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Workflowy Task Management

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I am probably not the only person who has never found the perfect task management tool.  Most legal practice management systems have some sort of task management.  Many people use Outlook.  There are even dedicated task management tools like Remember the Milk and Taskline.  Many of these are great tools and I am sure they work for many people – but not me.

The task management systems in Time Matters and PracticeMaster, for example, seem to offer everything someone needs to track their tasks.  You can track due date, priority, assignments, reminders, client, etc.  In fact, the Time Matters ToDo form has around 30 fields and PracticeMaster has around 20 before customization.  That works for many people and tells a busy lawyer everything they need to know with regard to deadlines.  So, why doesn’t that work for me?

The problem is how much work it is to create and manage the tasks.  I have tasks flying at me all day.  One client calls me with issue A, while another is emailing me issue B and my assistant is reminding me that I was supposed to take care of internal item C.  That’s just the beginning.  If I was to list all of my tasks with a letter, I would probably run through the alphabet two or three times each day.  Thats a lot of time spent entering 20 to 30 pieces of information and I still have to go back and mark them all complete at some point.  In the end, I spend more time managing tasks than I spend getting them done.

I need a simple task system that allows me to quickly note a task the moment I receive it.  There has to be an easy way to see everything that is outstanding.  I also need a way to cross them off the list when I finish them without having to go through a long list, open each record and mark it complete.  While not ideal, I have often found the best task management system for me is a handwritten list on a legal pad where I could write the task down and cross it out when finished.  Until now.

Enter Workflowy.   Workflowy is the simplest task management system I have ever tried.  I have used it for several weeks and it eliminates many of the headaches that have caused task systems to fail for me in the past.  Workflowy allows me to enter tasks in a simple outline form.  At the top level, I have Client Work, Admin, Sales, Marketing and Personal.  Each of these is then broken down into subtopics.  Under clients, for example, I have a level for each client followed by a level for the different tasks that must be done.  If a task has multiple parts or multiple layers, I can enter those as well.

When a task is complete, Workflowy allows me to simply click it done.  I can toggle my list to display completed items or hide them.  If I need more detail, I can add notes to any line.  After a few days, my list was pretty long but the client level organization allows me to pinpoint things fairly quickly.  If I can’t, the list is searchable and I can use hash(#) and at(@) tags in a variety of ways.  For example, in the morning I can make a quick run through of my list and tag items #today if I want to make sure I get to them today.  Simply search for #today and I have my daily list.

Workflowy is a wonderful tool.  It is simple yet elegant and it is the first task management system that seems to work the way I do.  Best of all, it is free for the first 400 items each month.  There is also a Pro version that allows unlimited items per month, password protected collaboration, fonts and thems and backup to Dropbox for $4.99 per month.  Also, similar to Dropbox, you can invite friends to sign up and get additional free space.

In fact, now that think of it, you can help me out if you click here to try Workflowy.  You will get a great task management tool and I will get more space for my seemingly endless list of tasks.

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12 Responses

  1. Kristianne Cox says:

    I signed up through your link on 5/28/2012 and got a pleasant surprise: A confirming e-mail from WorkFlowy reading, in part, “By clicking the verification link, you get 250 extra free WorkFlowy items per month. That raises the number of items you can create per month from 500 to 750.”

    Thank you Jeff. I look forward to trying this. I too rely heavily on daily handwritten lists.

  2. Lynne M. Geyser says:

    can you add workflowy to your android phone? Can you sync between phone and desktop?

  3. Jeff Krause says:

    Kristiane. Thanks for using the signup link. Thanks to everyone who clicked. I included that at the last minute and now have over 4000 items per month.

  4. Jeff Krause says:

    Lynne. Workflowy does not currently have an app for Droid or iPhone. However, it runs in a browser so it works on every platform.

  5. Charles Nadler says:

    Actually there is an Android Viewer for Workflowy, but you can’t add or subtract -only view.

  6. Jeff,

    Thanks for mentioning WorkFlowy. I’m always on the lookout for a good outliner. I also agree completely that task management needs to be simple to be effective. I spent some time on WorkFlowy, and have decided to stay with my current program. It is Bonsai, from Natara. Here’s the reasons. The big advantage of Workflowy is access across platforms, although if you don’t have an Internet connection you’re out of luck. The downsides of Bonsai are that it’s a single platform (Windows), and requires Dropbox to access from more than one machine. The reasons I’ll stay with Bonsai are because it has outline numbering, and when you export it retains the outline hierarchy (which Workflowy doesn’t), and Bonsai has (imo) more capable filtering features (compared to the tagging method used by Workflowy).

  7. We currently use Ecco Pro which is an outliner similiar to workflowy.

    We also have time matters but do not use it for task items because it takes too long to enter all of the fields and we can’t move the tasks around like we can in an outliner program like Ecco Pro.

    We are considering switching to your program but we need a multiuser version that also synchs to my laptop.

    I run my office on Ecco Pro, once I enter some thing in my to do list or master client file, my secretary can then access it and update it, then I synch it to my laptop when I go home, make changes and then it synch’s to the server when I get back in the office.

    Can workflowy do this? If not when would those 2 features be available.

    Is there another program that works like ecco pro or workflowy that is multiuser and synchs to your laptop?

    Thanks

    lee@stevensonricker.com 210.690.9944

  8. Jeff Krause says:

    Lee. Just to clarify. I am not the developer of Workflowy. I am just a user who has found it to be a useful tool for me. The response to this post has been amazing and I am going to invite the folks at Workflowy to jump in and answer your questions. Thanks for reading.

  9. Lee: You can share any list or sub-list on WorkFlowy, and it will automatically sync to all other users with that list. Currently, sharing is done via a secret URL that you send to another user, but we are working on password protected sharing as well.

    To share a list, hover over the bullet point for that list, wait for the menu to pop up, and click “Share”.

  10. Jeff – I started using WorkFlowy about 2 months ago after a similar search for a simple way to manage my to-do list(s). I’m using FlowyDroid for Android, which will let you edit/update WorkFlowy as a native app. I also like getting email summary of changes as a daily task reminder. Thanks for sharing!

  11. […] Taste plays a role.” There are other shared checklist tools in abundance, such as Workflowy (reviewed by Jeff Krause) and Remember The Milk, that offer a few options, but for free full-function workgroup […]

  12. […] I reviewed Workflowy back in May, 2012 and it was perhaps the most well-received and cited post I have ever written. That’s because Workflowy allows you to organize your tasks in the same way you think about them. Many readers recognized the potential of the tool and I still get comments from people thanking me for turning them on to Workflowy. […]

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