Step into Spring with DropTask

With March already in full swing, the evenings are getting lighter and the temperature’s beginning to rise, resulting in a state of calmness surrounding the workplace. But, when our tasks are buried under a thick layer of dust it can be challenging to feel as refreshed as the environment around us.

Whether you love it or hate it, it’s that time of year when we need to start thinking about some serious de-cluttering and reorganization. We comfortably devote a certain amount of time each week to clean our homes, ensuring that it’s looking its finest and things are easy to locate. But when we spend some of our most crucial hours in the workplace, why is it that we’re still sifting through a buried work desk without an efficient schedule in sight? In a report published last year by OfficeMax, it was found that office clutter undermines productivity and motivation. With less ability to work efficiently on our work due to unlimited distractions being placed in front of us, it’s becoming a rarity that we leave the office feeling accomplished with what we’ve achieved with our day.

Research undertaken at Princeton University shows that when your environment is cluttered, the chaos surrounding you restricts your ability to focus, limiting your brain’s ability to process information. So what better time than now to give your workspace a well needed spring clean than at the beginning of the season. With all of the capabilities to transport your projects into full bloom, follow our top tips on how DropTask can turn your workspace into a vibrant setting that’s bursting with effective working and productivity.

Rearrange where necessary

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Most people throw miscellaneous tasks and odd and ends into the same space, making a mental note to come back to them when they next have five minutes spare. After time, we end up losing these notes, deadlines get missed, and we become anxious about just the thought of rummaging through our misplaced items. To ensure your mental note doesn’t disappear into oblivion, make a visualization in the form of a Task Circle to stimulate your brain. As referenced by psychology professor Allan Paivio in ‘The Dual Coding Theory’ 1971, the formation of mental images aids our learning and processing of information. If you stumble upon a misplaced task, then the Duplicate and Move feature will allow you to tidy-up, resulting in an organized workspace where you can progress through everything you need to do with structure and order.

Even with the best-laid and organized workspaces, there may still be some overflow. If you’re looking for short term-storage and somewhere to limit work that’s in progress, the Kanban-style Workflow view will provide you with a clean space where you channel your focus on taking tasks right through to completion. Split your Categories into ‘To-do’, ‘Doing’ and ‘Done’ swimlanes, and watch your tasks move through designated stages. That way your to-do’s will never be pushed aside, as you will always be concentrating on getting the job done.

Polish appearances

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With hours spent hunched over our desks with no exposure to sunlight, our health as well as productivity can be significantly impacted. What better way to uplift your mood and to bring your tasks to life than by using visually attractive Cover Images to add a personal touch to your projects. The importance of visual imagery is crucial when striving to achieve high levels of organization and decision making. Research has shown that the human brain allows us to analyze an image in a very short snippet of time, along with its meaning and scenario. By making your tasks more personal to you, they’ll be more aesthetically pleasing, and we know that having something beautiful to look at can have a huge impact on your overall well-being.

Now that you’ve decorated and customized your tasks, it’s time to get them in order. The easier it is to store something, the more likely you are to put it in its place. It’s always a good idea to store similar tasks together, that way you’ll be able to locate tasks that share similar relationships without wasting any time. By Nesting Categories that share related attributes, you’ll create a structured hierarchy for your tasks, allowing you to spend less time searching as they’ll always have a defined place to call home.

Organize upcoming duties

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Organizing is a process of arranging and keeping things in order; a skill that can be utilized in all areas of life. But when trying to locate specific work is as straight forward as finding a needle in a haystack, tidying up our to-do’s is easier said than done. Studies show that the average person wastes 4.3 hours per week searching through messy papers, which adds stress and frustration to the workplace while reducing our concentration levels and stunting our creative thinking. When creating your project, define the structure in which you’re going to complete your to-do’s by using Dependencies. Visual arrows will be drawn on your Canvas, helping you to identify which direction to turn next. And by taking a practical approach towards assessing your next steps, you’ll be able to map out the structure of your work, paving the way to completion.

For some, dealing with clutter can cause negative stress, making us less able to complete tasks on schedule. If you’re looking to strengthen your organization skills and bring all of your tasks from across all projects together, then the DropTask built-in Calendar is the one for you. By assigning a Start and Due Date to each of your tasks, you’ll be able to toggle between when it’s set to begin and when its deadline is approaching. Instead of feeling overwhelmed when the end of season is forthcoming, you’ll remain confident with clear visibility into your upcoming schedule and the flexibility to make quick rearrangements if necessary.

Focus on what needs your attention

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President of ‘The Productivity Pro’, Laura Stack, claims ‘most people spend at least 30 minutes to an hour a day looking for things.’ And according to a Mckinsey report, employees spend 1.8 hours every day – totaling to 9.3 per week on average – gathering the information that they need. Surely there’s a more productive way to use our time? To save time searching through information to locate what you need, the Filter option in DropTask does it for you. Hone in by narrowing down your workload by filtering by Assignee, Effort, Importance, Tags or Attachments etc., and gain exactly what you need, exactly when you need it. By cutting back what’s in-front of you, tasks will be easy to locate for when you require them next.
With these four handy tips and your newly cleaned up and organized DropTask workspace, you’ll feel re-energized and rearing to get to work on your most productive season yet.

What are your top tips for spring cleaning your workload? Share them in the comments below!

Managing nationwide projects with flexibility and focus

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Dr. Janet Mahoney, CEO of Arte Rehab; a company that provides quality patient care through a range of therapies within healthcare, was looking for a solution to manage the many aspects of her growing and dynamic business. Janet wanted a solution where employees could focus on accomplishing ongoing goals and would get the big picture overview of company-wide projects, and with DropTask she gained not only this, but the flexibility and visual organization to manage the workload of a large team within a nation-wide company.

“Arte Rehab operates in four different states, offers 3 lines of Business and has a wide range of consultants up and down the country. We have experienced significant growth since our 2013 inception and as a result of our expanding business, have hired a number of remote employees. Prior to finding DropTask, keeping track of everyone’s progress with shared tasks and ongoing projects became a challenge and I resorted to using an old school dry erase board to plan collaborative projects. This wasn’t a successful way to do things, and often lead to a messy board with an unclear structure on how we were going to progress forward with our next project.

This was the tipping point for me as I knew that I needed to find a solution that would fit the needs of the company and allow collaboration between a wide range of staff working within different locations. I needed us all to be on the same page with our current workload, within a system which allowed a seamless way of taking our projects from the initial stages of planning, to completion.
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The visual aspect of DropTask and the ability to organize my workload as task circles allowed me to reschedule and prioritize my workload in a simple way. I currently have the Business account, which further allows me to manage the massive process of Task Assignment within the team. In an instant, I’m able to click on tasks that are assigned to different team members and view their progress.
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The Checklist feature is one of the teams’ personal favorites to use. What we find most useful is that it breaks down larger tasks into several smaller tasks and ones which are a little less daunting to tackle. This feature is my go-to if I want to quickly glance over progress. I do this by viewing the task circle on the Canvas, which gives me a visual indicator of how long it will take until the larger task is completed – which I find is most efficient. It’s a great feature for managers to keep on track, and for employees to focus on getting their job done.
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Due to my busy schedule, I often need a prompt to direct my attention to a specific task that I need to complete. I assign Reminders to my tasks for a specific date and time for when I’d like an in-app Notification and email reminder sent to me. I find these really efficient as the Reminder Notification will remain in the app until I dismiss it, encouraging me to complete the task so I can get back to my work at hand.

Currently within DropTask I’m working on reviewing and updating our employee handbook, policies and procedures. This project is very time consuming and requires a massive team effort to review, rewrite and research the policies that our industry requires. For such an extensive project, this entails lots of job roles being assigned to a variety of different staff members in order for the project to remain on course to meet its deadline. In all of my projects and in this one in particular, I review the Status of each of the tasks that are assigned to my employees, and I do this on a daily basis. As Project admin, I have access to all of the Project’s minor details including: changing the permission levels of each project member, editing advanced Permission Settings and removing members from the project. I find this feature useful as I am in affect the owner of the project and as a result have complete control of any user’s accessibility to shared work.
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Our time management as an entire team has improved significantly with the help of DropTask. We now assign Start and Due Dates to all of our tasks. This not only encourages us to work harder, but we have found that it has allowed us to complete tasks much faster than ever before. For example, each member of the team has a unique Calendar that is based around the tasks that they’re assigned to. Before this, there was confusion surrounding dates and not knowing when deadlines were put in place.

As a doctor of physical therapy with more than 30 years experience, I have worked in acute care hospitals, co-founded a skilled nursing facility rehab management consulting company and written many articles to emphasize the need for industry change. And now I finally feel like I can manage all of these different aspects of my life within DropTask. I have everything that I need to accomplish my projects without any additional stress of knowing where my work is, as now it is all available within one superior task management tool which is DropTask.”

To learn more, sign up for free at www.droptask.com/signup

Already a DropTask user? Share your story with us at contact@droptask.com for your chance to be featured in a future post!

Yes, you’re busy but are you productive?

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3 Ways to go from needlessly busy to getting things done

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

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

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

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

1. Trim your to-dos

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

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

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

2. Hit the pause button

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

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

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

3. Single-Task

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

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

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

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

Could remote working work for you?

remote-blog-headerLike it or lump it, remote working is having a moment right now. An outburst of cloud technologies and connectivity tools has made the ‘virtual team’ a reality, and we see workers from distant parts of the globe pulling together to meet common business goals. With more and more people opting to work from home or off-site, remote working is fast becoming a mainstay of the corporate domain.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of home workers in the UK has grown by 1.3 million since 1998, amounting to 13.9% of the nation’s workforce. While in the United States, Global Workplace Analytics reports that approximately 20–25% of workers operate remotely on some occasions, and 3.7 million people now work from home at least half the time.

The rise of remote working has become impossible to ignore. But, what makes it so popular?

Why work remotely?

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From an individual standpoint, the growing trend in remote working is undoubtedly positive, bringing greater flexibility in work hours, time saved on the daily commute and a better work-life balance. This is terrific news if you’re a parent juggling family responsibilities alongside a hefty workload. But what impact does it have on the average small to medium-sized enterprise? Quite a lot as it stands. Remote working can be a step in the right direction for many companies, offering a wealth of opportunities to cut costs while boosting the productivity of your team.

  • More talent – Remote working opens up a whole world of talent and you can hire the best and brightest people for the job, regardless of where they live.
  • Office savings – With fewer bods on-site, businesses can save on overheads such as rent, rates, lighting, heating, equipment and any other costs associated with running a physical workspace.
  • Enhanced productivity – Forget the idea that working from home equates to slacking off. In a recent survey by employee engagement firm TINYPulse, 91% of respondents said they were more productive when working remotely. When all that’s needed is a good internet connection, remote work makes it possible for people to choose when, where and how they work, so they’re motivated to hit maximum productivity.

Judging by these benefits, working remotely is working smartly and the traditional office may soon become a thing of the past. But it’s not all smooth sailing. For some organizations, the more flexibility that’s added, the more it can feel as if you’re losing control of your team. To get the most out of a remote workforce, you need a well-considered approach and the right tools for the job.

Here are 3 practical tips to make remote working work for you.

3 tips to make your remote team a success

1. Create connections

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Strong communication is vital for running a remote team, and in these digitally connected times there’s no reason why distance should pull people apart. Thanks to modern devices and apps, we no longer need to be sitting in the same room to touch base, share data or collaborate on projects. Whether your teammates choose to work from a home office, a local co-working space or a coffee house, make sure they have the communication tools they need to be productive.

With full mobility across multiple platforms – Windows, Mac OSX, iPhone and iPad – DropTask acts as a real-time communication channel for teams working online and easily overtakes email in the collaboration stakes. Project teams can target their interactions so that essential messages or files don’t get drowned in people’s inboxes, and individuals can quickly locate conversations without having to dig through an email chain that’s miles long. There’s no reason for freelancers and other ad-hoc workers to feel left out of team play either. They can stay in touch on the projects that concern them and keep close ties with the team from within one virtual workspace.

2. Fit in some Face-Time

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Encourage your distributed team to schedule frequent hangouts in their DropTask calendars – maybe weekly, fortnightly or monthly – so that everyone knows what the rest of the crew is working on and can offer each other support where needed. Regular video or phone conferences are great for connecting people and provide a valuable outlet for sharing issues or problems, ensuring no one in the team feels isolated or stuck. But remember that while technology is great, nothing beats face-time. It’s a fact that human beings work better together when they’re comfortable in each other’s company. Inviting your remote workers to ‘get personal’ via face-to-face meetings at the HQ or during fun, social activities will build camaraderie, and can make all the difference to team dynamics.

3. Keep tabs without losing trust

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One of the biggest fears among managers is that remote workers will ‘goof off’ if left to their own devices. This comes down to trust. Showing that you trust your virtual team is essential to making things work as it gives them the vote of confidence they need to be productive – but you still need to stay in the loop. Incessantly asking questions and checking up on people will only undermine trust, and so the best way to ensure people are doing what they’re supposed to is to keep a tight focus on results. Set concrete goals, deliverables and timelines, and if they aren’t met, follow up with your team members to find out why.

Using DropTask, you can track workflows and view progress across a remote team via an easy-to-read visual dashboard without having to constantly badger people for updates. There’s no need to stress about your team getting stuff done because you can easily keep tabs on what they’re up to, even when you’re on the go. DropTask’s phone, tablet and desktop apps all support offline capability, so changes are automatically synced whenever you’re out and about. By giving you ‘remote control’, DropTask is fully equipped to save your sanity as a manager and help you stay coordinated as a team, no matter where you all are.

Make DropTask your ‘virtual office’ and get the best out of your remote workforce. Available via the web and with native apps on Windows, Mac, Android, iPhone and iPad, it’s a multi-platform friendly tool for bringing your team together seamlessly. How do you make remote working work for you? Add your tips in the comments below.

From personal work to organizing data analysis, learn how Dolores Cloward tracks it all in DropTask

profile-doloresclowardWithin her organization at ‘SMART Recovery,’ Project Management Professional, Dolores Cloward, requires versatility. Working within a fast-growing international company dedicated to providing peer support for those with addiction issues means that priorities tend to shift between different projects quickly, and Dolores was looking to improve her overall productivity to get more done during her working day. During her search for a solution that would help her achieve this while also working collaboratively, Dolores found DropTask, which blew her away right from the very beginning.

‘Over the last few decades I have filled many roles at SMART. Within a company that’s fast growing, it’s all hands on deck, which means that all of my skills from my career come in to play and why it’s vital for me to be on top of my game at all times. I am instinctively drawn to visually appealing technology, and with DropTask thoughtfully designed in the way that it is, it lets me see the big picture overview of the entire project while also zooming in on minor details when needed. I find the design just beautiful, and so highly intuitive as it allows smooth, seamless and crisp movements which are appealing across all of its platforms.
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Before DropTask I was finding it difficult to keep on track of personal and work related projects as I had no central hub for all of my notes, ideas, and tasks that needed action. Now, I use DropTask as my primary planner and organizer for SMART work, while also managing my independent consulting and personal tasks. I do this by having separate projects for all aspects of my life that I need to keep track on, and within these separate projects I create individual tasks that are associated with them.

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When I first signed up I was impressed at the focus that DropTask has brought to providing truly useful integrations. Along with the iMindMap integration, I also use the Google Calendar integration, which I find is vital while in the process of reordering my schedule. I assign Start and Due Dates to my tasks in DropTask and transport them into my Google Calendar, as it’s a great way for me to filter down what I need to work on for the coming the week.

dolores-start-due-calI have combined my Calendar with DropTask to ensure that I have everything that I need in one space, as I can combine my tasks with other important appointments that I have already in my Google Calendar. If I need to rearrange meetings or scheduled plans suddenly change at the last minute, I can effortlessly drag and drop my tasks into a different date in the Calendar and they’ll be instantly updated in DropTask. It makes DropTask really useable with a highly satisfying visual interface that works.

DropTask doesn’t just look pretty, the actual user experience is flawless and I just love that in software. The different views that are available within the Business account kicks off a different area in my brain. The Canvas helps me to envision the overall picture of the project, then I switch to the List View as it helps me to hone in and organize my tasks according to the level of Urgency that they have assigned to them. When I switch between these views I gain perspective and insight into the minor details within larger projects.

Within the app currently, I’m working on a new podcast, organizing some data analysis, putting together a virtual community party, all while preparing for PR and marketing materials to go live in a March webinar. The March webinar is currently at the top of my to-do list, and for this task I’ve relied on the iMindMap integration within DropTask. With this two-way integration, I can brainstorm my ideas and then transport them into DropTask as they appear as visual task circles. The integration makes the initial stages of planning a project easy, intuitive and enjoyable, something that I’ve never experienced before with task management software.

To learn more, sign up for free at www.droptask.com/signup

Already a DropTask user? Share your story with us at contact@droptask.com for your chance to be featured in a future post!

How to fall back in love with your work with DropTask

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Research shows that 53% of US workers love their work, and happier workers are 12% more productive in the workplace. As a result, this leads to workers being healthier and more sociable within their job role. But, if only half of the population love their work then what’s happening to the other 47%? When it comes to how we feel about work, there are often three categories that workers fall under:

1. The ones that are totally devoted to what they do.
2. The ones who tolerate their job and are on a countdown until they’re reunited with the weekend.
3. The ones who are constantly searching for that one job that they can be passionate about.

If you’re reading this and you fall under number 2 or 3, it’s time to reevaluate. The workplace is where we spend most of our waking hours, so it’s crucial that we enjoy the time that we spend there.

Use DropTask to fall hopelessly back in love with your work and follow our simple steps to rekindle the spark that could make you a happier, healthier and more productive worker.

Revisit the first attraction
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‘If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.’
Marc Anthony

Remember when you first started your current job? Just like in the initial stages of dating, you found each task and challenge placed in front of you exciting, and the thought of being granted responsibility made you weak at the knees. You’d even get up 2 hours earlier in the morning to prune and prepare for the day ahead. But now, three years down the line, rushing through the door is a frequent occurrence in your daily routine. When did things get so disorganized?

Take a step back to reflect on the positives in preparing for the day ahead, because the importance of daily and weekly planning plays a crucial part in how successful you are at work. Planning can reduce stress by a significant amount and gives you peace of mind that you have an action plan to work on. In DropTask, create Tasks for the priorities that need to be completed by the end of your day, and use the Assign feature to set that you’re accountable for their completion. Setting yourself up for the day ahead will not only increase your work ethic efficiency and drive you to hit specific goals, but it will also stand as a reminder of the bigger picture and why you fell head over heels with your job in the first place.

Enhance your relationships
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‘Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress; working together is success.’
Henry Ford

Maybe the word ‘love’ is not often heard uttered in the kitchen or the atrium of your workplace, but it has one of the biggest impacts on workplace performance. If you love the company and the colleagues that you’re spending your days with, you’ll naturally become more engaged and passionate about what you’re doing. To enhance your happiness at work, Collaborate with all members of your team and make an effort to bond with one another – after all, you do spend most of your day with these people.

Ensure you set aside time for lunch each day, break away from the desk, and make an effort to chat with your colleagues. Bonding with colleagues enriches the working day and as a result, keeps us energized and eager to produce more work. Use the Messaging feature to arrange a lunchtime date and use this time to offload, let your guard down and talk about anything but work. The latter half of your day is critical to your workplace performance and leaves a lasting impression on how you’ll approach your tasks for the following day. You’ll quickly realize that by taking an extra few minutes to reconnect with colleagues, you’ll be refreshed when returning to your desk and prepped to tackle your to-dos head on. You’ll then be able to leave the office in good spirits knowing that you’ve been a productive member of the team who has helped to move the project nearer to its completion.

Progress in an environment that you adore
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‘The only way to do great work is to love what you do.’
Steve Jobs

Your setting and workplace environment is a key factor in determining whether you’re going to be crazy in love with your work. Whether your preference is a quiet office or being in the center of a vibrant city, it’s important that your surroundings can nurture your growth and progression. If altering your work setting isn’t an option, take the opportunity to switch up your tasking environment. DropTask offers a visually engaging and refreshing approach to managing your day to day tasks and projects, and with notes, files and to-dos all in once place there’ll be no need to worry about falling back into old working habits because we’ll have you covered.

Having a visually appealing workspace with your tasks laid out in front of you will instantly uplift your mood, as you will be able to see who’s working on what, what’s in Progress and what has been Completed. With ‘Clean Desk Policies’ sweeping the nation, it’s said that employees who work at a clutter-free desk are more productive as it improves their efficiency when completing tasks. And as a result of boosting work-related performance, the ‘CDP’ also reduces work-related stress. Within DropTask, we’ve taken a similar approach with DropTask Workflow view that facilitates the flow of tasks as they progress effortlessly through stages within your project.  Tracking progress step-by-step is easy as each vertical swimlane can be divided into ‘to-do, doing and done’ sections, allowing you to keep a tight rein on your workload, so you can maintain focus on the to-dos that will contribute the most towards reaching your successful outcome.

Experiencing ups and downs with your job is completely normal, and in fact, is a continuous development point for maintaining a healthy relationship. Sometimes we just need a little perspective on how many hurdles we’ve overcome to get to where we are today. Dip into your Archived Projects to review your journey and the projects that you were first assigned to. Here, you’ll be able to reevaluate if there are any flaws in your path and feel optimistic about creating a positive and happy future ahead.

How do you get the most out of your working day? Let us know in the comments below.

Generating new ideas with DropTask in 2017

Despite the fact that it’s the shortest month of the year, February can be seen as just as challenging, if not more, than it’s blue predecessor. Sure, the days are getting shorter. But with grey clouds still lingering over our heads, it’s difficult to find the drive that’s going to play a pivotal part in your work-based performance. But don’t stress, with the aid of DropTask you’ll be able to transform February into the month of generating powerful ideas so you’ll be rearing to go for the prosperous year ahead.

Don’t let the creative spark burn out. Ditch the mundane thoughts and follow our tips to ignite your brightest ideas for 2017.

1. Don’t worry about being ‘creative’
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When asked to define creativity, Steve Jobs answered: ‘Creativity is just connecting things‘. But, this is easier said than done if you’re juggling an array of tasks across your home, personal and social life without any clear view of the bigger picture. By overloading your brain with information, thinking ‘creatively’ can be a huge challenge, and studies have shown that the signal that handles how we process our thoughts and decision making temporarily shuts down when we’re feeling overwhelmed. To avoid this feeling, simply create a project in DropTask and have a brain dump on the Canvas of all of the possible ideas that you could put into action. Further explore possible opportunities and ideas by using the iMindMap Integration, and spend time analyzing and preparing which ideas you’re looking to bring to life.

2. More heads are better than one
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An innovative idea is often the combination of smaller collaborative ideas combined into one. There’s often a stigma attached to asking others for help as this is perceived as a sign of weakness. But by building a positive rapport in the workplace as someone who helps others, you’ve already distinguished yourself as a team player. And as a result, others will want to help you to get your job done. Collaborating with the whole team can speed up the process of generating new ideas and bury the negative thoughts of them not being accepted. Invite your colleagues to your ‘ideas’ project so they can browse through all of the possible areas that you could approach next. And if you want a specific member to look at a piece of work, drop them a direct Message so they can guide you in the right direction and help link together the missing parts of your project plan.

3. Trial and error
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Remember, you can’t have a lot of good ideas without a lot of bad ones either. While in the process of drawing up your ideas, you must consider the circumstances that could hinder it and the ones that could allow it to propel into a successful reality. If you have a feeling of doubt before you even start, then something is not quite right. But, what’s the harm in testing out potential ideas? As John F. Kennedy said: ‘Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.’ When our ideas go down the pan, this is when we often realize that we’re meant to pursue different avenues. Connect all of the steps that you’ll need to take to launch your idea into action with visual arrows in the form of Task Dependencies. By having a clear structure in place, you’ll be able to identify if you’re heading down the right path. And if not, reorder your priorities by Filtering by Importance in the List View to ensure that the ideas at the top of the list are the ones that you’ll focus on first.

4. Pay attention to past experiences
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Research shows that learning from past experiences is invaluable for complex decision making and for facilitating the flow of ideas. We’ve all been there, pitching an idea to the rest of the team for it only to be shut down and pushed aside. What’s stopping you from revisiting old ideas and approaching them with a fresh outlook? When you think of those past ideas resulting in failure, take a look at them from a different perspective and note down the gaps in the initial planning stages of why they didn’t succeed. Look at them as ‘unapproached opportunities’, and start again. By taking into account your past failures, you’ll be able to rectify the mistakes that you made the first time around. And with a whole archive of Completed Tasks in DropTask, you’ll gain a quick boost of motivation and feel rearing to go with your next great idea.

How do you approach new ideas when your motivation is low? Let us know in the comments below.

The DropTask guide to popular productivity methods

We’re super fans of productivity here at DropTask, and we love exploring all the best possible ways to help you get more done, more efficiently. From GTD to tomato timers, there are multiple to-do methods out there. The challenge is figuring out which one/s work best for you.

In this post, we’ve rounded up 4 of the most popular, tried-and-tested productivity strategies, along with how to navigate them in DropTask. Take a look, try them out and find your best fit.

1. Getting Things Done (GTD)

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One of the most famous productivity techniques ever known is Getting Things Done (GTD), based on the best-selling book of the same name by productivity consultant David Allen. GTD promotes two key elements of task management – control and perspective. In a nutshell, it follows a process that turns your tasks into real, actionable items or things you can just get rid of.  Everything you keep has a clear reason for being in your life at any given moment – both now and well into the future.

With GTD, projects are different to tasks. A project represents a high-level outcome or result which involves multiple steps to achieve. A task represents the actions or steps needed to complete a project. In DropTask, you can break down your main Projects into separate Categories to reflect the type of tasks awaiting attention. Preferably, all your tasks should be organised by the place or context in which they can be done, or the set of tools available (e.g. @Office, @Calls, @Meetings, @Emails, @Home). You could also include a ‘Waiting For’ category for when an action has been delegated to someone else, or when you’re waiting for some external event before a project can be moved forward. A ‘Someday/Maybe’ category is also handy to store things to be done at some point, but not right now. In DropTask, you can use Tags to further clarify the context of your tasks and enable better Filtering, so you can work on targeted groups of actions at a time.

Once you’ve off-loaded what needs to get done from your head or inbox into DropTask, take an inventory to determine whether each item is actionable or not. If a task isn’t actionable, remove it from your project. If it is, consider whether you will:

  • Do it now (if takes less than 2 minutes)
  • Schedule it: Determine priorities and add Start/Due Dates so you can monitor the task in your Calendar.
  • Delegate it: Assign the task to to someone else.
  • Put it in the Someday/Maybe category (to be checked every month or so)

To keep things moving, engage in periodic reviews (at least once a week) to streamline and update your tasks, always focusing on the next logical actions. It takes a bit of setting up, but GTD is an ideal system for helping you pull everything together in an organized fashion so you can knock out tasks quickly.

2. Pomodoro/Sprints

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The Pomodoro technique is based on the idea of work sprints combined with short, frequent breaks to maximize focus while preventing burnout. Francesco Cirillo, the inventor of the method, originally used a kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato to set time increments for working on tasks (pomodoro is Italian for tomato in case you didn’t know!). With Pomodoro, you do a concentrated burst of work for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break, and then repeat the process until you’ve completed 4 sprints. After each 4-sprint cycle (which represents one ‘Pomodoro’), you take a longer break (say half an hour) to stretch your legs, grab a snack and recharge. It really is that simple. If you want to try this in DropTask, we recommend breaking down larger tasks into a smaller number of digestible subtasks that can be performed within 25-minute blocks. Create a Checklist of tasks and work through it using the segmented Pomodoro process, making sure to protect your time from any and all interruptions.

3. Kanban

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Kanban is a highly visual method that facilitates the flow of tasks across one project board (a ‘Kanban’). It’s great for keeping the big picture in sight as you can clearly see what you have to do right now, what’s coming up and what you’ve just completed. A versatile technique, Kanban is enormously helpful for tracking projects as they cycle through defined stages, such as the Auditing process – ‘Planning’, ‘Assessment’, ‘Reporting’, ‘Follow-up’. DropTask’s new Workflow View enables full-blown Kanban-style productivity. All your tasks are clearly organized in vertical swimlanes that are easy to switch between, keeping you in full control as you progress from ‘Do’ and ‘Doing’ to ‘Done’. The clear sequential structure of DropTask’s Workflow Board helps you keep a tight rein on your ‘work in progress’, so you never take on more than you can chew at any one time. For more info on how to Kanban with Droptask, check out this earlier blog post.

4. The Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Urgent/Important Matrix is another visual approach that makes prioritization simple. Famously referenced by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this technique divides your tasks into four quadrants along an XY axis, based on their level of Urgency and/or Importance.
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Examining your work in this way helps you plan and prioritize around your most important, high-value (but not necessarily urgent!) tasks – so they don’t get crowded out by pointless busywork or sudden distractions. Getting extra training or updating your LinkedIn profile might not be pressing requirements right now, but they’ll no doubt be of benefit to your career in the longer term. With the Eisenhower Matrix, you get a better grasp of which tasks need to be done right away, which ones can be put off or ignored, and which ones can be delegated to someone else. This concept can be easily executed in DropTask using the Urgency and Importance attributes. You can set the level of urgency for tasks using 4 values (low to very high) to best determine those that require immediate attention. Color-coded flags denoting importance from low (blue flag) to very high (red flag) will help you identify all your most critical tasks with a single glance.

How do you find these techniques? Do you have any favorite productivity systems we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below. If you’d like some help with implementing any of these methods in DropTask, email us at support@droptask.com and we’ll do all we can to assist. 

Fed up with your idle projects? Learn how to finish what you started

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Are you in the habit of starting projects, but not finishing them? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many of us are fast to get new projects into motion – a screenplay, a product, a new craft, a business idea or home improvements. We like ‘starting things’ because it makes us feel amped up, entrepreneurial and productive. But, completing them is another matter.

There are plenty of reasons why we lose that initial enthusiasm for our projects and hit the pause button mid-way, be they running out of cash, failure to plan effectively, stumbling on a roadblock, lack of commitment, or reaching a plateau. Rather than abandoning a project altogether, we leave it on the backburner week after week, month after month, anticipating that we’ll get around to wrapping it up at some point.

Every project sitting idle signifies wasted time, energy and resources, and sucks up far too much mental space. It could be a small task, an ongoing work project or something even bigger, like a lifelong passion. Whatever you have that’s undone, it won’t magically get finished without you taking action.

We’ve devised 4 simple hacks to help you see your projects through from beginning to end. Read on and get moving…

1. Be picky

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Before doing anything, take a look at all your unfinished projects and identify which ones are actually worth concluding. Which assignments have the tightest deadlines? Which ones are almost done? What about that never-ending work proposal that’s been going on forever? Remember that dream goal you got started on? Is it still something you care about and want to pursue? Decide which projects you want to finish first. Ranking your projects makes it clear what’s number 1 on your agenda and helps in fueling your motivation to go from one completed activity to the next.

Give your top priority project the go-ahead by forming a basic structure for it in DropTask. First, create a new Project to house all your to-dos. Inside that project, create color-coded Categories for grouping your micro responsibilities and tasks. For instance, you can organize your categories by project stages or themes, such as ‘Ideas’, ‘Research’, ‘Budgeting’, ‘Events’, ‘Marketing’ and so on.

2. Plan your actions in detail

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To get and stay organized, make sure you have a system for action planning. Having set up all your project categories in DropTask, create specific action steps in the form of Tasks to begin the process of making the project a reality. Without clear steps, you might find yourself stumbling around, not knowing which course to follow to achieve your desired results. Your tasks can be anything you need to do or any piece of work you need to produce to fulfil key aspects of your project – ‘Write cover copy’, ‘Commission artwork’, ‘Create webpage’ and so on. You can assign each task a Start and Due Date, and an owner (if you’re working with others). For each task, make sure you prepare, copy, link to or attach any notes or files you might need. If you have a series of tasks that depend on one another, set them up as Dependencies so you can clearly see how they link together in the correct sequence. The tighter your plan, the easier it will be to stick to it without getting sidetracked.

3. Eat a frog first thing

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“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” – Mark Twain. This entertaining quote contains powerful productivity advice. For any project you’re working on, there are tasks that are more important than others. The frog is the biggest, ugliest and hardest task on your plate – it’s the one that puts the most pressure on you because of its significance. Consequently, it’s also the task that you’re most likely to avoid in favor of crossing off the easier 3rd, 4th or 5th items in your to-dos.

But here’s the tip. If you aim to wolf down your giant task ASAP each day, then the rest of your work will be a piece of cake in comparison. According to behavioral scientists, willpower tends to be higher earlier in the day. Prioritizing your toughest task first means you’ll be able to apply your best energy and effort to it before ‘decision fatigue’ kicks in. Specify your frogs by setting Importance, Urgency and Effort attributes for your tasks in DropTask, and switch to Project List View to pull up a list of your most urgent ‘do now’ jobs each day. Eating the frog won’t be pleasant, but steeling yourself to do it allows you to make long strides in achieving your major goal and will nip chronic procrastination in the bud. You might not enjoy the taste, but you’ll love the buzz of accomplishment that comes after.

4. Stay committed to the end

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Maintain momentum on your project by checking in daily, weekly or monthly. We all know what it feels like to start a project all hyped up and full of zest, only to have our enthusiasm fade away once we’re in the thick of things. It’s worth reminding yourself regularly that every little bit you do now counts toward your end vision. Use DropTask’s Workflow View to visually map the development of your project from start to finish, while keeping your eyes firmly on the main prize.  Mark your progress on each task using the Progress Percentage bar, and look over your current achievements in the Completed Tasks View. Monitoring your actions makes you accountable to your final goal and helps you stay on top. DropTask’s Daily Summary Email will notify you of which deadlines are coming up and what tasks are overdue, making tracking effortless on your part. If need be, reschedule or reset any dates against your target, and set Reminders to keep you chipping away at those tasks. Persevere and it won’t be too long before you’re celebrating project success.

What’s on your finish list? Do you have any of your own methods for putting projects to bed? Tell us all about them in the comments below.

4 Ways to find your focus with DropTask

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Do you find it hard to manage distractions? Are you often overwhelmed by all the tasks on your plate or the data that’s clamoring for your attention? We’ve all experienced those days when we can’t seem to settle down and focus on one thing. With information overload a major pandemic in today’s world of work, it can be a struggle to free your mind of clutter and concentrate on the stuff that matters.

According to productivity wisdom, focus is essential for solving problems, being innovative and getting things done. There’s a famous quote by Stephen Covey that really resonates with us here at DropTask: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Of course, this is easier said than done. And that’s why we’ve introduced some handy new features to help you regain and sharpen your focus when work is looking a bit blurry.

Try these 4 hacks to get some clarity and save your sanity.

1. Narrow your focus with filters

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

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

2. Zoom in for a closer look

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

3. Eliminate overload by collapsing your to-dos

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

4. Check out the landscape with auto-layout

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

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