What would you say defines the best time management software?
Much of what I’ve seen has proven to be cumbersome, complicated or simply ineffective. Who actually ever does everything on their never ending to-do list?
The trouble is, most software seems to be designed around ideas that appear to make sense, but don't actually work in real life. Other than organizing calendar based events (appointments, meetings etc.) the basic premise seems to be:
Now, I’m a big fan of writing stuff down. In my experience, getting it out of your head and on to paper hugely increases the chances of it getting done. But I have got an issue with prioritizing tasks, at least in the conventional sense.
When you prioritize your tasks according to importance, the so-called unimportant tasks don’t get any attention until they make enough noise to get noticed. In other words, unless you deal with things when they show up, sooner or later they’ll blow up.
If something is on your list it means it matters enough for you to put it there.
On first reading, Mark Forster's best selling book Do It Tomorrow immediately appealed to me and, once I'd got my head around the ideas, made a great deal of sense.
Based upon the premise that closed ‘will-do’ lists are far easier to manage than never ending to-do lists, the aim is to do any given task the day after it appears in your life.
The result is greater freedom of choice, less emphasis on forcing yourself to do things and, ultimately, higher quality personal time management. You do more of what matters.
In reality, incoming tasks appear randomly, which is also how most people react to them. This leaves them in a constant state of uncertainty, never knowing what to react to next.
By imposing a degree of order on the tasks that appear in your life, you will be able to respond to incoming tasks rather than reacting to them.
You also know exactly what you’ll be doing on any one day and, crucially, for how long you will do it, based on the time you have available.
Using a paper ‘task diary’, I began using the system, immediately enjoying positive results. I learned what to do with pretty much anything that came my way, starting and finishing each day with a far greater sense of control, coupled with the satisfaction that I was actually getting things done that mattered.
It didn’t take me long to realize that many of the tasks that take up a chunk of each working day are repeated on a daily or weekly basis. Physically re-writing them down is, quite frankly, a pain.
Even so, I persevered with paper to manage my time and tasks according to the principles of Do It Tomorrow. After all, no other way of organizing tasks has been so effective.
Upon learning that Do It Tomorrow had been released as the best time management software developed for the system, I was naturally interested. Could this marry the system with software that was actually worth using?
Having used it to organize my own time and tasks I’d say that, providing you have consistent daily access to your computer, it’s definitely worth considering.
Downloading it is quick and painless - always a good thing. (The application is currently available for Windows users only.) I suggest you allow 30 minutes to get to grips with how to use the software to organize your tasks.
Once you’re up and running, you’ll find that using it daily highlights benefits you probably overlooked at first. In other words, the more you use it, the better it becomes.
Using it is straightforward. Whenever you commit to a task, type in your description of it on the date you deem best. Usually this will be the following day (hence ‘Do It Tomorrow’), although you can specify any other date if you prefer.
The option to ‘close’ the list for any given day leaves you with a finite ‘will do’ list to work through. Those tasks that, for whatever reason, don’t get done can be filtered into a backlog that, once defined, only gets smaller. Such a simple idea, and so effective.
One of the benefits I particularly appreciated was the task duration feature. Estimating the time for each task based on the time you have available encourages realistic planning. There’s also a handy task timer on the sidebar to help you stick to your limits.
Another noticeable plus is the time saved by setting certain tasks to repeat (processing email, clearing your backlog etc.), saving you from the monotony of re-entering repetitive tasks each time.
No matter how good the system, or how disciplined the individual, sooner or later you’ll miss a day or more's tasks. Life’s curveballs guarantee it.
So how do you deal with them?
Do It Tomorrow features a useful 'Backlog' panel, allowing you to list and isolate undone tasks. Once this has been created, you can gradually reduce the backlog list by doing a bit each day until it disappears altogether.
The best way to do this is to make 'process backlog' a daily repetitive task, or 'Current Initiative'.
The best time management software is simple enough to understand quickly, flexible enough to cope with data adjustments and intuitive enough to use easily.
In my experience, Do It Tomorrow comfortably meets all these criteria.
It is unique in that it offers the best of both worlds - the power the best time management software delivers, combined with the effectiveness of one of the most original proven time management systems around.
One final but important point, which you'll also find in the book:- although the system and software are both excellent, they won't actually do the tasks for you. :)
If you've been struggling to cope with everything that has made its way on to your to-do list, I'd encourage you to try it for yourself. You may well find it's the best time management software for you, too.