SMPS-CHI Blog

5 Tips to Be Successful Using an Online Task Manager

Ever feel like you’re drowning in tasks? Stressed because you have so much to do and always feel like you’re missing something: an email that needs to be sent or a blog that needs to be drafted. That was me: a desk covered in “to-do” post-it notes and handwritten checklists to keep track of everything. Or do you use your email inbox? Come on, I know I’m not alone (I hope...Bueller?).

When I was first introduced to an online task management system, I was skeptical. Convinced my swimming in post-it notes method was a solid strategy, I didn’t use the task manager for the first month we signed up (hey! it was a trial.) One day, though, when I was rewriting my to-do list in order of priority, I thought, “this is such a waste of time.”

Which brings me to my first tip:

Keep your task manager open on your desktop

It’s easier to manage tasks when they’re right in front of you. I stuck with handwritten checklists for so long because they were at my fingertips. Now, the first thing I do every morning (even before opening my email)? Go online and check my tasks. The tab stays open all day: I mark items complete as I finish them, and drop new ones in throughout the day. What constitutes a new task, you ask?

Everything is a Task

The short answer? Everything. This tip might not be right for everyone, but it has been a tremendous help. Need to follow up with a marketing partner or journalist? That’s a task. Need to complete an award submission? That’s a task. Random things you’re asked to do throughout the day? You guessed it! That’s a task. Whatever you accomplish shows up in a daily or weekly overview, and provides a good sense of how much you’re completing (or when you’re procrastinating.)

Set Real Priorities

A marketer, especially in the A/E/C industry, deals with countless (and often extremely tight) deadlines. When I first started managing tasks digitally, I was marking everything as high priority. This didn’t turn out to be very efficient. I’ve learned to mark tasks which take the largest time investment as high priority items (and receive reminders first thing in the morning.) For example, a client case study or building a new web page. Items which take less time or that can be pushed back a day or two are marked as low priority. i.e. resizing an image for the website. Most tools have ways to prioritize tasks, for example: easy, medium, and hard. It just depends on the tool you choose, which is why it’s important to…

Choose One That Works For You

Although these systems and apps technically do the same thing, each have different features. Some even let you manage multiple lists at a time. Many options exist, so if you spend more time setting it up, then actually using it, consider other options. Don’t let finding the right task manager become another task! Here’s a short list I’ve tried: Tribe, Todoist, and Producteev – all free options. I prefer Todoist because it’s a happy medium: Tribe didn’t do enough of what I needed it to do to be successful, and Producteev had too many features.

Work as a Group

Speaking of cool features, task managers are great for group projects or large teams. You can see what other members of your group are working on, pass a task to a colleague, or see how many tasks your coworkers have completed. In a large team, this would be an easy way to communicate without even picking up a phone or sending an email.

In the end, it all comes down to your preferences and objectives. What do you need to do to be more efficient, organized, or work better as a team? Are you already using an online task manager? We want to hear about your experience!

Catie Duffy is in the marketing department at Cushing, a display graphics company offering solutions such as custom office wall decals. She volunteers on the SMPS special events committee.

 

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