How to Make Task Management Apps Way More Engaging

Recently, I write an article on Medium geared towards designers of task management “apps” ranging from those who support the use of memory, to paper, to task management apps, to calendars to auto-schedulers. In the article, I shared the following graphic that shows the progression that users make as they

progress from the use of one skill level to the next. As you may recall, the idea that different tools are needed for different task volumes is a key research finding here at 2Time Labs.

In this article, I use two different tools to analyze this progress, explaining that a transformation actually takes place (or is struggling to emerge.) It happens when the user is able to experience their task management as a game.

Unfortunately, their game-play is thwarted by several factors. One is that they are unaware of this journey and a second is that many task management software designers are also blind to the whole picture.

This means that people aren’t engaged. Their apps are dull, even though the contents are vital to their everyday lives.

Imagine storing your most precious worldly items in a dull, nondescript warehouse.

Check out the article here: What Task Management App Developers Can Do to Catch Up with Pokemon Go.

Technology that Stops Time Grabbers’ Bad Behavior Around Meetings

Time Grabbers are colleagues who have found novel ways to waste your time. In this column, I explore their ability to do so via meetings that either should never have been called, or are badly run. I suggest a few technologies that already exist plus a new one that I hope someone will invent soon.

Each of them can help your organization cut an important source of waste out of the picture in the new year, while giving you back a little piece of your peace of mind.

Click here to read the article on Medium.

More on Paper Use

An avid reader of this site sent me the following comment:

There is one thing that stands out to me, however, and that is that you seem to link using paper with using memory. I write everything down so that I don’t have to use my memory. Listing can be done electronically too and if one just sticks to listing, it leads to using memory regardless of the tool you use. You also say, “there is a limit to the number of time demands that can be handled using only paper.” I don’t understand. A 24 hour day is the same whether you use paper or a BlackBerry. Do you mean it is difficult for schedules that are constantly changing (dynamic)? Although, I’ve never had a problem there either. Simply scratch, rewrite, and keep going.

Thanks for your patience with my comments and questions. All-in-all, I really like your approach to time management

At first, I couldn’t see how I linked the use of paper with the use of memory as she is absolutely doing the right thing by Capturing (by writing) in order to avoid using memory.  When she elaborates by quoting me in saying that “there is a limit to the number of time demands that can be handled using only paper” I began to understand.

Paper is a limiting factor in the following fundamentals:  Storing, Scheduling and Listing simply because paper is difficult to back up in case of a disaster, and doesn’t allow for efficient searching when an item needs to be found.  Above a certain number, keeping time demands on paper only invites problems.

The truth is, paper also doesn’t scale well,  It might work well for simple, low volumes, but it fails when storage needs become complex, schedules become dynamic or heavy, or lists become too long.  Anyone who still tries to store passwords on paper, for example, probably has a challenge that also extends to one of security.  By the same token, anyone who needs to schedule activities in 2012 probably has the problem of lugging around multiple paper calendars.

I once had a personal, paper diary that I left on an airplane.  It had some important notes in it and I regretted the loss of this unique information.  My wife seems to have particularly bad luck with her computers.  Three of them have crashed four times in the past couple of years.

It’s been a hassle, but restoring the content from backups (we use has been an easy affair once the computer was back up and running.

I hope this helps — if anyone would like to add to the discussion, please do so in the comments below.

Tracking Procrastination

It might just be me, but I think I have cannot for the life of me figure out why someone would want to know how much time they are spending in each activity on their computer.

I recently came across a couple of software programs that claim to help its users to improve their productivity by tracking the amount of time they spend in each Windows program. The latest one I found, ProcrastiTracker, is a case in point.

The tagline on the page I discovered says that “Spying on yourself Was Never this Much Fun!”

Essentially the program produces a chart that shows how much time is spent on each program. With this simple tool, the user is supposed to (I guess) determine that they need a better balance between Excel and Word, or between Firefox and Outlook.

Unfortunately, when the phone rings, all bets are off, as the system only records that the user is “idle.”

This program strikes me as one of those “tools” that was invented and never actually used by its programmers. These kinds of tools are easy to devise with the languages and skills that are available today, but they do little to actually improve our productivity. In my manifesto I called for users to “Focus on the Fundamentals, and Toss Away the Tips.” I also should have said, “Toss away the nifty tools”… such as this one.

If am terribly wrong about this, would someone please shed some much-needed light?

As an aside, I have found an interesting new web-service that’s called that I think is quite interesting.

It’s offered to groups that need to coordinate project actions in a transparent way, and to keep a single point of reference for who is doing what. It seems quite easy to use and I am looking for the right project to give it a shot.

Outlook Enhancements — Wishing and Wanting

ist2_3187220_working_hard.jpgOne of the things that I wished Outlook would do intelligently is to link the contents of a time slots with the next logical time slot.

For example, I wish I could assign individual time demands to a particular kind of time slot, such as time that I spent at home. It would be able to understand that if an item were to be dismissed from the list of reminders, that it could be “forwarded” to the next appropriate time slot automatically. At the moment, the user has to reschedule every single time demand that has not been completed individually, instead of in bulk.

In other words, Outlook should understand that scheduled items that are not completed need special, intelligent handling and a greater choice of options. Continue reading “Outlook Enhancements — Wishing and Wanting”

List of 100 Steps to GTD Mastery

I thought that this list, The GTD® Mastery 100 – Checklist for Greatness, was an interesting one, as it uses the idea of a progression of skills from one level to another. The idea of having to work through 100 items is daunting, but it still makes for interesting reading.

I do think, however, that it would benefit from being organized around the 2Time fundamentals.

Add up your score monthly and track in your GTD journal. Work with a coach to get to 90 or above.
The Basics
1. I have read Getting Things Done from front to back.

2. I have a calendar, which is always on hand.

3. I use my calendar for appointments and day-specific items only.

4. I have a physical inbox, which I use daily.

5. I have an email program, set up the way I want it. Continue reading “List of 100 Steps to GTD Mastery”

An Analysis of a Single System

I just read a fascinating account of how how a blogger called Ricky Spears experimented with a new paper-based time management system that he ultimately rejected.

It reminded me of why I could never go back to using paper, and why I bought my first Palm PDA without ever looking back.

He goes into some detail about the habits the new system was forcing him to adopt, against his better judgement.

See Goodbye Planner Organizer, I Hardly Knew Ye.

Outlook Newsletter

This looks to me like a pretty in-depth newsletter on how best to use Outlook.

I don’t think it gets into the design of the software, but it seems to get into some useful distinctions about how best to manage tasks.

Once again, however, the system described happens to match the one that the author uses, rather than clearly describing a range of options for all users. It might be because the ideas behind the system are all contained within the book, rather than shared in a blog, and the site is one of those developed by the publisher in order to sell more books.

While the approach is very old-school, the thinking seems to get a bit deeper than usual.

The system is called “Total Workday Control” and the ideas I read were described in the author’s newsletter.

An Interesting Article on GTD

marathon-10k.jpgWired magazine just published a new edition that included a story on the founder of GTD® (Getting Things Done), David Allen.

Much was made of his spiritual background and beliefs, and some have proclaimed the story a “Slam Job“, with the intention being to make him and his work look bad.

I do think it went overboard in trying to make GTD sound like a path to spiritual enlightenment. The author just seems to have intentionally looked for a juicy angle, and then tried to bend everything about David and his work to fit the angle. It sounds a bit forced. Continue reading “An Interesting Article on GTD”