If you use Gmail or Google Calendar, you probably have at least a passing familiarity with Tasks, the minimalist to-do list feature that lingers in the corners of Google’s apps. Most users I know overlook Google Tasks because it looks so unassuming. But assume nothing: Tasks has what it takes to track tons of to-dos.
If your needs are minimal, Tasks can probably track everything you’ve got with no configuration. But for more robust GTD-style action tracking, here are six simple tricks that can turbocharge Tasks.
Pop It Out
If managing your tasks is an important part of your daily productivity, don’t keep it relegated to a corner of your Gmail or Google Calendar window. Pop it out of Gmail by clicking the arrow in the top-right corner of the Tasks box. This will create a separate window for Tasks, functioning more like a freestanding app than a module in your mail tab.
Make Multiple Lists
By default, Tasks has only one active list, cleverly named Default List. But you can create as many lists as you need to manage various projects. In the bottom-right corner of the Tasks box, click the button that looks like three bullet points and then click New list. Name it whatever you like (“home” or “work” or “groceries” or whatever) and start populating it.
To the right of every task you’ll see a right-pointing arrow bracket symbol (“>”). Click it and it’ll take you to the edit screen for that task, where you can set a due date, enter additional notes about the task, or move the task from one list to another.
Indent to Make Sub-tasks
Google Tasks doesn’t actually support dependencies, but it does offer a concession in the form of indented entries. You can drag any task into position under a related task and press the Tab key on your keyboard to indent it, signifying that it’s a subtask of the item of above it.
Use the Hotkeys
Tasks supports hotkeys for quick entries and easy editing. To indent, press Tab. To un-indent, press Shift+Tab. You can move a task up or down your list by hitting CTRL+Up or CTRL+Down. To edit details on the currently selected task, press Enter.
Take It Mobile
The simplicity of Google Tasks makes it an effective tool for smartphones. If you’re an Android user, check out GTasks, which faithfully reproduces Tasks’ functionality and offers excellent synching to your Google account. For iPhone, there are two options that stand out nicely. One is to use the Google Mobile app, which includes Tasks. The other is to point your browser to mail.google.com/tasks/iphone.
These are just some basic tricks that help unlock the flexibility of Tasks. It’s worth noting that, back in January, Google polled its users for feature requests for Tasks. Among the requested features were sharing capabilities, and the ability to view entries from multiple lists on one screen, sorted by due date. I can only hope Google delivers on these requests without messing with the tool’s simple interface.
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