When it comes to all those tasks, to-dos and -- dare we say -- big ideas, business owners have a lot swirling around in their brains.
What to do with it all? That’s the idea behind Smartytask, a Web-based task-management system that channels productivity guru David Allen’s popular organizational system Getting Things Done laid out in his 2001 book of the same name.
Smartytask, based in Los Angeles, isn’t officially connected with or endorsed by Allen. Nor is Smartytask the first Web application to tout Getting Things Done compatibility, joining services such as Remember the Milk (up to $25 per year) and Toodleoo (up to $29.95 per year). But it attempts to put Allen’s easy-to-recognize organizational ethos into action for those just getting started with task management.
To get a feel for the tool, we’ve been using Smartytask for about the past month. Overall, while it lacks the complex collaborative and planning features of more sophisticated project-management tools such as Basecamp, LiquidPlanner or Manymoon, we found Smartytask to be a fast and easy way for those new to task management to de-clutter their work days.
What it is: Smartytask, which costs $9.99 per month or $99 per year after a free week trial, is an organized data dump and checklist for everything you want to get done today, tomorrow or even five years from now. For up-coming tasks, you input every action that needs to get done, categorize it and check it off when it gets finished. Actions can be organized by contexts and sub-contexts, say a “Phone Call” or “Sales Leads.” Actions can then be grouped by projects, due date, time and remaining effort to complete and practically anything else you define. Smartytask will email tasks to your inbox. But there is little or no group connectivity. The system is aimed primarily at single users. Smartytask doesn’t have a native app for mobile devices, but it does have a mobile version of the site that runs well on smartphones such as iPhone and Android.
What you might like: Smartytask provides a quick, effective way to organize and store vast amounts of task-related information and lets you design a way to act on those tasks. The Web tool is clutter-free and easy-to-use. We found it took about a half-hour to set up, which is fast by task-management tool standards. And there is almost none of the brain-locking concepts in other sophisticated organizational tools like Basecamp or LiquidPlanner -- no “range of estimates” or “remaining effort.”
Additionally, you can attach information to each action, including notes like instructions or phone numbers. We also liked a longer-term planning a feature called “Ticklers” that emails you when a future event or task that you input needs to be categorized.
Related: 10 Time-Management Tips That Work
But Smartytask is particularly apt at brainstorming big-picture ideas that can get lost in the day-to-day minutiae of running a business. Simply jot them down as they come to you and Smartytask does a nice job of helping you organize that information through simple outlines in a way that can help you see solutions to business problems. As you just down notes, and tag those notes, Smartytask begins to make simple outlines of your notes into larger thematic trees that are surprisingly effective at finding logic in diverse thoughts.
What you might not like: There is little prioritization of the tasks you enter into the system, a limited calendar and no group collaboration.
At some level, task management is all about chronology. And Smartytask is great at categorizing tasks and giving the high-level view of what needs to get done. But when it comes to the nuts and bolts of when things need to happen, Smartytask suffers. It can assign only calendar due dates, but no specific times. And those due-date reminders are sent en masse in easily ignored emails. Nor is there a much of a calendar function. You can program which dates reminders are sent to you and filter action lists by due dates, but there isn’t a calendar-view as you would find in Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook of your action lists. If you’re looking for a day planner, this isn’t it.
Another potential downside for some users, as previously stated, is that it lacks any collaboration or sharing tools for groups, making it impractical for anything beyond personal task-management.
The company didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Bottom line: Smartytask is a potential solution for the overloaded business owner with a lot of personal tasks to track. It’s fast to deploy, easy to understand and it should bring some order to the chaos. However, anything in your business that involves collaborating with others is going to require a different task-management system. And the tool takes some getting used to as far as organizing what needs to get done when, but it undoubtedly helped straighten up some of the mental clutter over the month we were testing it. And it is certainly an efficiency gain over trying to stay organized with paper and email.
But if you are looking to quickly inject some order into your business life, Smartytask can be a good place to start.