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Three tools for better task management in Google Apps

You need a system to track your calendar, project lists, and actionable tasks. Here are three suggestions for Google Apps users.

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David Allen, author of the best-selling Getting Things Done, promotes a productivity system that includes project lists, actionable task lists, and date-specific task lists. You're already familiar with that last item: most people call it a calendar.

All three lists (project, task, and calendar) are essential: omit any one and problems arise. Without a project list, you lose track of "big picture" goals. Without an actionable task list, you must figure out "what's the next action?" every time you look at your list. Without a calendar, you miss deadlines.

For Google Apps users, there are at least three solid, yet simple, list management options: Google Tasks, Todoist, and GQueues. Google Tasks is part of the core Google Apps suite. Todoist and GQueues both may be added from the Google Apps Marketplace. (Marketplace integration is essential for enterprise use of an app: it enables administrative user management linked to a user's Google Apps account.) Here's what you need to know about these three lists management solutions.

Google Tasks

Google Tasks hides nicely inside Gmail and Google Calendar. In fact, it hides so well, you may not even know it exists. To view Tasks from within Gmail, click the triangle to the right of the large "Mail" icon in the upper left, above the list of mail labels. Choose Tasks from the drop-down. Google Tasks will display in the lower-right corner of your screen.

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You can create Tasks and Calendar events from an email. (Click the "More" menu above an email to see these options.) A Task created from an email displays a "Related email" link below the task; click on the link to view the original email. A Calendar item created from an email fills the event "Description" with the most recent text from the body of the email.

Google offers an incredibly useful tool for managing date-specific task lists: Google Calendar. To view Tasks within Calendar, select the "sprocket menu" in the upper right area in Calendar, and then choose Settings. Select the "Calendars" tab menu item. Make sure the checkbox next to the calendar named "Tasks" is selected to "Show in List". The Task list will display to the right of your calendar. Tasks with dates appear on the assigned day, in an area above hourly calendar information. These day-specific tasks display a checkbox next to them, which you can use to mark tasks as complete.

For Chrome browser users, there's also a Google Tasks extension. When clicked, the extension installs to the right of the URL box and displays your task lists in your browser. You can work with your lists from the browser extension. Unfortunately, tasks shown aren't sorted in chronological order, which makes the list nearly unusable for time sensitive tasks.

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The Google Tasks browser extension enables one-click list management

Surprisingly, Google doesn't offer Android or iOS Tasks apps. Even more surprisingly, the Task calendar doesn't sync to mobile devices. Instead, Google Tasks are web-only: go to http://gmail.com/tasks to view and edit tasks on a mobile device. Third party apps, such as GeeTasks-Pro on iOS ($6.99) and Tasks on Android ($.99), attempt to fill the gaps.

Todoist

Todoist.com ($29/year per user) offers enterprise users Google Apps sign-in integration. After an administrator adds the app from the Google Marketplace, users login by picking Todoist from the "More" drop-down menu at the top of the browser.

Todoist provides a cleanly-designed web app, along with native Android and iOS apps. The Todoist Chrome extension matches the functionality of the Google Tasks extension: you can view and modify your lists from the extension in your browser.

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Todoist offers a cleanly-designed app that works on many platforms

Todoist differs from Google Tasks in two important ways. First, tasks display differently. Google Tasks display in the same window as Gmail or your Google Calendar, which makes glancing at tasks easy. Todoist tasks display either with a click of a browser extension or in a separate browser tab. There's more attention-switching, instead of glancing. Second, Todoist syncs date-specific tasks to Google Calendar once-a-day, unlike date-specific Google Tasks, which sync instantly.

Doist, the maker of Todoist, also offers a project management solution, Wedoist. The solutions are available separately or in a bundled enterprise solution, called istenterprise.com.

(For more information on Todoist, see Will Kelly's review, "Add task management to Google Apps with Todoist Premium" from January 2013.)

GQueues

GQueues.com offers Google Apps integration, along with native Android and iOS apps. The GQueues Chrome extension enables one-click task creation. (Pricing starts at $25/per user, with discounts down to $10/per user for purchase of 25+ licenses.)

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GQueues works on the web and mobile devices, and also integrates with Google Apps

GQueues empowers managers to delegate tasks. Add a person's email address to assign them a task. They will receive a task notification. When the assignee marks the task complete, your list will automatically update. And, yes, people can decline tasks - or even block people from assigning them tasks, so don't go overboard when delegating work!

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GQueues empowers people to assign tasks

GQueues Gadgets work with Gmail and Google Calendar. The Gmail gadget lets you create a task from an email, without leaving Gmail. The Calendar gadget displays tasks with upcoming due dates to the right of your Google Calendar.

GQueues elegantly solves the problem of calendar syncing with a dedicated "GQueues" Google Calendar. After the user activates the GQueues calendar from their GQueues settings, the GQueues calendar appears with all other viewable user calendars. Tasks with due dates are added or removed from GQueues calendar, and changes are reflected instantly.

A tool equal to the task

Google Tasks offers basic list management, but oddly lacks Google-made native mobile apps. Todoist offers robust list management from multiple platforms, but once-a-day Google Calendar syncing may not be enough for some users. GQueues provides robust list management, and better integration with Google Apps.

You need a system to track your calendar, project lists, and actionable tasks. Any of these three systems will help you do that. But there is one more system worth considering. Ben Franklin, productivity guru of the 18th century, managed his lists with pen and paper. For some people, that still works best.

About

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

7 comments
ellisthomas86
ellisthomas86

 These are pretty useful apps. I am a genuine user for Google tasks but have no idea about the other two. But some what Google Tasks are not prior in providing the required result and we have switched to cloud based Replicon's task management software - http://www.replicon.com/olp/task-management-software.aspx . The tasks managed with the so called software or app is quite impressive and applicable to get the end result with more clarity.

tpjasper
tpjasper

I've trialled all of these at some point. If you live in gmail you can't go past @activeinbox for task/project management.

PGrGr
PGrGr

I used to rely heavily on tasks in Outlook, before we moved to Google Apps, and Google tasks fails heavily.


There are two additional problems to the ones you mentioned, which for me, are critical:


1) Inconceivably for a company founded in search, google tasks are not searchable. This makes it virtually unusable.

2) The UI is simply diabolical.


After casting the net around and trialling many of the obvious alternatives, I found Streak.com. Its currently in Beta and therefore free. It allows for more functionality than a simple task management, so its good for shared projects, but I don't think its quite up to the CRM replacement that they are aiming for. Yet.


What makes it unique, in my experience anyway, is that it integrates entirely with your gmail inbox. This one feature makes it incredibly powerful, allowing you to add emails to "boxes" along with notes and comments. Items are searchable from the same search box as the one you use for Gmail. I have been been using Streak.com for a couple of months now, and I can't see myself using anything else in the near term future.

mariel.
mariel.

These are great tips! I personally don't know how people get things done with pen and paper to do lists. I used to spend half an hour a day rewriting my list when i worked that way. :)

Have you by any chance tried Trigger (www.triggerapp.com? 

It has a single sign on with google apps, and it's integrated with google drive.

It has a bunch of tools you can use, or ignore depending on how you work. But the coolest thing is you can email it, and it will create tasks for you, so you can clear out your inbox, and get organised easily.

It has an iphone app, and android app coming soon as well!

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

What task list management system do you use? What do you like about it?