Thursday, February 4th, 2010

I’ve been thinking about task management this week. I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m so bad at it and what I can do to solve it.

My bigeest problem has sort of been thrust upon me: I have tasks scattered throughout different systems. Some are in TFS as either bugs to fix or features to add. Some are in my Exchange email box. Some are in my gmail email box. Some are in Lighthouse. And some are in my head (these quickly get moved to Things on my iPod).

For my own peace of mind, I’d like to consolidate them. But I have no real idea how to do that. I’d like to be able to print a page out every morning with a list of things that need to happen before I go to bed. I’d like them to be contextualized. I’d like this to be largely automatic.

For a while, I was using Remember The Milk (RTM) for task management. I’d written a Windows app that could slurp bugs out of TFS and shove them into RTM. When i marked the bug Fixed, my app would mark it complete in RTM . This was okay, but RTM never really gelled for me so I switched to iPod Things.

This is a great app, but it’s not cloud-based and lacks an API. So if I want to get a task into Things, I have to type it. During heavy bug fix time, this can mean a lot of manual duplication — and when I fix the bug, I have to mark it complete in 2 places. This essesntially gurantees that the two will become out of sync.

It’s even worse for email. When I get an email destined for my TODO list, it generally has a lot of context. Typing the specific task into Things loses all of that. So now my task is in one place and my context is in another. That’s less than ideal.

And sure, you can link files into Mac Things, but Outlook lives on Windows. So it doesn’t really work. (This is the primary reason I’ve never invested in Mac Things. I do surprisingly little work on my Mac.)

I could possibly write another app that lets me slurp emails out of Outlook somehow and put them into RTM. That’d be a lot of work for me and I’d end up using RTM again. I’m not sure I want to do that.

So these are the problems I need to solve. My situation is complicated by working in Windows and living on OS X. A full Mac workflow would be easy to hack around with Applescript and Things’ already-excellent feature set.

So. My ideal task manager app has Windows, Mac, and iPhone versions. It provides an amazing experience on all of them (well…as amazing as a Windows experience can be…). All the apps sync seamlessly via the Internet. And there needs to be an easy API to allow getting data into and out of foreign systems.

That seems like a lot of work.

Perhaps I will just keep a notepad next to my computer.

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