Category Archives: DropTask Tips

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

Filter your tasks
A powerful way to hone in on your tasks, DropTask’s advanced Filter tool makes it easy for you to locate what you need, when you need it. For instance, you can opt to view just your overdue tasks or those that have files or certain tags attached to them. With the ability to filter by a whole range of key identifiers – assignee, importance, keywords, effort, tags, due date, attachments and task status – targeted concentration is just one or two clicks away. While you can combine multiple filters, it helps to stick to a minimal number to maintain simplicity in directing your workflow. Think: what’s most important in this particular context?

To access filters from within your DropTask project, simply select the filter icon located in the bottom left-hand corner of your screen, then choose the filters you wish to apply. You can remove filters at any point by clicking ‘Clear’. A useful feature to help you spend less time spinning your wheels and more time moving forward on your tasks.

2. Zoom in for a closer look

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When your mind’s in disarray and you can’t seem to make heads or tails out of your tasks, it could be that you’re trying to take on too many things at once. Avoid workload overwhelm by strategically focusing on one project area at a time using DropTask’s new Pan+Zoom Categories feature. This allows you to pan and zoom in on specific project categories, so it’s much easier to get visual clarity and make decisions on what to do first. Click the ‘Categories’ button situated on the bottom right of your Canvas workspace, and then select the category you’d like to zero in on for ultimate focus.

3. Eliminate overload by collapsing your to-dos

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Information overload becomes a thing of the past with the ability to Collapse and Expand Categories in DropTask. By visually collapsing categories and the tasks within them, you can hide minor chores and allow yourself more space to fully engage with your heaviest priorities. Within the Canvas view, hover over the category you’d like to collapse and select the ‘Collapse’ option. Your category will then minimize into a smaller circle, with all its tasks hidden. This is a useful tool for keeping your workspace neat and tidy, drowning out the ‘visual noise’ of miscellaneous to-dos so you can avoid flitting from one diversion to another. Your tasks will remain discretely hidden until you’re ready to retrieve them. Click ‘Expand’ and your category will reappear at its normal size, along with all your tasks.

4. Check out the landscape with auto-layout

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To reclaim your focus, it’s sometimes necessary to take a step back and look at the big picture. When activated, DropTask’s new Auto-Layout tool smoothly pulls all your tasks to the center of the Canvas, so you can view your entire workload with ease and rearrange or re-prioritize as needed. From this greater perspective, you can determine the most optimal organization of your tasks, and save yourself time and energy later on. To switch on Auto-Layout, click the ‘Layout’ button on the bottom right-hand corner of the Canvas and you’ll find the option to toggle Auto-Layout on or off. With this clever tip, you can be confident that there’s nothing you’re forgetting or neglecting, leaving you free to focus and putting you in full control of the responsibilities ahead.

We hope these fresh new features inspire you to find your own focus. Let us know how you get on in the comments below.

Setting SMART work goals for the new year

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

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

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

1. Make your work goal specific

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

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

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

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

2. Make your work goal measurable

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

3. Make your work goal attainable

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

4. Make your work goal relevant

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

5. Make your work goal timely

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

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

How to stay productive over the festive season

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

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

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

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

2. Don’t over-commit

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

3. Catch some winter rays

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

4. Spread Christmas cheer

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

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

 

Work-life balance and 5 ways you can achieve it

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

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

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

1. Work out your personal priorities

Work out your personal priorities

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

2. Learn to say “no”

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

3. Telecommute

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

4. Unplug after hours

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

5. Take care of the physical

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

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

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

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

1. Become comfortable with taking risks.

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

2. Gain control

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

3. Reinforce your creativity

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

4. Accept failure

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

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

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

 

Tackling information overload with DropTask 2

Information overload

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

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

DropTask’s visual display can clean up the clutter

Cleaning up clutter

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

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

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

1. Filter through the flood

Filter through the flood

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

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

Workflow and Calendar

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

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

3. Sometimes less is more – Collapsing Categories

Collapsing categories

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

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

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

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.