Tasks - externalize, prioritize, schedule
The first step towards achieving a Task-Focused workweek is to create tasks in your Tasktop Dev Task List for everything you need to get done. Once all of your tasks are captured in the task list (offloaded from your mind into your Tasktop Dev), you will be free to concentrate completely on the task at hand rather than worrying about remembering the other tasks that need to get done.
Lets get started by adding a new task to book a flight to Hawaii next month. In the toolbar of the Task List view, click on the New Task button . The New Task wizard (shown below) will open requesting you select a repository to hold your new task. For tasks of a personal nature (not intended to be shared with others), select the "Local Tasks" option. For now select "Local Tasks" and press Finish.
Pressing finish will result in a "New Task" being created in the Uncategorized folder of the Task List and its associated editor opening in the main (central) area of your Tasktop Dev. To open the editor for this task again in the future, double click on the task in the Task List. In the text box near the top of the editor you will find the summary, currently "New Task". The summary is the text that will be visible in the Task List and is used for all identification and search within Tasktop Dev. Giving tasks a memorable name with pertinent keywords helps and starting your task summary with a verb is recommended. Replace the current summary "New Task" with your own i.e. "book trip to Hawaii" and press the save button located in the main Tasktop Dev toolbar. Notice that the label has been updated accordingly in the Task List.
Just below the task summary are a number of attributes that can optionally be set on your newly created task:
- Priority - Choose between five different levels of priority: Very Low, Low, Normal, High, Very High
- Status - Personal tasks can be in one of two states: Incomplete, Complete
- Created - This is the date the task was created and is not modifiable
- Completed - Upon changing the task Status to Complete, this field will report the completion date automatically
- URL - If a task is tightly coupled to a specific web site, enter the url here and use the trailing buttons to: reset the task summary to match the given web page title, open the web page
Tip: Most of these fields can be ignored with the exception of Priority. As the number of tasks increases, determining which to work on first can become a tough decision. To help this decision process, we recommend setting the Priority of a task upon initial creation then reprioritizing as part of your regular weekly planning process.
The next section of the local task editor is the Personal Planning section which allows you to optioanlly schedule a task. Note that if you do not schedule a task or set a due date for the task, it might not be shown in the task list if the focused mode is selected. Only tasks that have incoming changes or that are scheduled for this week will be shown when the task list is focused.
Here is a description of the main fields for a task:
- Scheduled for - if you have some sense for when you would like to make progress on a particular task, set a scheduled for date and Tasktop Dev will remind you when it is time to work on this task via a subtle notification popup. (Note that notifications can be turned off via Window (menu) > Preferences > Tasks and unselecting Display notifications for overdue tasks and incoming changes) Additionally, the task is guaranteed to be visible in a timely fashion within your Task List when it is focused on your work week (details of focusing the Task List on the workweek is available in the developerworks article).
- Due - if there is a hard deadline for this task, set it here. Tasks with a due date have a decoration in the Task List - . Over due tasks have a decoration in the Task List - . If the Task List is in focused mode, tasks with due dates in the current work week will be included, and tasks that have due dates on or before the current day will be displayed in red.
- Estimated hours - Set a time estimate for this task and enable the Task timing and progress bar to get visual feedback about your progress on a task.
- Active - reports the time spent working on this task
And finally, the Notes section of the local task editor is useful for jotting down information pertinent to task.
You've now successfully created, prioritized, and scheduled your task.
Where to go from here:
- Start working on your new task - lean about Task Activation and how a single click can quickly reveal just the important resources and simplify multitasking
- Learn how to organize your tasks into Categories
Task Activation - work Task-Focused
One of the core principles of working Task-Focused is that only the important resources (files, websites, etc) that pertain to your current task should be visible. The files and resources that are important to a task comprise what we term a Task Context. Any other uninteresting resources represent noise and only compounds the problem of information overload. By reducing the number of extraneous documents visible, Tasktop Dev helps you spend less time searching for documents and more time working towards your goals. Now that you've entered your tasks in the Task List, the key to working Task-Focused in Tasktop Dev is to activate each task as you work. This simple act of activating each task as you work will leverage your Tasktop Dev's focused web and document management, make multitasking a snap and enabling task time reporting.
In the Task List view, each task has a faint button to the left of its summary (see screenshot below). Pressing this button will activate the task. Upon activation the button will turn to . Inactive tasks that have been work on in the past and have files and/or web sites associated with it will have their activation button appear slightly filled in . Additionally, you can activate/deactivate a task from the task editor itself. Have a look again at the top banner section of the task editor and you will notice a button in the top right corner. Pressing this button will toggle the task active, depressing will deactivate the task.
Task-Focused Web Browsing
If you've been following along with our "book trip to Hawaii" task example, active this task now. With the "book trip to Hawaii" task active, open a new browser tab - press the button in the main Tasktop Dev toolbar (or press Ctrl+T). In the location bar of the browser tab, paste the following url: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawaii
Press enter while watching what happens in the Navigator view The Navigator view gives you access to file folders as well as web pages. If this view is focused, it shows you only the files/web pages that have been accessed for the activated task. Once the Hawaii Wikipedia page has finished loading, you will notice that the Navigator view's web node has a new entry for the Hawaii Wikipedia page you have just visited.
Navigating to a couple of the sections of this Hawaii wiki page will result in further population of the Navigator view with the portions of the page visited making it simple to navigate to the pertinent sections of the web site.
This reduces the need for explicit book marking although you can make a bookmark of one of these nodes by right clicking on the node and selecting "Add to bookmarks" from the popup menu.
The more pages you visit the more will be added to the Web node of the Navigator view. Obviously if you visit many pages, the number of entries would soon become unmanageable. Fortunately, Tasktop De will eventually hide from view the pages you do not re-visit.
Tip: You can always expose hidden file and web content in the Navigator by holding down the Alt key while concurrently clicking on parent node (i.e., Web in this case) in the Navigator view or unfocus the view.
Tip: Accessing this Wikipedia page and other can be done quickly by entering your search terms (i.e. Hawaii in this case) into the web search text box and selecting Wikipedia from the search dropdown menu.
Where to go from here:
- Work task focused with your documents (i.e. Word, and Excel files) just as easily as we have here with web sites
- Learn how your Tasktop Dev can report on the time and progress made on tasks
Task-Focused Document Access
So far we've seen how to activate a task and work with web sites. We've seen the benefit of Task Activation and how it enables Task-Focused web browsing. Your Tasktop Dev also supports working Task-Focused with files such as images, and documents (i.e. Word, and Excel files). To get started working task-focused with your documents, you must first do a one time configuration step of linking the folders into Tasktop Dev that hold your documents. When working under Windows, a common practice is to link in your My Documents folder ("Documents" on Vista).
Now that all of your document folders are linked in, create and activate a new task called "explore my documents". At this point you might be wondering why those document folders you previously linked into your Tasktop Dev are not visible under the Folders node in the Navigator view. The reason for this is that the Navigator view is in focused mode - indicated by the depressed focus button in the Navigator toolbar . When in focused mode, the Navigator only displays the files that you have interacted with (opened, saved, browsed, etc) while the current task was active. At this point, we have yet to open or create any files as part of the "explore my documents" task therefore nothing appears. You can temporarily disable the focus filter by toggling the focus button. When not depressed, the Navigator will reveal all content you previously linked in. You can then locate and open a desired file. Pressing the focus filter button will again hide all your linked content but will now reveal the file you just opened. Another way to quickly add existing files to the context of this active task so they are revealed is to search for a familiar document title using the Find field in the Navigator view.
Similar to when the focus filter is off, upon clicking on a file or opening the document, the file will become part of the task's context and remain visible even when the focus filter is on. Clearing the find filter will result in just the selected file being visible in the Navigator.
Now, to see the effects of all we've learned, activate the "book trip to Hawaii" task in the task list. Note that you do not have to explicitly deactivate the "explore my documents" task as it will first be deactivated and the "book trip to Hawaii" activated immediately after for you. With the "book trip to Hawaii" task now active the browser are restored and the web sites visible in the Navigator that we worked with previously as part of this task. We can now easily switch back to the "explore my documents" task by activating it in the Task List. The web pages associated with the previous task are cleared away for us and the Navigator reveals the files we were working with on the "explore my documents" task.
How often have you been deeply involved in your work only to be interrupted by a more immediate, possibly higher priority fire to deal with? Once the emergency is dealt with, returning to your previous work is often difficult and time consuming. Sometimes simply recalling what you were doing is difficult, let alone remembering and locating all the related documents and web pages you were working with. Tasktop Dev solves this problem for you making returning to a previously postponed task effortless. To see this in action, imagine you have just been asked to do some other work, you would start by deactivating the "book trip to Hawaii" task by pressing thebutton next to the task in the Task List. The web pages are closed and Tasktop Dev is ready for the next task. Follow the steps described above to create a new task. Upon returning to the "book trip to Hawaii" task whether it be hours, days, or months later, simply re-activate it by pressing on the task in the Task List and watch as your previously browsed web pages are restored automatically and the Navigator view is populated with familiar web sites and documents related to this task. Multitasking is now a single click experience.
Categories - organize your tasks
As you create more tasks in your Task List you may find the need to group related tasks together. To facilitate this need, the Task List has Categories. Right click in the Task List view and from the context menu, select New > Category. Enter a name for you new category in the resulting dialog. A category will now be present in your Task List. You can now move tasks into categories in a number of ways:
- Tasks can be dragged in and out of Categories in the Task List
- Right clicking on tasks in the Task List or right clicking within the Task editor to reveal the popup menu and selecting Move to > MyCategory will move the chosen task to MyCategory
Queries and Task Repositories - collaborate with others
Please see the the following pages for in depth discussion on setting up queries and retrieving tasks from bug repositories: