How to Automate Your Personal Task Management
System and Get Real Work Done
If you’re anything like the average knowledge worker, you might start your day with laser-like focus, ready to take on your most important project — only to get side-tracked by a Slack notification 10 minutes later. From this point on, your productivity enters a downward spiral as you give in to nonessential emails, urgent work requests, and new updates in your team’s collaboration platform, all of which have nothing to do with the task at hand. Before you know it, the workday comes to an end and you’re left wondering where all the hours went.
In the modern work culture where there’s a constant overload of information, tasks, and tools, it’s easy to drop what’s important in exchange for the momentary satisfaction of doing what’s urgent.
While many of us feel like we’re busier than ever before, a study from Workfront shows that on average, only 39 percent of the workday is actually spent on primary job responsibilities. The rest is spent on administrative tasks or what we like to call busywork.
Busywork is the manual, repetitive work that eats up our time and prevents us from making significant progress. It usually involves work about work that makes us feel productive but gives us a false sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
If busywork hurts our productivity so much, why are we always compelled by it?
According to a behavioural phenomenon called tunnelling, time feels much scarcer when we’re overwhelmed with work. As a result, we lose sight of the big picture and focus on low-value tasks.
We squander our time on various project management tools, adjusting due dates, checking up on teammates, and reassigning priorities. And when we realize we haven’t accomplished anything substantial; we end up working extra hours to make up for the time we could’ve spent on more impactful tasks.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can escape the busywork tunnel and one of them is to harness the power of automation in your day-to-day workflow.
How automation can streamline your personal task management
You may have the best task management tools at your disposal, but it won’t make any difference to your productivity if you’re still manually copying data from one app to another. As tempting as it is to abandon this type of busywork altogether, these repetitive tasks are often necessary for you to succeed at what you do.
Leveraging workflow automation can help you streamline inefficient parts of your day and free up your time for big-picture items. Instead of manually updating your tasks in the different places where they live, you can block out the afternoon to brainstorm strategies for your next marketing campaign.
By spending more time on your actual tasks and reducing time spent keeping track of them, you’ll be able to hit your deadlines faster and balance your time better between work and life.
Not sure where to start? The following are a few simple yet effective ways to automate your personal task management system so you can prioritize your most important work every day.
Gather all your tasks in one master to-do list
If you use more than one app to keep track of your work, task management can become a full-time job in itself. But there’s not much you can do when your tasks naturally come from various sources — email, notes, project management apps, and collaboration tools. On top of that, you might have a personal task manager where you manage all your other commitments outside of work. What you can do is consolidate all your isolated to-do lists into a single destination for your tasks wherever they’re from. That’s where an integration tool like Pleexy comes in.
Pleexy brings all your tasks from Trello, Evernote, Asana, Outlook, and other widely-used productivity tools into one place — your preferred task manager. What’s more, you can set up a two-way sync between the tools you use so that changes made on one side will be instantly copied on the other.
Let’s say your team uses Jira to manage your company’s projects and you use Todoist as a personal task manager. You might also use OneNote to capture your ideas and save interesting articles. You can use Pleexy to channel all relevant tasks from Jira and OneNote into Todoist. Whenever you complete a task in Todoist, it’s instantly completed in the source application and vice versa. You’ll always have a single overview of your tasks across your professional and personal projects which means you can prioritize your work better and power through the workday without toggling back and forth between apps.
Integrate Todoist with Asana and synchronize your task attributes
As an integration tool focused on task management, connecting your favourite apps via Pleexy requires very simple, set-and-forget configuration. You can control how you want to synchronize your tasks and task details in a way that makes sense to you, all without the need to manually design multiple if-then workflows.
Schedule recurring tasks (and checklists)
Everyone has tasks they need to do on a regular basis. Whether that’s paying rent or scheduling a weekly newsletter, forgetting about recurring tasks can have dire consequences.
The best to do apps likely have a built-in feature that lets you set recurring due dates. Todoist is one such app that comes with flexible scheduling options. To set up a recurring task, simply type it in natural language describing your desired schedule such as every weekday or every 4th Friday. Each time you complete a recurring task, it’s automatically scheduled for the next due date to save you time.
Use natural language to schedule a recurring task in Todoist
If you’re dealing with higher-level tasks, one great option is Process Street — a workflow management tool specially designed to handle recurring tasks and procedures. In Process Street, you can schedule an entire checklist to recur at a particular time, when an event happens in another app, or when someone in your team runs a checklist.
Link your to-do list and calendar together
We all have 24 hours in a day, and scheduling your tasks ensures you make the best use of your time. When linked together effectively, your calendar and to do app will help you add structure to your day and protect you against procrastination and distractions.
Google Calendar is arguably the most popular calendar app available today. It’s super easy to use and has direct integrations with other Google services. Plus, it integrates with almost any other to-do list app in the market.
If you’d rather stick to one platform for tasks and appointments, there are numerous task management apps that come with a built-in calendar including Any.do, TickTick, Fantastical, and Notion to name a few.
Filter your emails
Email has become an unhealthy addiction for many people, yet it continues to be an integral part of everyone’s productivity stack. It’s still one of the most effective channels for asynchronous communication where many of our tasks come from. However, if you don’t have a method for tuning out irrelevant messages, you could lose huge chunks of your time taming the chaotic mess that is your inbox.
There is one simple feature that users often overlook in their email client and that is the ability to create rules in order to filter incoming emails. In Gmail and Outlook, you can define filters based on sender or keywords so that emails matching such criteria are automatically sorted into folders, archived, marked important, or forwarded to someone else.
If you need a more powerful solution to email overload, consider using Sanebox, an AI-powered email management tool that works with just about any email client. Sanebox analyses your email history and automatically moves unimportant messages into customizable snooze folders which you can go through at a more convenient time.
Build custom automated workflows
If you’re serious about improving your productivity, it’s time you start automating your workflow wherever possible. Tools like Zapier and IFTTT let you create custom automations across the apps you use daily. Simply define the trigger and choose an action that automatically follows.
For example, if your job involves following up on customer feedback, you can use Zapier to create a new task in Todoist every time you receive a new submission in Type form. You can even extend your workflow and create multi-step Zaps to automate multiple tasks with a single trigger.
Create new Todoist tasks from Type form entries
With workflow automation software, the sky’s the limit. Take time to review the tools you use each day and find a way to let data flow effortlessly between them.
Ready to automate your productivity?
Automation is a powerful solution to busywork and it’s not only limited to team productivity or complex business processes. With the right tools, you can easily simplify your personal task management and accomplish more in less time.
Start thinking about the tasks that bog you down repeatedly and set up automations to add more hours to your day. No matter how small these changes might seem on the surface, they’ll surely make a huge difference in your personal productivity.
Find out more
Watch my interview with Denise, Community Manager at Pleexy, and find out why it is my go to synchronisation tool!