The most productive people and teams are obsessed with capturing and completing tasks, and they keep iterating their systems until they’re completely satisfied. Which is where the story of ActionMethod begins.
Four years ago, we at Behance weren’t satisfied with the project management systems available, so we decided to embark on a passion project to help organize our own creative process. We called it ActionMethod, and it became our internal system for staying on task as we built Behance, our platform to showcase and discover creative work. Our goal was to create a fast, simple, customizable, cloud-based task management app — a well-designed system that would manage everything actionable in our work — and lives.
Today, what started as a passion project has become a powerful task management system used by creative people and teams around the world. To mark this week’s launch of a brand-new, fully upgraded version of ActionMethod, I wanted to share a few thoughts on taking action as well as my personal approach to task management and pushing projects forward.
1. Create great tasks!
Every task I create gets saved within a project in my life (whether personal or professional). I assign the color orange for items with extreme importance, and grey for low importance. I assign a due date to almost every task. If it’s more of a “Backburner Item” (something I want to do at an unspecified date in the future), I create the task without a due date, and ActionMethod will automatically lump these Backburner Items together at the bottom of each project.
2. Organize projects within groups.
In ActionMethod, every Action Step (or task) must be assigned to a project. I’ve created many projects, and most of them are organized under group names. For example, under the group name “Behance Network,” I have projects like “Community Outreach,” “Network Development,” “Network Marketing,” etc. Another one of my group names is “Personal,” under which I have projects like “Notes To Write” and “Financial Management.” Sometimes I view my tasks by Group, so I can see all of the tasks for related projects at once. Other times I will spend time focusing on one project at a time.
3. Use your focus area… to focus!
I select up to 5 tasks every day — from across all of my projects — that I need to focus on. I usually just drag them into the “Focus Area” on the top right. Or often times, on the way to work in the morning, I will select a few on my iPhone and click “Add To Focus.” This creates a simple, uncluttered list that I can refer to throughout the day to stay on track.
4. Delegate tasks, and then filter by person.
One of the best parts of ActionMethod is the ability to delegate tasks to anyone with an email address. Of course, this also means that anyone can delegate tasks to you as well! Whenever you get a task delegated to you, you must choose to “accept” or “reject” it. When you accept it, you place it in a project. Every day, I quickly filter all of my tasks by “Delegated to Others” and “Delegated to Me.” By doing this, I can quickly identify who I need to nag, and where I am a bottleneck.
5. Use color for importance, dates for deadlines.
In a chaotic world, how do we balance the important with the urgent? I assign colors to each task (orange, blue, or grey) based on level of importance. Separately, I assign due dates based on urgency and deadlines. While I spend most of my day completing tasks that are due today and tomorrow, I also try to sort by color to keep the orange (very important) tasks top of mind.
6. Use keyword search to be a better manager.
There are many tasks that I create, across projects, for things I want to check on — and ensure are completed. I include the word “ensure” in these tasks, which lets me search “All Action Steps” with the word “ensure” to get a view on everything I need to confirm as a manager.
7. Share a project for transparency and collaboration.
I “share” certain projects in order to provide visibility to my team on tasks in projects that we’re collaborating on. Every now and then, I’ll click “View All Action Steps” in a shared project to see what other people are doing. By sharing a project (just click the gear icon next to any project in the list!), you can allow other people you work with to see your tasks — and you can see theirs. In addition, you can share files in a shared project — and start discussions.
8. Start a ritual of bumping overdue tasks.
Every evening, I bump (or quickly complete) my overdue tasks to future dates. In ActionMethod, you can simply drag the tasks to future dates. Alternatively, you can just click the date icon to select a new due date in the future.
If you’re a past user, you’ll be pleased to hear that we re-designed and re-built the application from the ground up. You can learn more about the changes and updates we made to the application on our team blog.
I hope these tips are helpful if you use ActionMethod — or any other online task management tool. Whatever you do, keep iterating and work with a bias-towards-action. Thanks for your feedback as we continue to improve ActionMethod as one of Behance’s efforts to organize and empower the creative world!