Task managers and task management can be discussed for a very long time. One of the reasons for this is they are so integral to good productivity or getting things done. To be clear, most people these days have very busy lives even if they’re retired. Technology itself, once considered the holy grail of all that ills mankind is now showing itself for what it can be but doesn’t have to be; a great robber of time while adding a new, unique level of complexity to our lives.
This is not to say that we could turn back and abandon technology. It is now so embedded in societal function that the mere thought of even the Internet going down sends shivers through most. We have become very dependent on technology and for some you can liken it to an addiction with all the negative consequences that can stem from an addiction. Thus, technology has to be used properly and if it is adding complexity to our lives, there are fortunately technological methods to combat this.
Task management is merely one such method. Our brains were never designed to handle this mass of information that comes at us all the time from far too many corners. The result of this is confusion, memory impairment, forgetting, and the overall inability, in some cases, to complete a task (if you forget the task altogether or loose sight of it’s priority or many other such angles there is no question that the completion of the task will be zero to difficult at best). Task Managers though, only if used right, de-load us of much that is instilled upon us.
Task Management as Essential
For the purposes of this article and for future discussions, we will jump right to the assumption to be productive, in control or just to get on with it, we need some form of task management to assist. As David Allen says, we need that tool or system that we can trust to be our external brains and draw on that to assist in the management of getting things done.
The phrase “to get things done” has almost become an unfortunate cliche or at least it feels like a well, overused expression. However, like in math, some terms are to be considered a truism allowing us to move to different levels of understanding. So it is with just the nature of the world.
A Task Manager, in no way should be considered a panacea to enriched, healthy or successful function but unfortunately it is necessary as an aid to help manage the plethora of “stuff” we have to deal with. For some though that have a medical illness, cognitive dysfunction or something as severe as Alzheimer’s should in no way be expected to view this as their salvation to happiness. It could be helpful or just as damaging but as a general understanding Task Managers can help deal with what’s on our plates.
Cross Platform: a Liberating Reality
I.T. (information technology) is a relatively new thing. The first wave of the Information Technology Revolution began primarily just after the second world war. In a relatively short span of time we have seen the introduction of many methodologies for the management of information and tasks. I.T. has had the perennial carrot on a stick scenario in that there has always been a desire for liberated information to transcend physical boundaries.
What initially was a very complex scenario during the first wave of the I.T. revolution, started becoming a perceivable reality during the second wave, in which we are now whole-heartedly embedded.
The second wave of the I.T revolution began with the personalization of computer technologies and the serious limitations to solutions should systems continue to work as islands unto themselves. That is, as with any work, it often involved teams of people to solve the problem. That meant that people had to either work on one system that had the ability to share information or required the ability to work across platforms. The second of these scenarios is not only desirable but beneficial to outcomes as some people being individuals have preferences for the platforms they work on. They might have to work in the confines of the software solution relative to the team on a project but are free to work on the platform of their choice to tackle many things. This is far more desirable and liberating than any enforced “you must work on “xyz” system whether you like it or not.
Considering Four Task Management Systems that Cross boundaries to Some Level or Another
Ideally, cross platform is more than working within a companies ecosystem and crossing the differences between critical platforms. To be fair, if we look at Apple, transparent work between IOS and OSX systems is far better than not having this capability or a rudimentary capability. Apple has come a long way on this front and this is good news for the Apple die hard.
However, for our purposes cross platform can be this but it is also much more. It is the ability to go outside of Apple’s ecosystem and easily exchange the same information between systems. The two most important systems in this category are Android and Apple.
Yet, we can even take this a step further. BlackBerry 10 systems run Android applications and basically at native speeds. Now systems that are Apple to Android cross platform can also be considered BlackBerry 10 to Android to the Apple ecosystem as cross platform.
The one caveat that I shall make simply for the brevity of this article is that of the Windows ecosystem. However, with solutions such as Crossover, VMWare and Parallels Macs can run Windows apps,. The cross platform capability is not as clean as it is with Android as apps are actually coded to work with each other in their respective environments but the fact remains that we now see scenarios in which we are getting closer than ever to full cross platform.
There will always be some challenges to this yet the upside is so substantial that the likelihood this will not progress is slim to nil at best.
Users want cross platform. Companies want cross platform and for many a software developer they do too as it greatly expands their market with the added effect of pleasing many. Certainly there is a cost to doing this and I have heard some developers say there is no money to be made in Android but this doesn’t ring with reason. Why would there be as many Android apps as there are IOS apps if there is no money to be made. If companies and users want this and it retains their base due to its competitive nature how could it not be promising. I am not suggesting that a developer undertake such an endeavor if it is feasibly cost ineffective or not possible but this is highly unlikely. Such an argument serves Apple but it doesn’t serve the end user nor others in this wh0le paradigm.
As with many things, the reasons people want cross platform are multifaceted. As an example, Android phones are considered less expensive while being very customizable. For some if not many, this is important. The investment in learning and the outlay for the platform might already have been made and if it has the only reason an Android user might not fit into a primarily Apple group is the lack of cross platform. This only benefits Apple and not the user nor the company that would like to complete project as simply and cost effectively as possible.
The Task Management Systems to be Considered
In the balance of this article I’m going to consider some exceptional Task Management systems that are fully cross Platform, either within the Apple ecosystem (only one) or across Android and Apple (three).
There are many systems that can be chosen from but I find these to be some of the best that operate along the “Getting Things Done” model but in no case do you have to follow this verbatim. They are flexible tools that have a good track record and often the choice as to which one is a personal decision based on style and the way you like to work.
This is probably one of the most successful cross platform apps with over 6 million users. It runs on almost everything and looks identical one platform to the next. This is important from a learning and flow perspective. It is an easy to use, highly flexible system. If there is one thing I think is missing is a start date followed by the due date. Otherwise, this is a very complete system with:
- indented subtasks
- unlimited notations
It is easy to figure out and with a bit of playing you discover the more advanced features available. The programs, if they maintain kept views based on simple searches, is especially handy. Checkout your tasks by:
- words and phrases
These views makes it very easy to grasp what you need to do without getting overwhelmed by looking at hundreds of tasks. There is a quick swipe method for deferring your due dates and completing the tasks making for a very friendly system.
Alain Latour wrote a very interesting article on why he chose Todoist after Things as his system of choice. In this article “Things vs. Todoist, Or Why I Abandoned an Old Favorite GTD App of Mine” Alain discusses the reasons why he decided that Todoist would be his new application of choice and it very much had to do with ease of use and frequent updates to the program. It is well worth giving Alain’s article a detailed read if you want to know more about the ins and outs of Todoist and his decision.
Fredericco Vitucci is another who spent time with Todoist and was a quick fan. In his article ‘Why I Left iCloud Reminders for Todoist” he discusses again the advantages the package brought him, again another article well worth reading. However, Vitucci moves on to 2do one on my favourite cross platform systems and this is next in our list of high quality, cross platform apps to look at.
2do has been around since 2009 and then it was considered advanced in its approach. Today however, the system is as robust as they come and is laden with features. At first glance, this system can appear somewhat complex with all its options but it quickly grows on you as something that can work for your specific style. It can be GTD or whatever you want it to be.
This system, like Todoist, is fully cross platform with just as robust an Android app that looks and operates the same as the IOS apps making it highly fluid with a great deal of flow. The app can provide Lists, Projects, Tasks and Subtasks along with Checklists providing one of the most rounded out applications on the market. If you want this app to curtail itself to GTD principles, it is more than capable. However, it can work the way you like working being very effective at helping you remember what has to be.
The app also has an easy to use yet powerful smart lists feature which is simply a search that is then saved as a smart list. You might create a Smartlist that shows you the next three days of work while another might just show you what needs to be done right now. The flexibility and capability of this program exceeds the scope of this article. At this point I’d like to refer you to Fredericco Vittuci’s article on why he switched to 2do and what keeps him with it.
In his article “Why 2Do Is My New Favorite iOS Task Manager” Fredericco Vitucci explains how 2do met his needs. Although it has nothing to with the cross platform nature of the product he demonstrates how powerful 2do is as a task manager; the versatility of the product a long with its scope.
2do as a Rich Cross Platform Solution
The trend to cross platform is happening at an ever faster rate. Cloud services is making this possible and the demand by companies and more and more individuals is proving to be substantive. Further though, the technologies are up to par to make this reality a reality. The train has well left the station and there is no turning it back. There is no reason to turn it back and every reason to continue to see this move forward.
2do is probably one of the best full featured task management systems. It is powerful, easy to use, flexible and substantive to the degree you sometimes wonder did they include the kitchen sink in this package. At one time, this app did not have much of a name but I would say that has clearly changed or most certainly is changing.
The Hit List
This program has had its ups and downs. It is only cross platform within the Apple ecosystem but I include it here as it is one of the better, less talked about programs these days than is warranted. Much like the two presented before this, the program is a charm to work with. Looking at Omnifocus and the Hit List I’ll take the Hit List any day.
The Hit List Provides a great interface on the Mac, iPhone and iPad. It is a GTD program but at no time do you feel you have to write a task for everything you do or would like to do. Since it has a rich yet easy to use interface, you could go crazy creating tasks but in no way does the program make you feel this is necessary. On all platforms it is a logical, well thought out system providing consistency of function which enhances flow. This is one of my favorite programs. In fact, all of the programs I’m writing about are really on my favorite list.
Along with all the basics you’d expect in a well written GTD application, the Hit List provides Smart Lists which are really that as they are so easy to put together. Use Smart Lists in all these programs to quickly get a variety of views on the stuff you have to do and although you’ll probably find yourself migrating to your favorite smart lists all the time, there are those times when a smart list you rarely use will still save a lot of time as you orient to what is essential at any point.
The desktop program goes one step further in that it has tabs which hold different views of your data and all you need do is click just such a tab to be immediately whisked to a view you need. In fact, jumping back and forth for comparative views of your tasks adds to your perspective of what needs to be done.
I won’t say anymore about this program other than to conclude if you don’t need to cross boundaries to Android as an example, you’ll be well served with the Hit List.
I decided to throw Chaos Control into this list of programs to be considered for your task management as it’s part of a new breed of software that is popping up that is fully cross platform, is very cost effective (this stuff is starting to get rather expensive) and allows you to create your Goals, Projects, Contexts and Tasks ever so easily. What’s interesting about this program is there are aspects to it that are very simple and easily understood while there are other aspects of the IOS apps which look awful while at the same time the Android version is a gem to look at.
Mind you, this program was only released at the beginning of this year and I would expect no less than a lot of room for improvement. As an example, you could be looking at a view and shuffle the way you’re looking at your tasks in one way and easily switch to another view by dragging and dropping a task to a different position. Yet, as I say that, does the program automate much around view creation and those reference views that, in the other programs will become so essential as you evolve your thoughts while Chaos Control can drive you a bit crazy.
Yet, your data spans OSX, IOS, Android and Windows and for that matter Blackberry due to couple of neat tricks BlackBerry 10 does in and of itself. This is not a glamorous looking program but rather is fairly plain Jane but one that can make you feel in control.
Once again, Chaos Control is a GTD app with all the fundamentals to support that. However, you sometimes wonder where’s this kind of list or why can’t I just get this view automatically. Is there anything to say this can’t come with time. No! So how does it compete against the big boys. Partly because you can see how the program can be improved and partly because of their guiding light design philosophy.
As I said, Chaos Control is a GTD program with a slight spin they put on it. When you look at the “Chaos Box” this is the inbox so why this name. Chaos Control starts with the principle we have goals that we would like to reach and accomplish. The only way to do that though is by doing so we have tasks that will take us through the steps of getting there and like any good GTDr we create a project around more than one task. Some of our projects may be more direct in getting us to our goals and some not so. However, we often have to get stuff done even “if” it doesn’t appear to be taking us “directly to our goals”.
Design Principle as Differentiator”
I feel that it is this design principle, not necessarily spelled out with other programs, that is Chaos Control’s major differentiator. There is nothing in the books that says anyone of our other products can’t get us to our goals. However, if this isn’t spelled out well it will affect the way a program is implemented.
As an example, it is not unusual to see in GTD this concept of a brain dump. Here we dump all the contents of our brains; all the stuff we need to do to get to where want to go (e.g. Stay alive as an example). Yet, if we add in our desires for what we want to accomplish (goals) we only add to our focus of what needs to get done or not.
I’ve seen situations wherein someone using Omnifocus, as an example, goes so far as to create tasks for everything they do. There’s a point where this gets a touch insane not reducing chaos in our lives but enhancing that chaos. In this situation, we quickly need to bring focus before we go batty. If that something is one of our goals for our lives, this becomes a powerful delineator of what we need to do.
I think the chaos box is simply more than an inbox because although an inbox is supposed to weed out the important from the unimportant, the chaos box spells this out right up front. As we reduce chaos we’ll have more time for that which we might want more time for; family, pleasure activities, self-improvement and delivering a project on time at work just to name a few.
Can’t Go Wrong Todoist or 2Do
Assisting your efforts with a Task Manager is a wise thing. You really can’t go wrong using a product that suits you. There really isn’t a best task manager as long as what you’re using works for you.
The two though that I prefer of this set is Todoist or 2Do as I am fully cross platform. Let’s assume for arguments sake though that I only existed within the Apple ecosystem. If this were the case The Hit List might be and probably would be my system of choice. It could be but I need my system to be able to go with me to remind of what needs doing.
Finally, one last option I would have but not by any measure to do with the Omnigroup is Omnifocus. This is solely because a third party fellow made available a tool called FocusGTD which would allow me to carry my reminders with me.
As you can see, Cross Platform is becoming a highly viable option and one that holds benefits today as well as tomorrow. The key to these programs is just using them but not getting carried away with them.