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Looking for a task management tool

I am looking for a task management tool to organise work across people and contexts. So far we are with Trello, but I’m not happy with it.

What do I need?

  • a pool of tasks, some of which are shared with the others and belong to projects
  • being able to assign a task to multiple contexts (projects/views/boards/tags)
  • an overview on those tasks that I can easily tweak
  • personalised views and organisation of the tasks (including shared) for the other team members

RTM+iGoogle combo

I actually had something that worked very well when during my PhD time. It was a combination of Remember The Milk for task management and iGoogle (discontinued) that I used to create an overview on the work to be done. It was a really handy combination and I really regret of not posting a blogpost about it then (it still somewhere in drafts, but doesn’t make much sense without the screenshots).

My tasks in RTM were organised into smart lists, which essentially allow showing one task in a many different contexts. For example, something like “write an introduction to chapter 3” could be shown in “PhD: discuss with profs”, “PhD: Chapter 3” and “Next week”.

I had a couple of iGoogle overview pages, each of which included a bunch of customisable gadgets used to show tasks from RTM smart lists. As far as I remember I used two views the most. One included an overview of everything related to my PhD, another – all the tasks, including non-work ones sliced by urgent/important, locations and types of activities (e.g. “all writing” or “all shopping”).

The only real problem I had with that combo was lack of intergration of non-work tasks between me and Robert, since he used Trello at work. I could send him tasks by email, but this is how far it got. But for my own tasks it worked perfectly, allowing me to add tasks easily, to snow them in various combinations and to switch contexts easily.

iGoogle was discontinued around the time when I stopped working. I continued to use RTM on and off. At slow periods it was too much hassle: I operate pretty well with a paper lists that I update as soon as needed. At more busy times I missed the dashboard of iGoogle to manage the complexity and reverted to a combination of paper lists for urgent tasks and various reminders/events for long-term and repeating tasks.

Trello and what doesn’t work

Now, since we work together with Robert, I decided to give a try to Trello. We also added kids to the mix, with the oldest two having their own Trello accounts and learning how use them. We have tried various paper lists with the kids – they work for a short term projects, but do not help much with repeating tasks, so an online option is something I wanted to explore (another one is a paper version of Scrum :).

I created a couple of boards and started to fill them in, share and do things. I quickly run into the problem of getting a good overview across the boards. Trello home page and a personal overview both have a very limited way of showing what’s up. Yes, I can filter and orders the tasks, but what I miss being able to organise them in space manually and switch on/off specific contexts.

I schould have been warned about lack of proper overviews in Trello when Robert told me that he uses one board to manage work and private tasks. Since higher level overviews do not work for me I ended up doing the same – adding everything into one board. Of course after that I quickly lost overview within that board as well as the flexibility of choosing contexts (e.g. focusing on homeschooling tasks only).

I also miss the flexibility of RTH smart lists: I’d love to be able to have a task in a “project” and “today” lists simultaneousely and allowing the kids to add it in some other list of their own.

By now I’m pretty frustrated with it, but not giving up before digging dipper in what are the options within Trello. May be what I need can be done with add ons or saved searches feature of the paid verstions. Of course, any advice, experiences or ideas for alternatives are welcome.

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