Useless Agenda: The Most Important Element Missing From Current Productivity Software

I’m going to get straight to the point here. The most crucial thing missing from every single task and project management app that I have used or tested (which totals to many) is proper goal integration. We’ve all seen goals used before in some apps so I need to clarify what I mean by “proper” and “integration” here. The goals that we’re used to seeing in apps are usually just lists or Gantt charts that have deadlines that you set, that’s it. I’m excluding habit-based apps like as habits, though within the realm of productivity, are not within the scope of what I am talking about.

Having a list or timeline chart of goal deadlines is good to have as a reference or reminder but the simplicity of this type of goal setup does very little more than handwriting on a Post-it note. And yes, there are apps out there like TeamGantt which allow you to add sub-tasks within a goal timeline, which is equivalent to just showing you a colored horizontal line to represent a task that has a due date that also happens to have subtasks; it’s just a different visual but does not actually offer you something better or different.

Then there’s apps like Asana that let you assign a deadline for an entire project, which is great to have, especially if you are working with others but once again this is just reminding you of a deadline, showing you a graph of your recent completed task activity, and letting you know how much time you have left to complete your remaining tasks for that particular project.

I’m a supporter of simplicity but when it comes to goals, the more advanced the goal system is, the better it can help you succeed, and here’s why and how.

  • Definitions Not Deadlines — Having a deadline for an entire high-level project is almost useless because things change and unexpected events and issues can (and will most likely) show up. A high-level project (think of this like the container) which could be your startup, your work, your band, etc. should have a defined goal to reach for not a deadline to finish everything by (which is absurd). For example, instead of giving your entire startup a deadline, you instead set a high-level goal for your startup, like “gain users” without a number. Then you set number defined goals for milestones.
  • Indie Milestones — I will define a milestone as a second tier goal under the main project goal. Now your high-level project will probably have projects within but don’t get it twisted here: a project does not have to align with a milestone. Milestones should be able to be independent of projects and tasks within the high-level project. If we stick to the startup example, your first milestone might be “gain 100 user signups” but your current project might be “add 1 unique feature” which could definitely help increase user signups but it also helps make your app or service better, meaning at this project isn’t exclusively related to your next goal. This type of relational but non-exclusive setup between projects and milestones will serve to provide room for flexibility and improvision as your high-level project moves forward (and hopefully grows).
  • Contextual Metrics — Tracking completed tasks, projects, and milestones is a fantastic way to not only soak in your wins but also to project your future timeline. But we shouldn’t just be counting what we’ve accomplished; we should also be linking our accomplishments to our losses and failures. For example, your team may have completed 100 tasks before the end of the year but you didn’t nearly complete enough milestones or projects during that same time period. Recognizing this dissonance is super key to not only predicting your future progress but also to help aid you in solving the issues that caused this oversight.
  • Weekly Quota — Having a goal or milestone with constant, weekly (and daily) target quotas is going to help you stay on track, accomplish a chunk every week until you reach the finish line. Without getting started immediately with adequate quota goals (or sub-goals), time is going to fly by and you will find yourself at the end of the year frustrated, wondering what happened. Maybe you need send out emails to get your startup featured on a popular blog website to help increase your user signup goal. By giving yourself an aggressive weekly target, even if you don’t come close to reach that target, you are still being proactive on a weekly basis which is crucial for reaching your goal. This is why setting a deadline for high-level goals can often be pointless because it’s almost impossible the quantify the number of emails you will need to send in order to gain 100 user signups. You just have to keep working at it every week until you get there.
  • Integrated Time Management — What if you have 5 or more projects and you want to try to make it work all at once. Well sure, but you need to know when and where you can fit in tasks and projects into your day, week, and month. A drag & drop system would be perfect for editing your schedule but a system that learns from your previous activity would be even better. Imagine one of your 5 projects is taking more time than you expected, the app could make suggestions for a better schedule so that you can keep chuggin’ away at everything full speed ahead.

As you can now see, having a better goal system is not science fiction, it’s something we can have today and it’s something we can all benefit from.

Agree or disagree? Feel free to comment below or send me a message on Twitter. Thanks for reading :)