Efficient planning, organization and task management are a key to kick-ass startup execution. However, there are many different methods and apps and there’s no one-size-fits-all. Some task management methods may fit you perfectly, while others will never work no matter how hard you try. That’s why it’s important to do your own research and evaluate what works for you best. Here are some of the popular choices:
Simple To-Do List
The to-do list or organizing tasks in simple lists is by far the most popular task management method. Pen and paper is the simplest form of managing your to-do list, however, there are countless apps you can use without having to carry a pen and paper with you. Probably the best one so far is Wunderlist. The runners up are todoist, any.do and probably Remember The Milk.
One key rule to follow when adding tasks to your to do list is: “If it takes less than 2 minutes to do it, do it now.”
The Plain Text File
Using text editors for task management is one of the classic ways to manage your tasks. Tracking tasks using a plain text file file means you can view and edit them on any operating system on any computer, and you’re never tied to one application.
There are many different methods of using a text editor to manage tasks – the most popular are Todo.txt and Today.txt. Today.txt is the simpler one; it’s a three-line paragraph stressing one
task. Todo.txt, on the other hand, provides more versatility, such as ranking tasks based on their priority or tagging them with a corresponding project.
Getting Things Done (GTD)
Getting Things Done is a powerful method of using a combination of listing, delegating and archiving tasks, popularized by a book with the same title. It’s a little too complex to describe in this blog post but to sum it up: you deal with each task the moment it arrives. You classify it and either do it right away, schedule it, delegate it to someone else, or simply put it in the “sometimes” category. The idea behind the method is to clean up your mental RAM and boost your focus on what’s important.
There are many apps built around GTD, such as OmniFocus, but you can implement this method with something like Evernote. A lot of the GTD apps are desktop-based for a good reason, but developers like OmniFocus were quite successful in building a usable mobile interface too.
Kanban is Japanese for “visual signal” or “card”, and it was originally used by Toyota line-workers to signal steps in their manufacturing process. Kanban takes advantage of the fact that our brains process visual information 60,000 times faster than text by using sticky notes on a whiteboard to create a “picture” of your work.
The process is very simple. Take a whiteboard and divide it in three columns: to do, doing, and done. Write tasks on color-coded Post-It notes and stick them in their respective column as they progress in their lifecycle. You can color-code tasks by project, client, or any other differentiator, and add as much or little detail to each task as you want. If you prefer digital form, there are some great Kanban apps such as Leankit and Trello.
Although often overlooked, spreadsheets can be a powerful task management method, especially if you use some of the cloud-based versions such as Google Sheets. The biggest advantage of spreadsheets is their flexibility: you can create multiple tabs, color tags, add comments, collaborate, and even design and create your own task management systems.
Google Sheets are probably the best option, offering built-in chat and other collaboration features.
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