Thursday, May 31, 2012

How to Go Full-Screen and View More Tasks in GQueues

This post is part of the series, "Tips & Tricks Thursdays," which highlights ways you can take advantage of GQueues to be even more productive.

In Tuesday's post about mindful productivity the idea of focusing your attention is shown as paramount to being highly effective. When you're ready to do some serious prioritizing it can be useful to see as many of your tasks as possible. Today's tips will show you how to maximize your space in GQueues.

Full-Screen Mode

To enter full-screen mode go to the gear menu and choose Full Screen
choosing full screen from the menu
This hides the left panel of queues so you can focus on the tasks at hand.  
To return, just click the exit full-screen mode link at the top.
You can also use the keyboard shortcut f to toggle in and out of full-screen mode.
Full Screen mode in GQueues

Compact Display Density

To see more tasks on the screen at once, change the display density to Compact, which decreases the text size and reduces the white space between tasks.
Choose compact from the gear menu
Compact display density in GQueues
To go back, just choose the Comfortable option from the menu.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pondering Mindful Productivity

Several years ago, overwhelmed by the stresses of life, I signed up for an introductory meditation course in the hope of finding some tranquility. I sat in a dim room with nine other frazzled professionals as the instructor taught us to concentrate on our breathing, letting all other thoughts float away like clouds blowing past the peak of a mountain. As we practiced sitting and breathing we also learned several Zen principles to leading a more mindful life. One in particular, the idea of focusing on the present moment, I've found quite helpful in approaching my life's endless to-do list.

Accepting My Tasks

Though seemingly obvious, a prerequisite to living in the present moment is to first accept it. If you are always fighting the present, wishing it were something else or longing for the future, you cannot embrace the moment fully. Likewise, before you complete a task you must first accept it as something worth doing. Often I will find a task at the bottom of my list that has been ignored and postponed for quite some time. It's on the list because at some point I decided it should be accomplished, but if I look deep inside I realize that I haven't yet accepted it as one deserving my energy. Yes, it seems a little odd that soul searching is a necessary part of getting things done. For me, embracing a neglected task usually involves thinking about how it helps achieve the other goals in my life. Once accepted, then I will actually set about completing it.

Case in point, for the longest time I planned on merging the retirement accounts I had acquired from various jobs into a single IRA. It was the responsible thing to do, but an insipid chore I continually procrastinated. One day I embraced the task by mentally connecting it with the goal of simplifying my life, and then easily completed it within a few days.

Focusing Attention

In our breathing exercises we honed our concentration, letting go of all the thoughts and stresses that cluttered our minds so we could experience "right now" with more clarity. When I apply this same practice to my daily tasks I find that not only am I more efficient, but I produce better work. Much has been written about the concept of "flow" - the complete immersion in an activity - primarily because the results are astounding when one enters this mental state. True, blocking out distractions takes discipline and practice. While sitting on the meditation pillow I could rarely go ten seconds before my mind wandered off to the stresses of life. Ignoring texts and instant messaging is nearly impossible for me, but when I do, accomplishing my current task is so much easier. When I set out to develop a new feature, or fix a difficult bug, being fully present and focusing on one task at a time allows me to complete higher quality work, quicker.

Enjoying the Moment

Being present to the current moment also allows you to enjoy it more - precisely because you're actually aware of what's going on. Of course the same holds true when I'm working through my to-do list. Normally I loathe the tedious chore of updating the company books. However, as I enter the numbers in QuickBooks, if I stop worrying about all my other tasks and focus on doing a good job, I realize it's not all that bad. If I remember how this helps me reach the goal of growing my business, and that being precise now will help avoid problems in the future, I realize this once despised task is actually the best thing I could be doing right now.

By the end of the 8-week course we learned to transform the necessary act of breathing into a source of peace and renewal. For most of us, our to-do lists are a necessary reality of life. However, if we focus our attention as we complete the tasks, we discover we can experience the fullness of life itself instead of just getting things done.

Photo by Ian Burt

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How to Create Task Templates in GQueues

This post is part of a new series, "Tips & Tricks Thursdays," which highlights ways you can take advantage of GQueues to be even more productive. 

Many people use GQueues to manage all aspects of their life.  One question often asked is how to create "templates" - or entire sets of tasks that can be reused whenever needed.  In this post I'll cover three ways you can create task templates so you can save time and keystrokes.

Duplicate Queues
If you have an entire queue you want to use as a template you can simply duplicate the queue. For instance, if you run an annual summer conference you may want to copy last year's tasks as starting point for your planning. Some people even create a "Templates" category where they store these queues for easy access later.

Duplicate a Queue

Duplicate Parent Tasks
You can use a set of subtasks as a template by duplicating the parent task.  For example, you may have a set of tasks to complete every time a new tenant moves into a building.  The parent task can be duplicated and then moved to the queue for that specific property.

Duplicate Subtasks in GQueues

The Quick Add Window
For more complex sets of tasks you can use the Quick Add Window. Let's say you distribute a newsletter every month, where certain tasks are delegated to others with regular deadlines based on when the newsletter will go out.  You can write out all the tasks using the Quick Add Syntax and save this in the notes of a repeating task called "Create Newsletter Tasks."
Repeating task with Quick Add Syntax
Then, every month simply copy the notes into the Quick Add Window, which will create all the tasks, assignments and due dates for the upcoming newsletter.

Quick Add Window
Tasks created by Quick Add Window

Have you tried any of the methods above?  Are there other ways you're creating templates in GQueues?  Leave a comment to share your experiences.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What the Piano Taught Me About Stress-Free Productivity

Productivity is en vogue.  A quick search reveals a plethora of pointers about increasing one's productivity. Whether you're interested in getting things done, cultivating zen habits, or becoming a highly effective person, there's a system and list of tips just for you.  Though the sheer amount of advice can be overwhelming at times, after you read enough you start to notice themes and commonalities.  One popular tip that particularly resonates with me is to determine your Most Important Tasks for the day and tackle them first, focusing your energy on doing them really well.  It's a lesson I was taught early in life by my mother, a patient piano teacher who always insisted I was learning much more than how to play music.

Reduce Stress with Priorities

During my daily 30-minute practice sessions I had a tendency to play the familiar, easier music first, postponing new pieces (particularly those with lots of sharps or flats) to the end of the week.  Of course I would find myself stressed-out, frantically trying to learn the most difficult works the day before my lesson.  After a number of Saturday mornings with me sitting ill-prepared on the piano bench, my mother took the opportunity to offer some guidance.  If I spent the first 15 minutes each day working on the new pieces, she said, chipping away at each section, by the end of the week I would have them down, while still having plenty of time for the easier music.

Focused Energy First

It's a simple lesson in setting priorities, but one that is easy to ignore. With the onslaught of emails, meetings, and never-ending "emergencies," it's easy to postpone your most important, most challenging work until later.  This prolonging increases stress, and unfortunately when you do finally get to the tasks, you often lack the energy and focus needed to do your very best.   In my development of GQueues I've tried to instill the practice of doing my most important work first.  I pick one or two tasks for the day that are directly connected to my larger goals for the business.  I set about those right away, knowing that while I will be pulled in many directions throughout the day, my priorities are clear.  Though I don't always accomplish everything I intend, I usually make much more conscious decisions about how I'm spending my time.

Maintain Balance

Although I no longer take music lessons, the piano continues to teach me and help with balance in my life.  While practicing was a chore growing up, tickling the ivories has become a particular source of rejuvenation the last few years while running my own business.  During long days of development I often take 15-minute piano breaks from intensely focused periods of coding (usually 1-2 hours).  The rhythmic respites provide a much needed shift in mental exercise and leave me feeling refreshed for another work session.  When I decide I'm too busy for breaks, I actually get less done in the long run, as my productivity wanes when I stretch myself too far.  Focused, uninterrupted periods of work followed by short breaks keep me productive while reducing stress and helping me reach my goals.  And that's music to my ears.

Photo by C_Ambler

Monday, May 14, 2012

Fresh, New Look

In case you haven't seen it yet.....GQueues got a facelift this past weekend! The re-design is based on direct feedback from the user community.

While the new, cleaner look makes it easier to read and manage tasks, it also enables the addition of several new features users have been clamoring for:
This new, but intuitive look will hopefully allow you to manage your work more efficiently and be even more productive. Login now to try it out yourself or check out the new video below for a quick glimpse: