With the release of GroupWise 8 last month, many customers are buzzing about the Home View, the robust contact management and the cross-boundary calendaring. But another significant enhancement, one equally able to boost productivity for your end users, is in the area of task management.
In fact, as we met with GroupWise customers early in the development cycle to find out what they wanted in the next release, we found almost everyone cares a lot about managing tasks. This makes sense, because in combination with just about any smart phone (and GroupWise Mobile Server or BlackBerry Enterprise Server), GroupWise can be a powerful productivity management system—one that helps users optimize their time and take care of their tasks at work and even in their personal lives.
Those meetings with customers made it clear that there was a need for a robust personal productivity dashboard that integrates not only e-mail, calendars, contacts, team workspaces and the other elements that represent where and how work gets done, but the tasks that represent the work itself.
A staggering amount of information, assignments, appointments and requests comes at each of us every day through electronic means. David Allen, a productivity guru, talks about achieving “stress-free productivity” and offers a sensible system for managing the e-deluge with the following five steps:
- Collect all the “stuff” that comes at you every day. For most of our users, that stuff comes to their mailbox in GroupWise.
- Process the stuff, narrowing it down to things you want to deal with.
- Organize the items left into categories: next actions, appointments, someday, delegate or discard.
- Review all the things you have to do.
- Pick the next and most important thing to do, and get it done.
The new GroupWise 8 client can help your users perform all of these steps more effectively, as well as come up with their own methods to handle all of the work that comes their way.
Bringing it All Together with the Home View
By giving users a dashboard view of all the things they are supposed to do, the Home View helps them select the next action to take. Gregg Hinchman, a GroupWise consultant, says that since he adopted the Home View, he has increased his efficiency and been able to juggle a tremendously busy schedule while running his own consulting business.
Another trend contributes to the need for a Home View: desktop and even laptop screens keep getting bigger, and cinematic formats are more popular than ever. To take advantage of this new screen real estate, GroupWise 8 supports multiple columns, each of which can be divided into multiple panels.
Having a set of panels together on the same screen helps users see their next actions, appointments, reminders, incoming messages, and contacts in one place; they can trust that this system is keeping track of all their commitments, so they don’t have to. This frees them to focus on bringing all their expertise and experience on handling the next task. (See Figure 1.)
There's a powerful new social element in the Home View as well: with GroupWise 8, users can share their favorite Home View customizations. Lead users can create customizations from which many more users can benefit. IT groups can roll out GroupWise 8 and let users take over the innovation.
Turning Stuff into Action
The best strategy for managing your mailbox is to use it only for the activities to which it's best suited: handling a queue of incoming stuff, and transforming it into new ideas and action items based on what you need to do—not what everyone else wants you to do. When you’re processing incoming messages, focus on doing triage, and not getting sidetracked by lengthy tasks. Here's a simple process for increasing e-mail effectiveness:
- If you don’t care about the contents of the message, throw it in the trash. GroupWise 8 message preview lines allows you to do this without even opening the message. Right from the list you can see the first few sentences of a message and decide how you want to handle it. For example, if a message simply says “thanks” in the preview line, you can just file the message away or discard it without having to open it.
- If something you see takes two minutes or less to handle, just do it right then: read it, write your response, make a quick phone call, fire off an IM session—whatever the task requires—and then either delete it or save it in a reference folder if you think you might need it again sometime.
- If there's a task that will take more than two minutes to complete—a document needs to be reviewed, a little research needs to be done, phone calls need to be made—drag that item to your tasklist folder and save it for later. If someone else needs to do the work, pass it on and move the message to a checklist folder of delegated things you want to monitor.
The GroupWise design team knows that the job of processing incoming messages is one of transformation—turning stuff into actions or knowledge—so they made it easy to drag e-mails into the tasklist and the calendar. With this feature, you can quickly turn an itinerary into a calendar appointment, or a request for help into a task to be added to the list. (See Figure 2.)
Whether your users stick to such a disciplined process or not, the GroupWise 8 client has even more capabilities to help them manage their mailboxes more effectively. Key features include group labels, the navigation bar, categories with colors and discussion threads.
Group labels make it easier to organize lists of items in GroupWise 8 folders based on identical values in the sort field. For example, if messages are sorted by date, the group label shows all messages that came in on the same day.
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Change the sort to the sender, and the group label shows all messages from that person. Items in a grouping can be hidden or enumerated, making it easy to zero in on items in a particular group.
The navigation bar provides a quick way of switching views, each of which can have a custom arrangement of panels. A user's calendar tab might show the calendar, but might also have a separate panel in the view to show tasks.
GroupWise 8 also makes it easy to handle threads in the mailbox and from inside a message.
Categories with colors give users one more way to process their messages and other items within folders to make them stand out. GroupWise includes four default categories:
- low priority
But users can add whatever categories they want. In fact, you should encourage your users to come up with a set of categories that fit their work patterns and lifestyle. Other useful categories might be:
- phone calls
- at home
- on the road
- in office
Users can also collect items of the same category in a panel on their Home View. (See Figure 3.)
Planning Work to Get More Done
Since GroupWise 8 helps users spend less time beating back the message monster, they can spend more time working on their tasks. David Allen says that 50 to 150 tasks in a list are common for most people, with tasks varying in length from a few minutes to a few hours.
To support this simple and powerful model of task management, and based on suggestions from our customers, we made the following changes to GroupWise 8:
- We added a tasklist folder to the folder list pane. If an e-mail looks like it's going to take some time to deal with, users can just drag it from their mailbox to the tasklist folder.
- The tasklist folder shows all items dragged to the folder, as well as any tasks placed in the calendar.
- Tasks have a percent complete attribute, so you can show how much progress has been made. Customers made it clear that this was important to them.
- Tasks can be broken down into a set of component tasks, and each of these can be marked complete or a certain percent complete. The percent complete indicator for each sub task rolls up to an overall percentage for the parent task.
- It's easy to change the order of tasks by dragging and dropping them.
- Tasks can be personalized and annotated to make more sense.
- Tasks can be marked with categories to make them even more useful. For example, you might categorize tasks that are phone calls, or tasks that have to be done today, and even display them in their own panel.
- Due dates are optional. You can use them if you need them.
- Mailbox cleanup does not remove tasks, so users don't have to worry about important tasks disappearing from the system when other items are purged.
With a built-in tasklist folder that combines the old “hard” calendar tasks and the softer tasks tied to e-mail, it's easy for everyone to use GroupWise 8 to get more done. (See Figure 4.) But there's more. It's also possible to create any folder as a task folder, providing flexibility to use this new capability for light projects.
GroupWise 8 creates a productivity dashboard to help users get more done, and feel better about the work they do as well. Along with the right task management habits, your users can go beyond effectiveness and efficiency – they can revolutionize their ability to support your organizational goals. By helping users keep better track of what they have to do and helping them manage tasks in the way that suits them best, GroupWise 8 can support your users in developing more creative ideas, serving more clients, completing more projects, and fueling even more business success.