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What features you need to avoid in task trackers to be productive

As I’ve promised, I’m beginning series of post to explain how to use tasks trackers in general and in particular Taskmony to increase your productivity and simplify your day to day life. Most people doing it wrong and instead of simplification they get additional complexity. This complexity is the reason why most people stay away from any formal tasks tracking. My goal is to change that and prove that you live would be much easier if you start proper tasks tracking and after you get used to it you would not want to live without it anymore.

To begin, I’m going to criticise few features you can find in any task tracker (except Taskmony), so if you would use any other task tracking — avoid using this “features,” or they will decrease your productivity.

I will start with priorities. Many task trackers give you the ability to set priority or sometimes it is replaced by color codes — so you can assign colors to tasks, and that could mean priority (like you probably would use red color for critical items).

You do not need it, because first of all, it does not stay constant — finish presentation slides was low priority task a month ago, when you created it, but it is the highest priority now because the presentation is tomorrow! Because of that priorities in your task trackers will be constantly outdated (most probably) or you will spend too much time on updating them. From another point of view, our mind is very good at determining priorities. Usually, it takes a moment and little effort to tell what is a priority of the task. You do not need to save it in the task description. What you want instead is a short task list, so you can read the whole list in a dozen of seconds and choose what to do next based on current conditions.

If your task list is too long to read as a whole and you need priorities, that means that you are doing it wrong in the first place. Most probably you put ideas and low priority tasks in your task tracker. Ideas must be tracked separately from tasks. Taskmony has different storage for ideas because they have a different life cycle (more about that in upcoming posts). If you don’t want to use Taskmony old good paper and pencil is an excellent tool to track ideas. Dropbox Paper, Evernote or Google Docs also work well as ideas tracking tools.

You don’t want to put low priority tasks which you never do in your task tracker either — it is wasting time by definition — why would you need to write something you will never use, and make harder to find relevant stuff between low priority garbage? You should only write tasks you do going to do soon. If you did not finish a task in a week, you most probably added it wrong and it is a candidate to be removed. Most likely you would have something between 5–20 todo records in your task list and you do not need priority field for that size. Bigger size slows you down and does not make sense.

The second anti-feature is time limit or deadline. Most of the tasks we have does not have essential deadlines. Usually, you want to do something soon: today, tomorrow or in 2–3 days. So you put it on the list to remember, to get focused and to be motivated. If you are trying to stimulate yourself by assigning artificial deadlines for tasks, it works poorly. Your mind knows that it is fake and it increases your motivation only by a little if any. Plus there are better more effective tricks to increase motivation and push yourself to finish boring, but necessary tasks on time.

For those tasks which have a natural deadline, like finishing presentation slides before presentation date it makes sense to set this field, but it not give you much. Usually, you are very well aware of this dates and do not need any help from software. You need to be reminded of the task itself, not of the date. In the very rare cases when you do need to be reminded of the date — better to put it into a task description. This will highlight the very exceptional importance of time limit for that task.

Third and the last anti-feature I want to highlight today is notifications. You need to be very careful with notifications in general. I prefer to mute e-mail and messengers and almost all apps which can produce vibration or notification support. It’s because you need to be focused to be productive. Any notifications introduce unnecessary interruptions and break your flow state. Instead of being interrupted it is better to manually check all inboxes (e-mail, messengers, etc.) when you finish one task and ready to switch to the next (poll instead of push).

It is very common especially for high management to think that it is vital to be continuously available. But usually, the reality is that nothing will happen if you read e-mail or message one hour later. Unnecessary notifications only kill your productivity but do not give you much, just constant nervousness. You need an only single emergency way to get notified which people should use only in situations which required your immediate attention.

Let’s return to tasks trackers. If you use task tracking in your live, you will open your task list many times per day, and you will scan through your relatively small task list many times per day. You do not need any notifications because you will be quite aware of your daily agenda.

Of course, I’m talking about tasks which are very flexible regarding the time you can work on them (most of the tasks are). For those tasks which are not flexible in time, like scheduled meetings, you need a calendar, not a tasks tracker. And notifications are an essential and useful feature of calendars.

That’s all for today. Use tools smartly and be productive!

About the author

Danijel Nesek

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