Task Tracking: How to keep your task list



How to accomplish your task tracking is (happily) one of the easiest questions to answer about your to-do list, especially if you've already decided on a calendar to use (if you haven't, you may want to check out that page before you make your final decision -- task tracking and schedule tracking are closely related).

There are a lot of available ways to keep track of your task list-- how do you select the one that's best for you? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

    Am I more likely to write tasks down or type them in?

    Are there other people who need to view my task list? Are there other people whose tasks I need to view? If so, in what format do they keep their lists?

    Do I want my task tracker to remind me of upcoming deadlines?

    Am I willing to spend money for high quality, or do I want as cheap as possible?

    Do I have any special systems, notations, or requirements that mean I need my task tracking to operate "just so"? Or can I adjust myself to the format I choose?

    Am I willing to learn how to use the features of software or electronics? Or do I want something as simple as possible?

Finally, remember that many calendars come with integrated task lists, so you should also consider how you want to keep track of your schedule when deciding how to keep your task list.

Paper Task Tracking
Like paper calendars, it sounds too simple. And old-fashioned. And boring. But it works. From an index card to an elaborate day planner, paper is the way to go for maximum flexibility.
ProsCons
Cheap (or at least it can be)Doesn't Sync
EasyYou have to remember to take it with you
FlexibleCan't set alerts
May come with built in calendarMay not come with built in calendar
May have to buy a new one each year


Smart Phone/PDA
If you've been considering getting an iphone, a treo, or a blackberry, it makes sense to use the task list function on that device. Usually it will coordinate with your calendar, and sync with some form of planning software on your computer
ProsCons
You may already carry it with youHigher upfront expense
Usually Syncs with ComputerIf you don't already carry it with you, you have to remember to
Recurring tasks may only need to be set onceSteeper learning curve
Fairly flexible/powerful
Can Set Alerts
Calendar probably included


Software on your computer
Your computer probably already has calendar software installed on it with an integrated task list, and there are many more programs available. Computer software is an especially good choice for someone who already has a laptop and carries it with them. Since you'll probably have personal to-dos as well as business to-dos, I don't recommend keeping your list on your office computer.
ProsCons
Syncs with electronics and other computersMay be high upfront cost
Easily handles multiple task lists for sortingSteeper learning curve
Coordinates with your calendar and contact listOnly accessible when you're at your computer
You can set alertsAlerts only work when you're at your computer
Recurring tasks need only be entered once


Online Task Managers
There are many, many applications for keeping track of your to-do list -- some better than others. Remember The Milk is the most popular, but if you look around, you can probably find one that meets your requirements.
Available on any computer, and many smart phonesOnly accessible when you have internet access
Will often sync with software task lists/calendarsSync technology not always reliable
Usually handles multiple task lists for sortingHigher possibility that your calendar can be hacked
You can set alertsAlerts may only be useful if you have internet access
Usually free
Can often give others access to your task lists


Download a worksheet to help you decide which one is best for you, or download the module to design an entire time-management solution.

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