The Pros and Cons of Using a Collaborative Task Manager

Those who have been reading this site for a while know that I use two task managers for the work I do: one is for individual task management (OmniFocus) and the other is for collaborative efforts (Asana).1 I gave Asana a real shot for both, but the power and allure of OmniFocus kept bringing me back for more. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I need to use both types of task management solutions to deal with all of the projects and tasks I’ve got on the go, and it has worked.
In fact, I’d say it has worked well enough that it might be something that you’ll want to consider for yourself.

What I’ve done is put together some of the pros and cons of using a collaborative task manager in addition to using your standalone task manager (regardless of which one you use).


Using One Separates Your Own Tasks from Team-Based Tasks

Think of it as having a day planner for work and a day planner for home (yes, I’ve done this). It allows you to have clarity on both sides of the equation, with only as much crossover as you feel comfortable with. I know some people who will use something like Evernote as a shared notebook with teammates and take the items in there and bring them into their own task management solution. I also know some people who will simply double up on tasks in both so that they don’t lose their place (I don’t recommend this). What I like about have the separation is that creates a greater context by default. When I’m using Asana, I’m in one frame of mind and when I’m using OmniFocus I’m in another. That creates clarity, which enhances my productivity.

Connected to Those You’re Working With

When you use the ever-popular “Follow Up” context with OmniFocus (or your individual task manager of choice), you wind up laying a ‘wait and see’ game until you get an email or some other form of confirmation that the task has been completed. However, a collaborative task management solution allows for frictionless communication (for the most part), meaning that when you ask for a follow up on something or assign a task, you know that the other party is aware of it…as long as they are using the app, that is. There’s far more transparency within the team when you are all using a common solution, and that can create peace of mind that will allow you to move forward and make progress on additional team-based tasks and projects – as well as those things you are dealing with in your own personal task manager.

Platform Agnostic

Every collaborative task manager that I’ve used isn’t dependent on any one platform. Asana is web-based, as is Flow and numerous others. By being platform agnostic, once again friction is lessened. It doesn’t matter whether you use a Mac, a Windows machine or an Android device – you are connected to the collaborative task management solution. That kind of featuer is more important now than ever.


Lack of Customization

There is very little you can do to a team-based task manager that won’t impact others. The high-level features are usually controlled at the admin level and while you can do things like adjusting how you view tasks (in Asana, you can filter by date, My Priority, or tags, for example), the inability to truly make it your own isn’t as available as it is with something like Things or OmniFocus.

The (Supposed) Need for Two Task Managers

This one is a big one. I’d go as far as to say that this is the biggest drawback of all. Not everyone – in fact, not many – will see the need to have one task manager, let alone two. I’ve seen the benefit of using them in tandem – but the additional inboxes, the additional features to learn, the additional apps to have installed can be a huge deterrent for many people…even hardcore productivitiysts balk at the idea.

It’s my experience that you’ll need to take a good look at how much team-based items you have on your plate against those you simply have to deal with on your own. Weigh those and you’ll be able to have a good idea whether or not you can a make team-based task manager or personal task manager pull double duty, or if you’re going to need both to do what they do best in order to be as productive as you can be.

1 Try as I might, I can’t get those I work with on the Flow bandwagon. I use Flow on the chance that it may happen someday, but for now it lies there somewhat dormant. Sigh.