Choosing the Right Task Manager

Written by Professional Academy Management & Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights

Deciding on the right task manager can be difficult. Even after you’ve made the decision to invest your time and money in one, you might find that it doesn’t perform in the way you expected it to. Spending some time thinking about what you need and carrying out some research can pay dividends in the future.

What is a task manager?

Even if you don’t currently use a software programme to manage your tasks you probably have some sort of system in place to manage your to-dos – even if it’s just a pen and paper.

Task management is the process of moving a task through its lifecycle. A task manager works in conjunction with your calendar. Your calendar should show you a picture of the hard landscape of your day so you can identify when you can complete the tasks in your task manager

How can a task manager help you?

Task managers help you move tasks through their lifecycle more easily by showing you what you need to do and by when. If you undertake projects with teams at work or have a very busy personal life a task manager can make sure you never miss a deadline or appointment.

As with any system you use it’s important to trust it. This is where most people fail. If you believe in your system you can focus on what is important first – freeing your mind of distractions.

What’s out there?

Task manager


Pen and paper

A quick and simple way to get going with a to-do list. However, as soon as tasks become complicated or start to involve other people you will need to invest in a different tool.


An Apple only task management tool. Often criticised for being very complicated to use – but once you’ve mastered it it’s very powerful. You can only use it at an individual level so it’s not worth considering for teams.


A web-based task management tool. Great for teams but not as good for individual use. It has a comprehensive free subscription plan.


A bare-bones list style look and feel. However, it has many tools to make working projects and daily tasks quick and intuitive. There are three levels of subscription.


Great for both individuals and teams. Very simple and great for visual learners. Originally it was only online but it’s now available offline – at an experimental level.


A powerful cross-platform task manager. It uses due dates rather than start dates for tasks, which can take a while to get used to if you’re not familiar with the approach.


A cross-platform task manager. If you don’t like Omnifocus and you you’re looking for a cross-platform task manager this might be a good choice.

Switching costs

You might be in a position where you have already invested in a task manager, but even if you haven’t, you need to be clear in your mind what costs (both in time and money) are involved in switching from your current system to a new one.

A good way to approach this is to ask yourself whether the new system has any killer features i.e. features which will fundamentally change the way you work for the better. Or whether the system is 10x better i.e. 10 times better than what you’re using at the moment.

Other considerations

Here are some other factors to think about before you invest in a new task manager:

  • Scale – is the task manager just for you or do you need to add other people? Not all task managers will do both, in fact most of them specialise in one or the other.
  • Access – is the task manager accessible online and/or offline? Depending on how you work will impact on how important this is to you.
  • Support – how well does the company behind the task manager support its users? You should consider raising a support ticket with them to road test this.
  • Finance – is the company behind the task manager financially sound? What happens if they go bust? Generally speaking a company that has been operating for five years or more is a good call.
  • Cost – what is the monthly or annual cost to buy the task manager? Can you afford it?
  • Cross-platform – can the task manager be used across Apple, Windows and Android? Some tasks managers only operate on one system.

And finally

Technology in itself won’t make you productive, but it can certainly help you. Ask yourself what you want from a task manager before you are tempted to head online and begin your research.

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