Managing Task Management

My workflow has been in flux. Until recently, I relied on Apple’s Notes and Reminders apps to track my thoughts and tasks; now I’m migrating (cautiously) to Microsoft’s OneNote and To Do apps (I briefly tried Todoist as well). When you add, “Try a new to-do app” to your to-do list, which to-do app should you put it on, your current one or the new one(s) you’re trying? It’s a most meta question, I guess, for getting things done #GTD.

In researching the whole idea of task management, I’ve found there are various methods; it partly depends on your own mind’s natural way of thinking. While I think there’s no single “correct” way to manage tasks, there is a best way that works for each individual, and there are generally a few over-arching approaches.

One well-known method is to use the Eisenhower Matrix (see here, here, or here) to determine priority status of certain tasks and thus how to handle them. Each task falls somewhere on a scale of importance and/or urgency. In other words, some tasks are more about want-to-do than need-to-do, and they’re also either dated or not, like a project that has a specific deadline versus a task that can be procrastinated forever.

Finding the right to-do app is, of course, a task unto itself; I think it’s important but not urgent. You likely already have a task manager app; everyone’s needs and styles differ. Basically, all task apps are similar, as they feature checklists of tasks that can be organized in a number of ways, and they each have a particular way of handling dates and reminders. After finding your ideal to-do app, you then must consider how you’ll use it.

You could put all your tasks in a to-do app, including sub-tasks as well. This means your task app will have a huge number of things-to-do. That high number may be daunting to you. To counter such overwhelm, you could instead only add high-level tasks, noting only the big picture; any sub-tasks or details can be then placed into a note-taking app for further management. This is somewhat disparate though and thus has its own drawbacks. It’s up to each person to decide how they like to do to-dos.

How do you like to do to-dos?

I was trying a new-to-me thing in which I kept only my urgent to-dos (tasks that have dates or reminders attached to them) in my to-do app, and all my non-urgent to-dos in my notes app in organized checklists. I see a large number of tasks in my notes and a very small number of tasks in my to-do app. But this approach for me started to break down because once a task becomes urgent or otherwise planned (eventually), it must move to a new app (manually). The cross-app work is too much for my three-pound brain; task duplication becomes a problem. In short, I may move all my tasks into my to-do app and get them organized there.

That said, I also like to keep project checklists with my project notes…hmmm. The only good solution I know of that effectively combines both Notes and Tasks is Evernote, but it costs money. It might be worth it… If you have any advice here, please leave a comment below.

We all manage tasks in some way, and while some folks take an intuitive hands-off approach, others seek the perfect task management system and mastery thereof. Most people are somewhere along that spectrum. I hope my example is somewhat informative and that maybe you can improve your own way of doing all the to-dos.

Now I can check off, “Blog this post.”

Share how you’re getting things done.

A Note On Notes On Apple Watch

Digital note taking might be pedestrian, but it’s essential to the workflow of many; I’m certainly no exception. I love notes apps and have used several over the years. One of them, Apple Notes, has served me very well. Inexplicably, though, the app is nowhere to be found on Apple Watch, which is a, uh, noteworthy omission.

With Apple Notes missing from the Watch, I simply did not expect what happened today. I noticed Microsoft’s OneNote on my Apple Watch; it’s purple icon stood out like amethyst in a geode. What was that doing there?

Surprise! With OneNote, I now have my notes on my Watch.

How can this be? Microsoft has enabled note viewing and taking on Apple’s Watch, but Apple hasn’t. Curious.

OneNote on Apple Watch shows your most recent notes in a list like it does in the mobile app. The list displays:

  1. The section color the note is in.
  2. The section title the note is in.
  3. The date the note was taken.

At the top of the list is a simple “+” button, which lets you add a new note by either finger drawing or dictation. Where does that new note go? It is automatically added to the designated “Quick Notes” section in the mobile app (you choose the section in settings).

This is both a surprise and a delight to me. I can finally take notes on my watch or simply review them. There are only two feature wishes I have:

  1. Ability to add a Complication to take a new note (by dictation).
  2. Ability to take a new note via Siri command (e.g., “Hey, Siri, take a note…”).

I checked into this and found there are a few other note-taking apps that include a Watch app. It’s probably only a matter of time until Apple finally adds Apple Notes to its Watch, but with it being seven series’ old, why has it already taken so long? This omission is more glaring since third-party developers already offer notes on the Watch.

In fact, per this article, OneNote has been available on Apple Watch since 2015:

We recently released OneNote for the Apple Watch to access your content when you’re on the go. We designed OneNote for Apple Watch with a strong focus on lightweight interactions and placed a premium on convenience. A core principle of our design was ensuring that you could quickly and easily reference the information you are looking for. If you pinned a note on OneNote for iPhone, we’ll surface it right at the top of your Apple Watch app, so you don’t need to hunt for it. This is perfect for when you’re frequently checking your to-do list.

Additionally, OneNote for Apple Watch presents a unique opportunity to capture any quick idea, to-do, or thought you have while you’re on the go. All you need to do is speak what’s on your mind, and we’ll save it to OneNote immediately so you don’t forget it. Just tap the large + button and start dictating–it’s really is that simple.

Greg Akselrod and Avneesh Kohli, program managers on the OneNote team

In any case, the functionality of notes on Apple Watch exists. If you are missing it like I was, you don’t have to anymore. Noted.