If I haven’t already made it obvious, I’m a massive software/workflow nerd. I’m regularly checking in with the mental frameworks and technology I use to manage inputs and improve outputs throughout my day. And for the majority of my “life areas”, I’ve been able to find good solutions.
But there’s one area that I’ve always struggled with finding a good solution for: managing my time.
See, there are plenty of options for task management and calendar apps, as there are for email or notetaking (I’ve tried a good number of them). You can make a decision on which one suits your needs.
The challenge for me was less of an individual product problem — or a choice thing — and more of a broader category problem. It felt like they were all trying to solve the wrong problem.
Take task management apps: it feels like there’s a disconnect from our modern ways of working. Your tasks rarely just live in a to-do list - they live in team software like Trello, Asana, Jira and across communication tools like Email, Slack etc.
And then with calendar apps, they seem to forget that your day isn’t just made of up meetings. You’re chipping away at a long term project, running those personal errands, having that Slack conversation, jotting down that quick meeting action on your notepad, responding to those emails etc.
Things come up, the day changes, and these apps can easily become out of date, incomplete versions of your day you forget to check.
And if you're just adding tasks to your calendar at a time you hope to do them, if you don't... they can easily drop into the past, with no way of keeping track of them until they actually get done.
I don’t blame the apps for this, by the way. In their own ways, they’re great tools for the job. The problem was that for me, it was the wrong job. They didn’t capture the whole picture of my day - and an accurate view of your time is the first step to managing it.
For me, my day is actually less about being productive and more about being effective. Working on the right things, and doing those things well. The only way that works is by having a clear view of everything that’s truly on my plate and being able to manage my time around that accordingly.
So I knew I needed a better tool for this kind of job.
Maybe others felt this pain and had similar thoughts. Because in the last couple of years, there have been some talented teams hurriedly building away at what I believe could be the future of our day-to-day.
- centralise your view of your tasks by pulling them in email, apps etc.
- let you drag them onto your calendar to incorporate them into your daily agenda
Some also care about your whole workday - not just your meetings and to-do’s. Things like the how you map out your daily cadence, your energy levels, when you take lunch, how you reflect/wrap-up at the end of the day etc.
Simply, I feel this new category of apps feels like it helps us have a more realistic view of our day.
Of course, they’ve all got keyboard shortcuts to boot, easy-on-the-eyes UI’s and cross-platform support (eventually) as well.
Here’s the thing - there will continue to be great innovation on either side of this hybrid coin.
Take Kairn, the to-do app which launched on Product Hunt in the last couple of days. They’ve built the app integrations so you have the central view of tasks (#1) but there’s no link to your calendar, your schedule.
Or take Cron, the hot new calendar app (which is awesome to use) but doesn’t interface with your tasks. It’s just a great calendar app.
These apps are fantastic, and will solve a lot of people’s productivity problems. For me, it really needs to be the whole coin - the hybrid of the two - for it to really work on a daily basis. But productivity is a very personal thing.
I’m not sure who will end up leading this new hybrid category. No recommendations yet :)
Some will try to bundle up lots of cool features. Some will stick their guns, and the core problem to solve.
Hopefully, some will build great communities around the product (where nerds like me will hang out and chat about designing our days).
Nevertheless, I’ll continue to experiment with these tools and watch with interest. I’m damn excited about what’s to come - because it certainly feels like it’s about time.
I’m interested to know how you manage your day. What frameworks and tools do you rely on - and do you think one of these new hybrid calendar/task apps would work for you? Please shoot me an email - firstname.lastname@example.org.
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