Looking for a new project and task management system

I have to change my system. My trusted system that has served me so well for many years. What system you may ask?

My GTD workflow and task management system.

When I first heard of Getting Things Done and read David Allen’s book, I – and many others with me – set out on a quest to find the “perfect” system. I read up on how others were doing it, I tried analog card lists (hello Hipster PDA), plain text files, and a myriad of all the digital apps and solutions that were popping all over the web.

But tinkering with your system often comes in the way of, you know, actually getting things done. That’s why they call it productivity pr0n.

A hybrid digital/analog setup

I managed to settle down with something that worked well for me. It’s a hybrid digital/analog thing, drawing inspiration from Deb in the Analog GTD email list. I have been an OmniFocus user from back in the day when it was only applescripts with a specially set up OmniOutliner document. I still use OmniFocus but I print a weekly list to analog from which I work.

As I wrote about before, I have a set of reviews that I do throughout the year that keeps everything running smoothly. The weekly review being the most important habit of them all. My reviews are recurring projects that remind me of doing them – including a checklist with the tasks – which helps when they are three months or six months apart.

This has served med well now for several years without me changing it. Maybe a couple of small tweaks here and there, but mainly the same workflow.

A system that grows with you

I am very thankful that I set this system up. I did it at a time in my life where there actually weren’t very many balls for me to juggle. It was possible to keep everything in my head so if something I tried didn’t work out, it never had really big consequences on my work.

As things have been added to my plate, thanks to GTD, I have been able to cope with all the new projects and responsibilities. Frankly, I don’t think I would have been able to say yes to some of the things I have done without a system to keep track of it all in.

But now I have come to a place where my system needs to change.

Outgrowing the system

OmniFocus has no collaboration features. If I want to share project planning with others, or task lists, or anyting else, I need to find another tool.

I can tell you, shopping around for the right task management tool today is no fun. It’s actually very hard, especially if you are trying to keep up with actually doing your work at the same time.

A lot has changed in a decade. Ten years ago – approximately when I did my first GTD forays – the mobile thing was not a thing. The iPad did not exist, the iPhone was going to be released a year later.

The demands on a todo app today are huge, mobile apps are basically a requirement along with automatic syncing of tasks between platforms. In a collaborative setting, web applications and SaaS have become a norm.

And as the feature lists are massive, it’s hard to sift through them and find what you are looking for. In order to find out if they work for you, you have to try them. Fortunately, most of them offer a free trial for this very reason. Unfortunately, trying them out takes time.

Looking for a new solution

I am currently on a quest for finding a solution that will work with my ingrained GTD habits but still let me collaborate with others. I like the Agile/Kanban approach for project planning, but it doesn’t do very well with a GTD-style of making everything that requires more than one step into a separate project.

At the moment I am going through trial versions of all the major and the not-so-major contenders in the project management/task management space. These are my requirements:

  • Offline support I cannot work online all the time. Somehow, somewhere my tasks need to be accessible wihout the internet. A standalone Mac app would be ideal
  • Tags/labels/contexts No GTD without contexts. And I want to be able to sort by the contexts too.
  • Client invitations Some SaaS solutions charge per users. I need to be able to invite clients to work with me without making them a full user and be charged accordingly.
  • Cross project overview I will have very many small projects. I need to see all tasks in all projects at a glance.
  • Zapier integration This seems to be the glue to make anyting possible on the web. With a zapier integration, I see lots of future benefits and possible business solutions beyond “just” a task management system.
  • Recurring tasks and projects My routine reminders and tickler file. Necessary in any system that keeps track of your life

My nice to haves:

  • Support for ideas capture and someday/maybe planning.
  • Grouping projects by areas of focus or higher level goals
  • Start dates for tasks and projects
  • Subtasks for granularity
  • Ability to star or flag or otherwise mark tasks for this week
  • Project and/or tasks templates
  • Issue and bug ticket integration. Could be solved with the help of zapier.

If you have found something that works for you, I would love to hear about it. Otherwise, wish me luck on my forays into trial land of all the SaaS services out there. When I land on a solution I am satisfied with, I will surely write about it here.

What system do you use to collaborate with others and to keep track of everything that needs to be done?

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  1. Pingback: Abandoning the quest for the ultimate task manager • Ultrathriving

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