Which Task Management Technique Is Best for You?

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Can you sit down at your desk for extended hours and tick away your to-dos uninterrupted? Or is your productivity more sporadic with a project here and a call there? Maybe you even change the way you tackle your tasks on a daily basis. Task management strategies are not a one-size-fits-all concept, as everyone works through their duties differently. There are dozens of techniques you can choose from to help you and your team work more efficiently.

But how do you know which one is right for you and your business? Read our descriptions below to find out.

Pomodoro Technique1

Pomodoro Technique - Tomato Timer

Named for a tomato-shaped timer Francesco Cirillo owned as a university student, the Pomodoro Technique focuses on timed intervals of productivity. Each work sprint is followed by a brief break. Cirillo believed that extended studying leads to a dull mind. Mental breaks keep the mind more pliable and, as a result, more productive.

The Pomodoro technique has five steps:

  1. Identify the task that needs to be completed.
  2. Start your timer. Traditionally, a “pomodoro” (an individual interval) is 25 minutes long.
  3. Get to work!
  4. When the timer goes off, stop whatever thought you were on and mark your place.
  5. If you have less than four checkmarks, take a 3 – 5 minute break and return to step one. If you have more than four, take a 15 – 30 minute break, reset your checkmark count and return to step one.
ProsCons
Though this technique was created in a pre-internet world, the brief breaks are perfectly sized for a blog article or a quick scroll through your social feeds.If you are interrupted, it’s suggested that you write down your thought and return to it when you finish the task you are working on — but that doesn’t account for task prioritization.
You can subconsciously push yourself to work faster because you are under a time constraint. If you work mostly on a computer, this technique is said to work best for low-tech projects.
Tools
Install Pomello, a Chrome extension that integrates the Pomodoro timer into your browser for easy reminders.

ABC Prioritized Planning2

ABC Prioritized Planning

Originally used as a tool to categorize large pools of data, Prioritized Planning ranks task importance as well as urgency. Importance is labeled with a letter, and the number reflects urgency (one being top priority, two the next and so on).

Letters Defined:

  • A task: The highest priority in the pool. This is something that would effect your superior or a high priority client.
  • B task: An important but not dire task. This is something you could potentially put off a few days without consequence.
  • C task: A very low priority. This is something that doesn’t have much importance and won’t negatively affect other tasks if it goes incomplete a while.

Example

  • A1: Write payroll checks
  • A2: Write schedule for next week
  • A3: Order T-shirts
  • B1: Call meat vendor
  • B2: Take inventory of to-go supplies
  • B3: Place order for low stock
  • C1: Brainstorm new promotions
  • C2: Respond to Yelp reviews
  • C3: Sweep walk-in
ProsCons
If you struggle with prioritization, this helps break down tasks into two pools, providing the opportunity to focus on what is most important.On its own, the ABC technique can be too superficial. It is often paired with Pareto Analysis for optimal results.
Without specific time constraints, it can be all too easy to become distracted.
Tools
If you’re not much of a pen and paper kind of person, there are plenty of great list manager apps out there to help you keep your ABCs in order.

The 6-Box Method3

The 6-Box Method

As a small business owner, your to-do list may be never ending. The 6-Box method accommodates just that! Instead of assigning a specific value to everything on your to-do list, you pick the top five priorities for your day. Everything else? That’s the sixth box.

Example

  1. Place order for T-shirts
  2. Call meat vendor
  3. Take inventory of dry goods
  4. Respond to Yelp reviews
  5. Write payroll checks
  • Sweep walk-in, take inventory of to-go supplies, place order as needed, set up team event, write schedule, go through applications for host, brainstorm new promotions, contact graphic designer for posters
ProsCons
If you always have a very long to-do list, it can be a challenge to know where to start. This method allows you to prioritize without getting distracted by the number of tasks.Five tasks at a time may be too few, and you can find yourself revisiting your top five too frequently.
Without specific time constraints, it can be all too easy to become distracted.
Tools
If your list is ever growing, it’s best to keep track of it digitally so you can access it wherever you like. Try using Google Sheet and its accompanying app. You can’t edit your list on the app, but you can still view it.

POSEC Method4

POSEC Task Management Method

The POSEC method, or prioritizing by organizing, streamlining, economizing and contributing, suggests that in order to be your most productive self, you must consider all of your daily responsibilities. The method is derived from and mirrors Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, incorporating the natural connection of the personal and professional psyche. POSEC helps you break down your big daily tasks into digestible, easily accomplished sub tasks, defined by the categories described below.

  • Prioritize your responsibilities by overall significance and urgency.
  • Organize your needs that need to be achieved on a regular basis to maintain your success (e.g. financial security).
  • Streamline those tasks you loathe but must complete.
  • Economize the tasks you would like to do but that do not have as much urgency or significance.
  • Contribute to others.
ProsCons
The POSEC method encompasses all of life to-dos, inside and outside of work.Since it’s not as precise and can be more philosophical, POSEC users may lack helpful time constraints.
Works better for the “big picture” approach and touches on areas that targeted task management may miss.Blending life and work tasks together can be complicated for some.
Tools
The POSEC method takes a lot of self-reflection to succeed. Use Evernote as a combined diary and task list. Evernote allows you to maintain simple to-do lists and you can be more detailed when needed with its note function.

Elimination Method2

The Elimination Method of Task Management

Julie Morgenstern, author and professional organizer, estimates that as many as 30% of people who regularly use lists spend more time managing their lists than completing the tasks on them.5 In fact, some people use task management as a means to procrastinate when they feel overwhelmed by the tasks at hand, effectively sabotaging their own success.

The elimination method encourages you to do two things:

  1. Remove unnecessary tasks from your list or proactively say no to meetings or commitments that do not add to your overall goals.
  2. Spend less than 5% of your time on your to-do list.
ProsCons
A realistic approach that helps you simplify by honing in on what is important and a better use of your time.As a small business owner, identifying tasks that you can discard may be near to impossible.
Tools
The elimination method can be used in combination with any task management strategy. Implement this method with any of these time management apps to help you save time on maintaining your to-do list.

1Wikipedia. (n.d.). Pomodoro technique. Retrieved June 9, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique

2Wikipedia. (n.d.). Time management. Retrieved June 9, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_management#ABC_analysis

3Mueller, A. (April 30, 2012). The 6-box to-do list. Retrieved June 9, 2016, from http://freakishlyproductive.com/2012/04/the-6-box-to-do-list/

4Planet of Success. (n.d.).   Effective time management tips. Retrieved June 10, 2016, from http://www.planetofsuccess.com/effective-time-management/

5Sandberg, J. (September 8, 2004). To-do lists can take more time than doing, but that isn’t the point. Retrieved June 10, 2016, from http://www.wsj.com/news/articles/SB109460145618411891

Barbara Davidson

Babs is a content writer at Enova International, Inc. with a Bachelors in Cinema Studies and English from the University of Illinois (ILL-INI!). She loves binge watching musicals, reading in the (sporadic) Chicago sunshine and discovering great new places to eat. Accio, tacos! Find out more about her on Google+.

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