To-do lists: the day Microsoft Outlook failed

July 25, 2015

Agency Account Managers - especially those of the "lower ranks" - are the "do-ers" of the client service team. They are required to pump the work through the system, often juggling multiple projects for multiple clients at any one time.

Unless you've taken a 'Mega-Memory' course - and passed in the top 1% of graduates - it's highly unlikely you'll remember all you need to do on a day-to-day basis. Those without an efficient and effective task management system will find things will fall through the cracks, only adding strife to your already-hectic workload (not to mention a trail of unhappy clients).

Up until a couple of years ago I was using Microsoft Outlook Tasks to keep control over my usual array of 70+ to-do items. One day, unexpectedly, my Outlook crashed, taking with it all my tasks. Can you imagine my horror?! It took a second crash (not long after the first) and a second loss of all my data for me to look for an alternative to what I had considered one of the best task management systems on the planet.

The range of web-based and mobile to-do list apps is vast indeed - and growing all the time. My criteria for a new system roughly looked like this:

  • Colour coding: I am a very "visual" person, so I wanted to be able to identify tasks or actions by different, assigned colours. Microsoft Outlook does this extremely well.
  • Tags: I needed to be able to assign actions to my tasks, and preferably colour code these as well. For example, my usual tags are
    • Internal action - what I need to do personally
    • Internal expect - what I am waiting on a colleague to do
    • Client expect - what I am waiting on a client to do
    • Supplier expect - what I am waiting on a supplier to do
    • Important (or urgent) - needs extra special attention
  • Groups: It was important to be able to put my tasks into groups or lists. Each list represents either one project or campaign and was named first by job number so the lists would order numerically. An alternative (depending on the programme) was to have one list per client, and the projects became sub-lists under the main client list.
  • Notes: The ability to save a series of notes under each task.
  • Timing: Due date, overdue indictor, and recurring tasks.
  • Mobile: If the programme was web-based it had to have a mobile app version that would seemlessly sync between devices.

After an extensive hunt to find a to-do list that could compete with Microsoft Outlook Tasks I came across the oddly-named Remember the Milk, and I fell in techno-love.

Two years down the track and the love-fest continues. Remember the Milk hasn't let me down once, with not a single drop of information lost. It's powerful, full of features and has become my mini-CRM tool as well as task manager. I use it to record every interaction, every instruction, every conversation. Oh, and did I mention the web version is absolutely free?! I do pay a very nominal yearly fee to have my information sync regularly to my mobile devices...a small price to pay for uber-convenience.

What type of to-do system do you use? Are your tasks written in a notebook, mobile app or web-based programme? What's your secret to remembering your mountain of daily tasks - we'd love to know!

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