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Cheating at Work

Generally it seems that many people at work are always struggling with workload. When you ask them if they have completed a task, they respond that they haven't had a chance to look at it. It is almost seems like a badge of honor. I used to worry that perhaps I was not working hard enough myself.

Over the years, I have come to realise that looking busy and getting stuff done are not necessarily the same thing.

Enter Getting Things Done (GTD), an organisation method created by David Allen.

The general philosophy is that our brains are really good at coming up with ideas, but rubbish with remembering them at the time you need to. If you write it down somewhere you trust (and the trust bit is important) it allows you to relax, and get on with doing actual work and not chasing round fire fighting all the time.

For a fuller understanding of GTD watch this google tech talk video by David Allen from 2007.

GTD is 'platform agnostic' in that it does not specify how and where you write things down, though it does give guidance to how things should be sorted. My biggest problem has always been that I have struggled with paper systems (thanks dyslexia) and most computerised todo lists just got in the way.

Tracks is a task manager designed with GTD in mind. Tracks follows the idea of contexts and projects as described in GTD. It is open source (written in ruby on rails) and so can be self hosted.

I have been using Tracks on my home server since October 2014 and when being used properly, it often feels like I am cheating.

Using Tracks with a GTD mindset, allows me to prioritise tasks at any time based on what I can realistically do at any time. This means I will ignore the very high priority task if I can't actually do anything with it at that time. Instead I will tackle a shorter, perhaps less important task (key being here that I can actually do something with it and although it is less important now, it may not be next week).

Pros

  • Designed with GTD in mind so already has concepts of projects (any job that requires more than action to complete), concepts etc.
  • Easy access to defer actions (While I still need to complete this action, I am realistically not going to get it done today so hide it until tomorrow/next week)
  • Web based so I can access it from any computer (or my phone) at any time - so if I think of a work task over the weekend, I can add and forget about it knowing it will be waiting for me on Monday.

Cons

  • Name: the name 'tracks' is too common and so when trying to search for help/hints etc, it is very difficult to find useful information amongst all the other projects out there.
  • Apps:
    • as far as I can tell, there are no phone or desktop apps so you have to use the webpage (and have to have a network connection)
    • This is not so much a fault of the project - they have produced an API that would allow them to be made - just none have been made (although it is difficult to search for any - see problem about the name above)
  • Multi-user support
    • Tracks does allow multiple users/accounts on the same server however there is no linking between the accounts.
    • No ability to give a task to another user or share a context (ie it would be useful to have a shared 'supermarket' context for whoever is next at the supermarket)

There may well be other task managers out there that are actually better for my needs however I have not yet found them.

Whatever tools you use, I recommend incorporating the GTD method into your own task management.

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