I had a few things I was looking for:
- The ability to “clone” a set of tasks. We use this because we have a number of procedures that are repeated again and again, whether it’s for beginning promotion of a new website or hiring a new staff member. We wanted to be able to quickly and easily create a set of tasks again and again, when the need arose.
- Multiple team members, control of which team members have access to which projects, etc.
- A “Notes” or “Blog” type area. This way I could keep all our procedures and how-to docs within the task manager itself, instead of in a separate system.
- Recurring tasks (for example, “Moderate michellemacphearson.com blog comments” should be able to be put on repeat and occur every day).
- An “Activity Stream” type of view where I can see everything (completions, deletions, task creations, comments, literally everything) the team has been up to in one place, across all projects, tasks, etc.
- Comments within a task. We use this when someone has a question, needs clarification, etc.
- The ability to create, assign and respond to tasks via email.
- An area where I can store my personal to-do’s without mixing them with the business stuff. It’s senseless for me to use an additional system just for my personal stuff – I want it all in once place.
- An iPhone app would be nice, but not a must-have.
- Must have a free trial to try it out – it’s the only way to know it’ll really work in my organization.
- It should be gorgeous. I’m going to spend a ton of time in it and I want it to look pretty!
I scoured a few Facebook Groups, forums and ran a few Google searches to get a list of web based task management apps that I wanted to look into further. If your favorite isn’t on the list, it’s because I didn’t know about it, I thought it was ugly or it didn’t have a free trial to take it for a test drive.
Teambox is fun to use and has an attractive interface. It’s “Activity” tab shows me everything that has happened in my account at once glance, very important for managing my team. It also has “Pages” which allow me to keep notes and allows comments within to-do items. There are Task Templates so a set process can be entered again and again without manual intervention.
There’s no such thing as recurring tasks within Teambox. So it’s dead to me. So sad, it was pretty.
Do.com is pretty too, but it uses slide in-and-out panels and I find the more traditional layout in Teambox to be faster and more intuitive.
It accomplishes everythign I need, except for… again… recurring tasks.
How the hell am I supposed to remember to take a shower every Tuesday if I don’t have recurring reminders?
ActionMethod has a lot of good stuff going for it, but it’s my least favorite so far.
Firstly, “Discussions” is seperate from individual tasks or even the project (in it’s own tab) so conversation about a project, about a to-do item occurs in a different area than the actual task itself. That’s how Basecamp used to function as well, and it’s always caused a lot of confusion for my team members. And unnecessary clicking / finding of conversations. Not a fan.
“Backburners” are a nice way to store great ideas you’re not ready to act on yet. I like the concept. And “References” is that storage area I want where I can keep notes, links, training materials, etc. for future use.
And… drumroll… no recurring tasks. Buh-bye Action Method!
Asana is gorgeous. It’s a pleasure to use. I know I shouldn’t be biased, but I really wanted Asana to work.
When I first looked at Asana, about 3 months ago, they did not have a way to view the activity on your account. So I would have to click each project, each task, to see if my team had worked on it or open every email Asana had sent me. Not very efficient, which is why Asana didn’t work out for me at the time.
Funny thing, just about a week ago Asana announced “Inbox,” which is their name for the “Activity Stream” view I was looking for.
I’ve been taking another look at Asana because of this improved feature set.
It has recurring tasks, comments within tasks and projects can be duplicated for those procedures you do again and again. It does not have a “Notes” area to store how-to’s and other procedural information. That’s ok, but here’s the kicker:
When you make a task in Asana, it is by default unassigned. If you just make the task and hit “Enter” the task has no assignee. Since you’re then not following it or the person assigned to do it, you never see it. And in this way, I lost a bunch of to-do items I’d entered. They’re in there, but they don’t pop up under “My Tasks” or the “Inbox” view. And so they don’t get done.
A task that is created should, by default, be assigned to you until you assign it to someone else. Or at least prompt you to assign it to someone.
And that’s the bummer about Asana. Lost tasks with no owner. No bueno.
When I went looking at the systems above 3 months ago, it was because I wanted a “Notes” type of area. I found a few that did, but as you can see from my reports, they were missing other must-have features.
What I’ve done in the interim is create a task list called “Notes.” Within it I have tasks that actually contain the notes/training materials that I wanted to store in Flow. It’s a less than elegant solution, but Flow does everything else so much better than the competition I’m willing to make an adjustment or two to make it work.
Recurring tasks – no problem!
Anything I create is automatically assigned to me so it never disappears. Comments within tasks.
Tasks are put into individual task lists and task lists can be organized into folders.
Where Flow really shines in in it’s Activity Stream – it’s the bell icon in the upper left. From there I can see everything my team has done since I last logged in. I know what’s getting done and who has a question. I know if I’ve been assigned tasks from my team. All in one glance.
I keep a personal to-do list within Flow as well, and have complete control over who on my team sees what.
Finally Flow is fast. It’s not the most full-featured project management system out there – but I didn’t want that. Spending time fiddling with milestones and priority levels stops me from just DOING THE DAMN WORK.
Flow has just enough structure to help me organize the work in a way that makes sense, without so many options that I lose myself (and hours) in it, fussing.
As much as I love Flow, I know everyone’s work style is different and it may not be a match for you. What’s your favorite task management app these days?