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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.Workflowy