529 – To Do: Switch off Wunderlist

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Nearly 5 years ago, Microsoft acquired a German developer called 6wunderkinder, who built a cool, cross-platform task management tool, Wunderlist. Over the half-decade since, the back-end of Wunderlist was basically rebuilt so it could run on Azure (instead of its previous cloud platform), and many of the team who had developed Wunderlist moved to working on the Microsoft To Do app suite.

The To-Do To Do apps have evolved hugely over the last couple of years, and collectively are being positioned as the natural successor to Wunderlist.

clip_image004This week, Wunderlist was finally closed down. If you still have the app, you can carry on using it but the data won’t be backed up or synced and you won’t be able to migrate it. You can export the data from the service, and To Do has built-in Wunderlist migration tools that bring more-or-less everything across. Other task managers are also available.

The Microsoft To Do service has clip_image006integration with PowerAutomate (previously known as Flow).

The To Do team also updated the mobile apps (as announced on their blog), with a collection of new features and views of tasks, and the Windows app has also been tweaked lately too. New features include new Smart Lists, such as “All”, which shows everything in one huge list, grouped by category.

“Tasks” across different apps are being integrated more and more – To Do now lets you create tasks from flagged emails, or integrate tasks from Planner. Teams is going to rationalise tasks into a single UI too.

See here for more tips on using To Do.

Tip o’ the Week 410 – Inbox Zero for New Year?

clip_image001ToW has covered various strategies in dealing with email (189, 223, 310 and more), but this week’s tip is shamelessly lifted from a LinkedIn article by an erstwhile colleague and media industry leviathan, Tony Henderson.

Tony, it turns out, authored a book a few years back which offered a slightly different-than-the-norm spin on productivity and how to deal with some of the difficulties of the modern workplace. It’s from this tome that he picked some great tips in handling your inbox – perhaps leading to the ability to clear it completely and leave “inbox zero”.

The Eleven Rules of Email

  1. Daily Mail Test – “Never write anything in an email that you would not be happy for your mother to read on the front page of the Daily Mail.”
  2. Responding – Don’t be too quick to respond to email requests – emails are very easy to send, and it is often hard and time consuming to respond.
  3. Expectations – Get people to call you if they want something urgently so that you know whether they are really serious and why they need a response.
  4. Inbox Management – Clear your inbox every day to less than 30 emails (so the list does not reach the bottom of outlook page). Set up folders covering each area you work on – or groups you deal with – and file religiously – even if you have not always read. That way you can go back and review by topic and avoid the stress of an overfull inbox.
  5. Getting Things Actioned – if you are sending an email looking for someone to act flag that action is required by putting ACTION REQUIRED in the title which will mean that everyone who the email is copied will read it.  To make it really clear who and what you are asking you must highlight specific requests e.g.: “Action: Alan to check this issue and confirm.” This approach works well with people you know, but may be ignored by people who you don’t – a good idea to get verbal agreement first.
  6. Getting Your Message Across – If you need to get an email response from senior people who are busy or don’t know you very well.                       
    • Construct your title carefully (perhaps write it as a proposition such as – “Getting final approval for Project X”).
    • Get the message over in three short and punchy paragraphs – no more.
    • If you want approval, ask for it by asking them to merely reply to that email and type “yes”. This works very well as it makes it so easy for them to respond!
    • Remember that people are all really pressured by email but generally always scan the title and first few lines.
  7. Avoiding Inevitable Email Accidents – the speed and simplicity of email will always lead to some mistakes; many of them can be rectified by adopting two simple principles.
    • Set a Delay – Set a sending delay of at least 2 minutes on your Outbox – it gives you just enough time to delete that accidental email. Better still you can set it for specific addresses such as clients.
    • Double Check Addresses – Double check your address lines in email before you send – Outlook auto insert often puts odd names in there.
  8. Arguments – Never, ever have an argument by email – everyone loses and it is recoded for posterity. If you sense a disagreement coming, make a call or organise a face to face meeting and then circulate the conclusions by email.
  9. Favourite Form of Communication – Email is not everyone’s favourite form of communication. Some people are better “live”, others like to use the phone, and others respond to formal letters or memos. Try and find out which form your key people like and use it for important communications.
  10. Circulation List – When you need to respond to an email with a wide circulation on it, you need to stop and think. Do I need to send this to everyone? Is this “thread” wasting a lot of people’s time? (You can be sure that it is).
  11. Interruptions – While internal emails can be a huge waste of time they can also avoid unnecessary interruptions. After you have interrupted someone at their desk it can take up to 30 minutes for them to get back to their original task.
    So while talk is best, email may be a useful method to log a question or thought. Equally making a note and saving it for a lunchtime chat is also a good option.

See Tony’s article here, and The Leopard in the Pinstripe Suit, here.

Tip o’ the Week 376 – Toodle-oo, Wunderlist!

clip_image002Toodle-oo (like it’s synonym, toodle pip) is, if you’re not otherwise familiar, a charming and olde-wurlde English way of bidding farewell. It seems somewhat appropriate, as Microsoft announced plans to retire Wunderlist in favour of a new app that’s been in the works for a while, with the codename Project Cheshire.

Reviewers who had an early look at Cheshire around a year ago, commented on the fact that it’s kinda similar to Wunderlist, in that both are trying to achieve the same sort of thing. As the product now called Microsoft To-Do was announced, it became clear that the team behind Wunderlist has been working to evolve some of what they’d done before, bringing tighter integration with Office 365 and the promise of more groovy features to come.

Right now, To-Do (to hyphenate, or not to hyphenate?) is in Preview, which means it’s not fully featured (eg sub-tasks that you might use in Wunderlist haven’t made an appearance yet), and as well as a web version, there are Windows, Android phone & iPhone apps – others are due though we’ll see whether the same breadth of coverage as Wunderlist provides is maintained. The Preview nature also means that Wunderlist isn’t going away soon, but it will eventually give way to To-Do, or http://todo.microsoft.com

clip_image004Start by signing in, and looking in the top left menu – if you have used Wunderlist before, it can import your existing tasks, thought it might take longer than you think. It’s a one-way process, so try to make sure you don’t keep adding stuff into Wunderlist, though you can choose to sync only selective task groups, so you could potentially re-import to get only new stuff. Be careful when running an import for the 2nd time – the process doesn’t merge sections that already exist, so if you’ve imported already, you might end up with lots of Project (1) type lists and tasks.

The preview version of To-Do also supports importing from the alternative todoist. The web client has an import command from the context menu under the user, but you may need to go to the Settings pane in other clients, or else just go to https://import.todo.microsoft.com/ and be done with it.

imageIf you sign in on a machine that’s already set up for Office 365, your default login to To-Do will be your O365 credentials, and it will automatically show you Outlook Tasks as to-do items… and synchronizes with Tasks as the back end for To-Do is Office 365.

You might need to play around a bit if you also use To-Do with your Microsoft Account – the one you maybe logged into Wunderlist with, for example…