Life is busier than ever these days, and we all have huge numbers of things to do in any one day. We also have longer-term activities that it can be difficult to keep on top of.
Discrete tasks and larger jobs can seem to weigh us down, to the point where we procrastinate and become daunted rather than getting on with things. The idea of some kind of task management software might appeal, but the very idea of learning a new application, with all its complexities, can be off-putting.
That’s where Task Coach comes in. It has a beguilingly simple appearance behind which lies enough features to help people manage the vast bulk of what they need to do every day.
Task Coach can help you take the ‘Getting Things Done’ approach to managing your life. One of the key elements to this approach is to break down seemingly large and complex activities into small, discrete, manageable tasks. Doing this can make big projects less daunting and so easier to accomplish.
Task Coach is very flexible. You can make a simple task list or a complex schedule with sub level tasks, reminders, priority levels and even progress monitoring. Priority levels for tasks aren’t predefined – you can set them yourself, enabling you to manage different types of job some of which might have just three priority levels while other might require more.
If you are using Task Coach for paid work, you can monitor budgetary information, and can even keep track of effort, matching this against revenue to help with money management and invoicing.
While Task Coach is quite an accomplished application with lots of options, we suggest you keep it simple to start with and explore the more complex features over time. Stick to using it for a few simple tasks at first. That way you will be able to spend your energy on getting things done rather than on learning the detail of the software.
Task Coach isn’t good for managing multiple people on a single project – it's not a true project management application in that sense. We forgive it for that (it's free after all) and use it as a personal time- and task-management tool.
One feature we'd love to see is data stored in the cloud rather than locally. This means your tasks can’t be synchronised via the cloud across a range of devices such as your computer, tablet and phone. Should the developers add this facility, it would be just about the perfect tool for every busy person.
How to use Task Coach
Step 1. Go to www.taskcoach.org and download the free copy of Task Coach for your device. We’re looking at the Windows version here. During the install routine you can set Task Coach to start when Windows is started. Do that if you want it to always be ready to use.
Step 2. Run the application and you'll see the main window is where tasks are listed. The smaller left-hand pane is for categories. There are two menus bars. The lower one lets you define and manage tasks, the upper one offers higher-level functions.
Step 3. To add a task click the New Task icon (fourth from the left on the bottom menu bar). You can add a lot of information for each task giving you some idea of the complexity of activities Task Coach can manage.
Step 4. Click the Categories tab and then click the New icon fourth from the left. Add a category name and a description if you like. You can add notes and attachments to category descriptions and change their appearance.
Step 5. Click the Appearance tab and decide on a colour and font for the task category. You can assign an icon to it as well – a whole library of icons is included within Task Coach. Assigning colours, fonts and icons to categories can enhance the process of task management.
Step 6. Close the Categories window. Edit your task's appearance and assign it to the new category using the Appearance and Categories tabs. Close the window. Click ‘New sub-item’ fifth from the left on the bottom menu bar and add individual tasks, personalising the appearance as before.
Step 7. Right-click on a task for quick access to options. Drag and drop tasks to reorder them. By default tasks are marked as not completed. Use the right-click menu or menu bar icon to mark them as completed. Create new categories and sub categories in the right hand pane as required.
Step 8. Add a deadline date to a task by right-clicking to enter a new task then choosing the Dates tab. You can monitor a planned start date against the actual start date and set reminders, recurrence and repeats.
Step 9. Use the effort tracker to see how long you spend at tasks. Click the View menu to open this and other view windows, and drag the window over the screen orientation you want. Let go and it drops into place. Close a window as usual by clicking on the red X.