conjunction with any other offer.

4 ways Creative Agency, Draft Design House, stay on schedule with DropTask

Productivity tips for designers

Whether you’re a freelance graphic designer, a creative design agency or a print shop; you’ve probably become accustom to using images, space and color to communicate messages and solve problems for clients. But have you considered applying the use of visuals for handling your own work and productivity?

Aside from the fact that color and images add an element of fun and enjoyment to managing your tasks, they can also enhance memory, organization and creativity while you work. That’s why at DropTask we’re turning traditional task management systems on their heads by transforming a to-do ‘list’ into an engaging, colorful and shapely dashboard.

Last week, we spoke to Allie Larsen, Graphic Designer at creative agency Draft Design House, to learn more about how DropTask is used within the business and how you could get started with using DropTask for your own work…

1. Take DropTask with you

DropTask mobile phone app“What sold us the most when implementing DropTask as our tool of choice was the mobile phone apps. We are a very small agency that is always on the move, so we can’t be at the mercy of a program that is only accessible from the computers that are sitting on our desks at the office. Having the ability to access it everywhere we go takes DropTask to a whole new level.”

2. Establish what works for youDropTask Visual View

“Every personality in our office is different, and with that means different preferences and ways of learning. The fact that DropTask provides multiple ways to view tasks – whether it’s in a list for the analytical minds or in the visual view for the creative minds, helps us to be more productive and stay on schedule.”

3. Keep communicatingCommenting in DropTask

The @name feature in the comments section proves very handy. Having the ability to tag another individual within a project is extremely useful as you’re able to get your questions answered in a much more timely fashion. Not only that, but it lets that person know that something is being directed at them, which then provides a better opportunity of getting the task completed.

4. Make it fun

DropTask completed tasks“We almost think of DropTask as a game at times, where you need to ‘pop‘ all of the bubbles – which often gives us just enough of a boost to work faster to get the job done!”

Sign up for free today at www.droptask.com/signup, or learn more about going PRO. 

Don’t cry over spilt milk

Split Milk

Mistakes happen; it’s human nature. And with February 11th officially declared as ‘don’t cry over spilt milk’ day (coincidently falling on what’s celebrated as ‘Inventors’ day in the US), it got us thinking about the challenges that we’ve faced over the years, and how the very same mistakes that once had us trembling in our boots have in fact been instrumental in getting us to where we are today.

As we progress through school and develop into adulthood, we’re often pre-conditioned to ‘fear’ failure – almost to the point of avoiding it at all costs. And while the notions are true, that hard-work, preparation, dedication and the right attitude can take you a long way, some would say that real success, starts with failure.

Henry Ford once said “the only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing”, with Alexander Pope perhaps more profoundly stating that “to err, is human”. And while we can endlessly churn out quotes from well-known public figures, we must remember that these are not in fact hollow statements, but instead moments of self-reflection and prophecy that come only with experience and the gift of hindsight. After all, many of the successful figures we look up to today have experienced failure themselves…

Successful people who failed at first:

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison’s teacher allegedly told him he was ‘too stupid to learn anything’. This, of course, came before he became an extremely successful inventor who changed the world.


Walt Disney

Walt Disney was fired from his local newspaper for ‘lacking imagination’ and having no ‘good’ ideas.


Bill Gates

Before building the world’s largest software company, Bill Gates headed up a company called ‘Traf-O-Data’, offering a product which could read traffic tapes and process the data. The company didn’t take off, but somewhat prepped them for Microsoft’s first product some years later.

 

So the next time you land yourself in a ‘facepalm’ moment of epic frustration, embarrassment and disappointment, just remember that your mistakes don’t need to cripple you, but can instead be stepping-stones within your journey.  Check out our top tips for staying calm, bouncing back, and turning what could seemingly be a ‘mistake’, into the beginning of your success:

Plan

1. Plan

This one’s a given; if you fail to prepare then you may as well start waving your white flag.  Lay out your strategy, focus on your goals and address any issues that could crop up. Don’t be afraid of making some ‘what if’ predictions here – a back-up plan will give you support when you need it the most.
Tool to use: Mind Mapping software, iMindMap

2. Own up

When it hits the fan, one of the most important things you’ll want to do is apologize, acknowledge the mistake, and take responsibility.  To make accountability a whole lot easier to manage, some organizations (most notably Apple), follow a ‘DRI’ (Directly Responsible Individual) model.  With DRIs on each and every bit of activity that takes place within the business, uncertainties regarding ownership and accountability are eliminated and each employee knows exactly who to turn to for each task.
Tool to use: Visual task management app, DropTask.

Act Quickly

3. Act quickly

To prevent an issue from escalating, quick decisions are imperative.  This is made easier if your back-up plan is at hand, but as Theodore Roosevelt once said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing”.  In moments like this you might find yourself ‘living in the moment’ rather than making decisions based on the bigger picture, but to really master the art of ‘thinking fast’ there are a number of strategies and techniques worth reading about.
Book to read: ‘Grasp the Solution’ by Chris Griffiths

Talk to someone

4. Talk to someone

Communication is practically our mantra here at DropTask, in fact, you’ve probably picked up on it as being our top tip in almost everything we share – and there’s good reason for that. When things go pear-shaped your instinctive reaction may be to contemplate the feasibility of brushing it under the carpet. But unless you’re the masked magician, you’ll probably struggle to vanish it without any trace – and the attempt alone could dig you into a deeper hole. Instead, think about who your actions have impacted – maybe your colleagues, or potentially your customers? Then it’s time to pluck up the courage and communicate. You don’t need to sweat the small stuff or grab the closest mega phone, but the earlier you start talking, the better the outcome will be.
What to do: Write an email, schedule a meeting, or send a direct message via DropTask.

5. Learn the lessons and be kind to yourself

By this stage you’ll want to ask a lot of ‘whys’ to get to the root cause of what happened. As tempting as it might be to give this one a skip so you can focus on moving forwards, take some time to reflect – it may just give you the wisdom that will facilitate your success in the future.  Was time management an issue? Could you have had better discipline? Did you prioritise well? Learn from the experience because you’ll thank yourself for it later. It’s also important to practice self-compassion, since this will ultimately transform a ‘mistake’ from something you fear, into something you embrace.

Got your own story to share? Share your mistakes and tell us what you’ve learned in the comments below!

5 steps to successfully implement organizational change

Change in the workplaceTechnology, information and the global economy is growing at an increasingly rapid rate, so much so, that if you want to stay in the game and be successful in business, you must keep up to avoid being left in the dust. Change – and the ability to adapt, therefore, becomes essential for any organization wishing to remain competitive.

But change doesn’t come easy for everyone. Whether it’s fear, a lack of willingness to learn, or pressures of added workload, some people are resistant to any form of adjustment to their ‘routine’. Meaning when faced with the task of implementing a new system for your team, it may become a formidable challenge to say the least. So, to help smooth the process, we’ve got 5 ways to help you overcome those challenges and successfully implement a ‘new way’ system in your workplace.

Clearly communicate with your team and set expectation1. Set Expectations

Change is often resisted in organizations because people feel it is being forced upon them – they’re happy with the current way of doing things or they have preconceptions based on past experiences. Underlying all of these reasons, you’re likely to find unclear or mismatched expectations – meaning people will operate based on their preferences and their habits. One of the most critical factors to get employees to buy into the change is communication. You should deliver clear, specific and unambiguous communication about what you expect from your team – and how it is to be achieved.

2. Convey your Vision

When communicating with your team it’s important to let them know the ‘whys’ of the change and not just the ‘how’. By explaining the benefits of the new system and the problem you’re trying to solve – such as your old methods are ‘losing relevance’, are not ‘efficient’ enough, or you need to move forward with the ‘latest trends’, they’ll be better informed and more likely to be understanding and supportive of the change.

3. Gain Consensus

In order for change to be accepted, it helps to gain support from those at the top of the organization, such as those who hold greater influence and potentially represent different departments.  Having key influencers on board will help when rolling out the new system to the rest of the team, because without them buying into the change, you’re likely to face barriers during the process and encounter disagreements amongst key decision makers.

Listen to your team 4. Listen to Others

Organizational change expert Peter Senge noted, “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed!” Employees may actually be open to change, but if it is forced upon them, they’re likely to obstinate. You should involve your employees at every stage of the process – ask them for feedback, listen to their ideas and answer any questions they may have. You’ll remove any doubts or uncertainties and may discover ways to improve the process – making the transition to the new system seamless and smooth.

5. Provide Support

Despite efforts, some people simply don’t like the change and will try to shoot the new system down. But a helping hand in the form of training, will help them learn how to use the new system and make them feel supported – which can help during the transitional period. It’s worth noting that this shouldn’t be a one-off practice either, as regular communication and support should be offered to maintain understanding and confidence for a new way of working.

Already using DropTask in your organization? Leave us a comment below and let us know your top tips to introducing change!

(You may like to follow the 5 steps above to effectively introduce DropTask to your team. Sign up for free today at www.droptask.com/signup.)