Let’s face it, when you wake up in the morning, the devil is in the inbox. Opening it then isn’t always a recipe for productivity. But what if you could use an email client like Outlook and design your day according to the best task (and time) management rules? TaskCracker for Outlook is a task management add-in that seamlessly integrates with Microsoft’s email client and turns it into a planning tool.
From colored Post-It notes to sketch-pens, task management benefits from visual cues. TaskCracker ($39.95) also follows the same approach by breaking down your gigs and grinds on a colored matrix. So, let’s turn over our to-dos to TaskCracker and use it to show us how visual task management could prove to be a simpler productivity method.
We’re giving away 10 copies of TaskCracker for Outlook. Read on and join the competition.
Change The Way You Manage Tasks In Outlook
Outlook has its own Tasks and To-do list features which allow you to schedule all pending activities with the calendar. Outlook also organizes your email several ways (e.g. into folders) and flags them according to importance. In its own way, it is a powerful productivity aid with options that help you get into the nitty-gritty of each future activity. Outlook’s default feature is sufficient if you like linear lists. But linear lists have one failing — they do not give you a bird’s eye view of your calendar.
As you can see in the screenshot of Outlook above, the queue of pending tasks doesn’t tell you much at a glance. A linear to-do list also does not distinctly separate tasks on the basis of time and priority. TaskCracker attacks these flaws with a visual matrix which we get into further down.
A Microsoft Outlook Task Management Add-in
TaskCracker installs as an add-in within the native interface of Microsoft Outlook. It is supported in Microsoft Outlook 2003, 2007, 2010, and 2013. The small add-in is installed in a blink. Launch Outlook to see TaskCracker as a new tab on the Ribbon and also as a button on the Navigation pane.
Click on TaskCracker to reveal the grid. As you can see in the screenshot below, TaskCracker calls this layout the Visual urgency / Importance matrix. All your accumulated tasks are neatly sorted according to their relative importance and due dates for completion.
You can go back to the default Outlook Tasks and To-do List view by clicking the respective buttons on the Navigation pane. Although, I am pretty sure you would prefer the structured view of TaskCracker.
TaskCracker has absolutely no learning curve as it supplants itself on the schedules you have set up in Outlook. It merely gives you a more visual way of organizing your daily, weekly, and future plans. You can create a new task in the usual way and enter the details in the New Task dialog. TaskCracker recognizes the priority level and the urgency flags and assigns them logically on the matrix. Progress (as percentage) is indicated on each task.
Any emails which have been flagged for follow-up are also assigned their respective places on the TaskCracker matrix. So, you can deal with both email follow-ups and other tasks in the same place. Hover over the column heads to see the exact days.
The urgency-importance matrix is color-coded which helps you easily differentiate between the action items. To rearrange the priority of the tasks around the matrix, you can select a task individually or take them in groups and organize them with a drag-and-drop under other time-priority heads. Use the Shift key to select contiguous tasks or the Ctrl key to select non-contiguous ones before you drag-and-drop them. One possible kink is that you can’t drag-and-drop to change the priority within the cell in the matrix. I would have loved the use of arrow keys here to quickly reorder tasks around the columns.
What would have taken minutes in an overwhelmingly long linear list, takes a few seconds here. A right-click on any task provides a few standard options as you can see below in the screenshot:
You can also go into the Settings and enable a few options to make the visual display more detailed:
As you can see in the next screenshot, I have set up the tasks to show me folder names, reminders, and recurrence from the Settings.
The Clear Benefits of Visual Task Management
TaskCracker is a simple add-in. It doesn’t do anything dramatically different. But with a simple introduction of the urgency/importance matrix, it taps into the wisdom of the best time management practices like Eisenhower’s matrix, Getting Things Done, and Stephen Covey Time Management. As it integrates email action items into the workflow, TaskCracker helps you reclaim your inbox and reach the state of — Inbox Zero. So, you have three clear benefits:
- It increases your efficiency by making the time management process more visible.
- It helps you balance urgent and important tasks. Urgent tasks are not always important while important tasks may not be urgent.
- It clarifies your goals and helps you improve communication and information sharing.
Try TaskCracker for Outlook. If you are a visual person, we are sure you will like its effectiveness which it packages with simplicity.
How do I win a copy of TaskCracker?
You may enter by submitting your name and email address. You’ll receive one entry simply by doing so.
After that, you’ll also be offered various methods to earn additional entries. They range from sharing a link to this giveaway on social networks; to commenting or visiting a specific page. The more you participate, the higher your chances of winning! You will receive 5 additional entries into the giveaway for every successful referral via your shared links.
This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, September 13. The winners will be selected at random and informed via email.
- Ciprian Hriscu
- Ryan Campbell
- Daniel Gosk
- Scott Macmillan
- Amar Rjoub
- Kim Burnett
- Tarek Ramadan
- Baldo Sanfilippo
- Cora Rogers
- Scott Hunt
Congratulations! If you were selected as a winner, you would have received your license via email from firstname.lastname@example.org. If you require any assistance, please get in touch with Jackson Chung before October 13. Enquires beyond this date will not be entertained.