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Task Management - Outlook Add-in or Standalone Product?

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  • Task Management - Outlook Add-in or Standalone Product?

    I don't know about anyone else here, but I've been struggling over the
    last year to make a decision whether to manage my tasks through an
    Outlook add-in like Franklin Covey's PlanPlus for Outlook, or a
    standalone product like MyLifeOrganized.

    I'm a heavy Outlook user, as it is our company's tool of choice, and
    I'm managing 100-200 e-mails a day within it (using ClearContext as a
    way to prioritize them), and a lot of my tasks originate from the e-
    mails I receive. The ONLY problem with outlook for me is the lack of
    hierarchal tasks, but it's a big one as I need to structure them like

    I've tried Frankin Covey's PlanPlus, and like the fact that I can
    create Projects and hierarchal tasks. A huge plus is that all the task
    are within outlook, and can be synched with my PPC, Blackberry, etc.
    The big negative is that it appears buggy and "takes over" Outlook.
    Based on past history, it doesn't seem like they are very good at
    fixing bugs.

    MyLifeOrganized, on the other hand, is an excellent task management
    program. However, it requires I synch tasks between it and Outlook. I
    also lose the integration and links between my tasks and the e-mail
    the task originated from.

    I would appreciate opinions from anyone who has gone through this. Is
    there something I'm missing?

    Thanks in advance for your help!!

  • #2
    Why not the DA plug in? It should give you what you want, without the issues of the FC plug in.


    • #3
      've dealt with the same problem myself. I practically live in Outlook during the workday, so I knew I couldn’t get too far away from that. My first suggestion would be to check out Michael Linenberger’s excellent “Total Workday Control Using Microsoft Outlook.” He offers some good tips on setting up custom views that make the task list much more useful. This is the “front end” to my system because using Linenberger’s suggestions for custom views, I only see what is either overdue (which is a no-no!) or due today on my task pad.

      I use MindManager Pro 6 as the “back end” of my task management system. It allows you to create new Outlook tasks natively. I can compile a bevy of next actions, arranged by project, which greatly aids in project planning. Of these, I pick out the ones that are necessary to move my projects along and mark them due today (or tomorrow if I have a chance to work in a daily review). This adds them to the task pad in Outlook (which serves as my next actions list for the day. I can change the details or mark them complete in either program, which helps keep things synced. Whenever I exhaust my list, I can either keep working on stuff without referring to my lists or flip back to MindManager and load up my task pad again.

      I really liked My Life Organized, and I would have purchased a copy had I not already made a heft investment in MMP6. My suggestion is to search the forums, find suggestions of possible programs (MindManager, MLO, Jello Dashboard, Taonotes, etc.), and give each of the trials a shot. If you find something that works well for you, then adopt that solution.

      BTW, Outlook 2007 supports sorting tasks by Categories, which should allow you to create categories using your project names and sort your tasks by them. May or may not be helpful, but just thought that I might mention it.


      • #4
        @Rebuild: Is "DA" David Allen. If so, i may try the new version coming out this month

        @Big Wes. Thanks for the feedback. I'm actually grouping my tasks in Outlook by Categories. I use one set of categories for Project Name, one for context, and one for Person Responsbile. This gives me a way to "slice and dice" different ways. This only allows one level of Hierarchy, though.

        Thanks guys (gals?)


        • #5
          I've been skewered in these forums for having the unmitigated audacity to speak favorably of Franklin Covey's PlanPlus 4 for Outlook--suggesting, for example, that it can be useful and is much more stable and agile than the previous version--so I will do it again. It's Projects center, which allows a hierarchical organization of tasks within projects, is the principal reason I use it, although I also like it's Home view. I find the PlanPlus Today view superior to Outlook's native Today view, but can do without the Goals, Mission, Compass, etc. views. If I could remove them, I would. I've looked at MLO and Achieve Planner and although they are remarkable products, and many find them the perfect solution, I prefer to keep as much as possible within Outlook.

          As far as PlanPlus being "buggy".... I'm not quite sure what that means. Earlier versions have been notoriously balky and slow and crash-prone. I find version 4 vastly better behaved. The special PlanPlus views will take a second or two to load on my old and tired computer but I usually have quite a few resource-intensive applications running at the same time. From time to time everything will hang up while it tries to sort itself out, but I don't attribute that to Outlook or to PlanPlus. An Intuit CRM application I use (and am in the proces of replacing) seems to be the main culprit, but I also suspect that scans running intermittently in the background may play a role.

          Outlook with PlanPlus gives me the flexibility to view actions by context, by project, or by date. Since I am at or near a computer during most of my workdays, I tend to use context the least. Actions that I really want or need to complete on a certain day--and aren't associated with a project--usually go on a daily task list. (Actions that MUST be done on or by a certain day will often become all-day appointments a la the Davidco Outlook whitepaper so that they appear on monthly and weekly calendar views.) I try to set aside blocks of time to work on projects and during those times tend to focus on the project views and lists. And if you use a Palm or PPC, all of the PlanPlus views port over to the handheld device.

          I tried ClearContext and like it a lot, but removed it and reinstalled the Netcentrics GTD add-in when I saw screen shots of the new version scheduled for release later this month. The new project management page promises to collect all messages, notes, appointments and tasks related to a particular project in one space. A lot of times we collect important but not necessarily action-oriented information relevant to a project. For more than a decade I would put a lot of that information in PlanPlus's (and before that Ascend's) Daily Record (an old Franklin Covey habit) and then use Outlook's (or Lookout's) search capability to retrieve it. The new Netcentrics release should help.

          I also use MindManager. With apparently no limits on the number of maps that can be linked and layered, there are apparently no limits to the degree of complexity it can handle. A lot of my larger projects begin with mindmaps. Some of them get synced to Outlook. Some of them link to sections or tabs in OneNote. Some of them--those that require careful scheduling and monitoring--get synced to JCV Gantt Pro. What collection of tools I choose to use varies from project to project. But Outlook is always the core.

          It works, and it continues to evolve. I wish I could have just those elements from PlanPlus, ClearContext and the Netcentrics Add-In that I like, and dispense with the rest. But I have to live with what's available. Right now, I'm looking forward to seeing what the new Netcentrics add-in and Outlook 2007 have to offer. Then I'll re-evaluate.

          I've read Linenberger's book and found it useful. But the one I'm really looking forward to is Marc Orchant's new book on Outlook 2007 (scheduled pub. date is early April). Orchant is no stranger to these forums or to GTD and what he has had to say about technology tools and productivity has always been worth reading.
          Last edited by smithdoug; 02-02-2007, 01:13 PM.


          • #6

            Looks like you have tool overload like me

            I just took a look at the upcoming version of Netcentrics GTD add-in and I agree it looks promising. What I really like is the ability to link Journal Items to Projects. Now all info within Outlook can be seen in one place. This is a feature I've asked the ClearContext guys to add to their product. (Journal seems to be Outlook's Orphan child )

            PPO 4.0 dose have a lot of potential, but it always feels like a two step process. For instance, when creating a task from an e-mail, I cannot assign a project to it right away (i.e. it's not on the task form). I need to create the task first and then assign it to a project from within one of the PPO views.

            I've also started to use OneNote 2007 and I think it's a great place to capture bits of information and organize it by project, etc. (like what you do with the Daily Record). Maybe another option is to create a hierarchal task list in ON 2007 and create tasks in Outlook that are linked to these tasks. Then OneNote becomes the "Project Central".

            So in my mind right now, the products rate as follows:

            E-mail management:
            -ClearContext ++++
            -GTD Add-in ++
            -OneNote 0
            -Outlook +
            -PPO 4 +
            -MLO 0

            Task Management (including multi-level hierarchies)
            -ClearContext +++
            -GTD Add-in ++++
            -OneNote +
            -Outlook ++
            -PPO 4 +++
            -MLO ++++

            Project Management (including non-task info):
            -ClearContext +++
            -GTD Add-in ++++
            -OneNote +++
            -Outlook +
            -PPO 4 ++++
            -MLO +++

            Integration with Outlook:
            -ClearContext ++++
            -GTD Add-in ++++
            -OneNote +++
            -Outlook ++++
            -PPO 4 +++ (down a notch because you have to use PPO views to be useful)
            -MLO +

            Of course, just my opinion


            • #7

              I'm not familiar with OneNote 2007. Can you create hierarchies of tasks in ON 2007? Can you then re-organize the hierarchy?


              • #8
                Originally posted by smithdoug View Post

                I'm not familiar with OneNote 2007. Can you create hierarchies of tasks in ON 2007? Can you then re-organize the hierarchy?
                What you do is setup a table with a list of your tasks and indent whether they are subtasks or not. You can then create outlook task from these tasks and they stay linked


                • #9
                  Hi dgorecki. Since you already work so heavily in Outlook, I'd try working within it first before investigating a separate application. I like keeping things simple at first, so you may consider buying davidco's document on implementing GTD in Outlook using its built-in features. Last I checked it was $10; I found it straightforward to implement.

                  After that you might "escalate" to one of the plug-ins mentioned by others, then finally consider a stand-alone app if you're still not happy with the tools.