One of the workshops I run both inside firms and as a foundation module for my Manager Development Program, is Managing yourself and your priorities. (There is also an online self paced option in my online Learning Centre here.) It’s a fabulous workshop which helps people be more effective in how they work.
One thing I talk about in this workshop is a four step approach to capturing and managing the things you need to do, in a way that is super effective and reduces your stress. The first step is to have a place (or perhaps a few places) where you are able to record each task that is going to require your attention. It is important to get these out of your head for a couple of key reasons, with the obvious one being you might, (correction, you almost certainly will) forget something.
The question I ask participants is “what buckets do you currently have for capturing tasks?” The answers are varied but typically include things like my inbox, Outlook tasks, an app on my phone / tablet /PC, a book I carry with me, sticky notes, the firm’s job management system, a whiteboard, and many others. There is no right or wrong answer but whatever approach we take it makes sense that it fits with how we want to work.
Over the Christmas and New Year break I turned my mind to how I capture tasks and pondered whether some change was needed. I decided it was, and after significant research, I have adopted Microsoft Lists as a key tool for tracking tasks. I’ve dropped Trello in favour of this, although I have one client where we use Trello to track actions coming from coaching sessions as that is their preferred tool.
In the process of my research over a few hours I was somewhat surprised that Microsoft has at least 10 different tools for capturing and managing tasks. Yes 10 or more! Some non-Microsoft tools I often see being used include Trello, Asana, BaseCamp and Monday.com but there are countless others.
Microsoft tools (via M365 typically) are at the heart of most accounting firms. Given that you are likely already effectively paying for most of the task management tools offered by Microsoft, it would make sense to consider them. Here are eight I considered, in alphabetical order and with a link to a Microsoft page that is a good place to start:
What I found in my research is that Microsoft doesn’t appear to have a coherent strategy around task management and it is not always easy to understand the pros and cons of each and how they fit (or not fit) with elements of M365. Like me you will probably need to fish around a bit and draw on materials from Microsoft and also third parties. There are quite a few good videos but you have to be careful that they are not out of date as Microsoft has added, deleted and modified tools a lot in the past few years.
A recent Microsoft article (that was not available at the time of my research) that might help you make a start can be found here: What task management platform is best for me? | Microsoft Learn. Actually, it’s a really good place to start.
Here is another article you might find useful: Track and Manage Tasks | Microsoft 365
Whatever tool or tools you use, remember they are just tools and still need to have good process wrapped around them. Things like monthly /weekly /daily review to plan how time is to be used wisely.