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June 7, 2021

Here are the task management tools we use daily.

Getting back into the swing of things has never been easy. As promised, here's the second half of our run-down of five top tools to integrate into a remote workflow, focused this time on task management. If you haven't caught up with the first half, find that here.

Managing and delegating tasks to co-ordinate a team is difficult enough in person. Despite its benefits, the detachment of remote working is a trapping pit for a team's co-ordination, just waiting for you to put an organisational foot wrong. Naturally, using online tools requires a little more discipline and buy-in from the team, but selecting those tools well will make that process as effortless as possible and goes a long way to keeping a group tight and synchronised. We've painstakingly tried almost all the available tools and, with fresh trapping-pit bruises, bring you what we've learned.

Notion (again).

Look, we know we're repeating ourselves - see the first part of this article for more on Notion. But it's as good of a task management tool as it is a collaboration tool. We'd like to take a moment to emphasise the all-rounder nature of it as an application. And no, they aren't paying us.

What we use it for (task management edition):

An all-in-one hub for task management, delegation and information.

What we do to make the most of it (also task management edition):

Tag people to add directed comments and assign tasks.

Simply '@' your teammates to notify them of a new comment you've left for them, or assign them (in the 'person' column of a table) to a particular task. Easier than having a meeting or mulling over the wording of a 'gentle' reminder message.

Create columns in tables for urgency, completion status or any other frequently used information. Then, sort and filter the table to find what you need.

Notion is great for visual cues and for tagging and organising information. It's so flexible as to make prescribing a single approach impossible - open it up and play around with their 'tables' feature, or check out their tutorials for more hands-on guidance. For example, the 'multi-select' option on table columns lets you create custom tags or properties for table entries - for example, 'to-do', 'doing' or 'done'. Or 'handed off to someone else'. Or 'stalled'. Or even miscellaneous notes.

Pages are automatically nested along the left for a birds-eye view and easy navigation.

Moving between pages on Notion is fast and simple; they're all shown in a structured and drop-downable list along the side. If you're using a network of Word documents in various folders in 2020, you're missing out on the simplicity and brilliance of seeing and moving between an entire organisation's filing system at once.

Make a Kanban board with 'Board View' or a roadmap with the 'Timeline View'. Elegantly house details of that task and any sub-lists within the relevant entry.

The power of this is difficult to put into such a small space - we encourage you to take a look at Notion's full guide here. At Tevent, we have a top-level roadmap, which is then mirrored on each department's page, filtered to only show entries relevant to that department. Then, each aspect of the roadmap is assigned properties like who's responsible, its urgency and deadline. Clicking those tasks navigates to the page of information and status of that task. Look, it's complicated to explain and we suspect even worse to read - but we promise it works beautifully.

Jira

Look, we'll be honest, Notion is a better Jira than Jira itself, in a lot of cases. However, seriously consider using JIRA if you are a development team, looking to organise into 'sprints' to follow the 'agile' school of thought. It can track your team's velocity moving through tasks and makes delegating them a breeze, although the rest of the UI can be slightly heavy-handed in places. It can also be wangled into integrating with GitHub, which is a step towards automating the entire job of a project manager.

If you haven't heard of 'Agile', there are plenty of more verbose explanations out there, but fundamentally it's a method of working that can be summarised with the following Wallace and Gromit GIF:

Wallace And Gromit Train GIF from Wallaceandgromit GIFs

What we use it for:

'Agile' project management, particularly for development teams.

What we do to make the most of it:

JIRA is designed around these sprints, which include a subset of the backlog of goals for a particular epic - large project.

Measure the team's velocity with 'Story Points'

These poetically-named points allow you to weight various tasks by their difficulty or length, giving you a unit, albeit an arbitrary one, to measure how much work is done by each team member per week and to extrapolate, predicting how much quickly the rest of the tasks might get done. It can take a while to arrive at fair weightings for tasks, but once you do, the 'velocity' - amount you can get done in a space of time - is a valuable metric for realistic planning.

For developers, synchronise JIRA tasks with GitHub issues for (almost) hands-free project management.

Jira - GitHub integration is finicky, but a two-way sync will mean that developers can work off GitHub entirely, with JIRA updates following automatically. We recommend tools like Unito.io to automate this - paid, but well worth the time savings versus having to coerce your team into going over to JIRA to tick off tasks into boards and lets you know, at a glance, what's being worked on, who's working on what, and where something is in a process. Tasks are exemplified by way of visual 'Cards' and can be customised with due dates, comments and attachments.

Trello

Kanban is a beautiful and efficient way to keep track of task progress, where individual tasks move through successive columns representing states of completion, from first starting, to in progress, a review stage if necessary and then completion.

Notion has an excellent and highly flexible 'board view' which will keep these tasks centralised if you're already basing them there. Otherwise, Trello is a great option for those looking to manage and keep track of tasks more effectively, especially within teams.

What we use it for:

A lighter-weight 'Kanban'-style to do list.

What we do to make the most of it:

Use keyboard shortcuts to manage tasks lightning fast.

Trello's deep keyboard shortcut integration - full list here - makes creating, archiving and removing tasks very simple. If these are daunting, start by pressing C on your keyboard to archive a task, and D to quickly set a deadline. Once you get used to these, the efficiency of flicking through tasks will feel superhuman.

Enable 'power-ups' for calendar synchronisation and myriad other features.

If you have the business class package, you can enable things like video chat and package tracking but, fret not, the free version comes with the option to view your scheduled cards on a calendar in addition to card 'aging' and voting. The latter lets your team upvote cards to help prioritise tasks, whilst the former automatically 'ages' older cards to show you which haven't been updated in awhile.

Clone boards to save time setting up.

This one's easy- for boards you'll be only be subtly changing or updating over time, use the clone feature to cut to the chase. Just Open the 'Boards Menu', click 'More' and then 'Copy Board'.

Trello

Honestly, look at the state of your tabs right now. Toby is a browser extension that replaces your 'New Tab' screen with a workspace that can quickly take and save an entire 'session' of tabs. Use it to save the 1236467 tabs you currently have open from being lost, or restore a set of tabs at any point.

What we use it for:

To declutter our browsers, stay on top of tabs and keep a whole team's shortcuts right on the New Tab screen.

What we do to make the most of it:

'Speed dial' the sites you use on a daily basis and open them all with one click.

If you find yourself opening the same five tabs at the start of a workday - email, JIRA, notion and calendar - this is a handy solution. Save a session of these sites to open them all with a single click.

Make a dashboard of links for the whole team, to speed up daily access and onboarding.

Toby groups can be shared, meaning new employees are presented with a single base of all the sites they need instead of having to be told to bookmark a certain set of tools and pages.

Name your sessions and organise them with searchable 'Collections' and tags.

Naming sounds simple but can be greatly useful for collections you won't be coming back to for a while. Add tags and notes by clicking the three dots in the top right hand side of a session. Tags can be coordinated by colour (always a nice touch), letting you easily organise your collections, as well as the tabs within them. You can drag and drop browser tabs into collections and search through those collections or tags later, making light of what was once an organisational nightmare.

Pen, Paper and Sticky Notes

It's easy to get carried away with high-tech solutions. Sure, what we can get done online these days is amazing, but we find good old-fashioned pen and paper is unrivalled when it comes to working through one's own thoughts and ideas and getting brief respite from the many screens in our lives.

What we use it for:

Keeping track of your own personal tasks, brainstorms and scribbled notes.

What we do to make the most of it:

Take the time to do this away from designated work areas.

A pen and paper are great to have around to write down sparks of inspiration spontaneously and can allow you time away from your desk to think and brainstorm in the garden, kitchen, or wherever else you relax and think well - except the shower. This also combats overstimulation; anything that minimises screen time is likely to be a good move - especially if you work and relax at a screen, while distracting yourself with a second or third screen.

Sticky notes work well as a tactile and always-visible reminder of upcoming tasks.

Arrange them on a wall to help you visualise ideas, or stick them on a computer screen for an unavoidable reminder of tasks that can't afford to be lost in a computerised logging system. Co-founder Ahmed has his own 'desk goal' - he'll scrunch finished notes and dismiss them with a satisfying throw through the goalposts he's fashioned from spare card. It's positioned such that they fall into the recycling bin beneath the desk. A fun and addictive marker for a completed goal.

You don't have to be together to work together, but it certainly helps if you turn up to work- whether that's in your living room or bedroom office- as prepared and well equipped as you can be. Hopefully we've saved you some hard graft on that front here.

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