Sunday, April 25, 2010

Electronic Task Management

I have a lot of things to do, and sometimes I have trouble remembering it all. At home, I use my computer to do remember and remind me of many tasks. At work, I use a combination of paper and the computer. Since documents from my PC or the network are not always available, it is still useful to retain a copy of certain tasks on paper. Nonetheless, I still use a few computer tools, at home and work, to help remember all of these tasks and make task management easier.

My wife and I planned our wedding using a number of Google's online office applications, including Docs, Calendar, and Notebook. We also used RememberTheMilk (RTM), an online task management application. Managing our tasks online provided the opportunity to travel and retain access to our tasks, as well as keep an eye on tasks while at work. Gmail and Microsoft Outlook also provide some useful tools for managing tasks.

For our wedding, my wife and I kept a few documents for the wedding in Google Docs, including the guest list and a service provider comparison spreadsheet. In Google Notebook, we had song lists, service providers and costs, a long to do list, and all sorts of ideas in a shared notebook. (Unfortunately, Notebook is not longer supported, so I transferred our notes to Google Docs and have been using that application since.) For specific projects at work (for example, HEDIS), I keep a task list in an electronic document, and I usually archive the tasks as I go forward, keeping newer items at the top.

My wife and I also used RememberTheMilk for managing tasks. I used this quite a bit and shared to-do items with my wife. We went back and forth between our to-do list in Notebook, which was a long-term list, and RTM, which was a short-term list. I still use RememberTheMilk for short- and moderate-term tasks, and Google Docs for long-term tasks. RTM, Google Calendar, and Outlook's task feature are useful for scheduling a task with a reminder and a specific due date. Calendar was also useful for sharing events with my wife as well as managing our to-do list and making appointments.

I associate many tasks with emails. Using Gmail at home and Microsoft Outlook at work, I flag specific emails with varying levels of priority. Gmail has a "lab" feature that enables various flags or "stars" that users can associate with anything. I have flags for immediate tasks, "important" tasks (due soon), "assigned" tasks (due later), items to read or review, and items to monitor. Gmail also has a Task list feature. I have not used this feature extensively, since I have been using RememberTheMilk for some time, and it appears that RTM has more features (e.g., scheduling tasks, associating a task with a URL).

I hope these tips and strategies are useful to someone out there. If you have any novel and efficient ways of managing tasks, feel free to share them in a comment!

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