TaskRing – User Guide

This document explains how to use the cloud based TaskRing activity system. TaskRing is used to communicate, prioritize, discuss, assign, estimate time and track tasks across a company. By shifting focus from messaging (email) to actions (tasks), TaskRing users can enhance effectiveness of an entire organization

Full User Guide

The above Quick Start guide is all you need to get started. We recommend getting comfortable with the basics above before getting into more advanced features below

Migration
TaskRing does not import data from other systems; however, it is recommended to simply use TaskRing for new information and reference your old system for old information. In a few, short months, you will be using TaskRing most of the time, abandoning the old system

Prioritization and Assignment

After setting a priority, a task may disappear from your Todo view until P3 is set. If you need to do a task immediately, do it and set P3 to Bypass. If a task is entered without selecting an owner, the task will appear on a manager’s list for setting Owner.

Security

Due to the complexities of the internet, it is not recommended in any online system to enter highly confidential information, such as passwords, important financial information, and so on. Note that tasks entered without selecting an Owner will appear on the list of multiple P2 managers.

Field Widths

It is recommended to adjust the Location field to ~10% of screen width and Action to ~40% by making other fields smaller

Discussion Format
Discussions are entered at the bottom of the Action field, intentionally free form; however, it is recommended to follow this format in which the writer and time stamp can always be seen on the line above each message

Recommended format Confusing inconsistent format example
00/00/00 John
Please contact ABC.
00/00/00 Mary
Do you have their number?
00/00/00 John
555-1212
00/00/00 Mary
When should I call?
00/00/00 John
Mary – Please contact ABC.
00/00/00 John
Do you have their number?
00/00/00 John 555-1212
When should I call?

If you don’t see a date/name stamp with your name at the bottom, click the Stamp button. Don’t state who you are speaking to because that person’s name will be stamped when you set the Next field.
TIP: Consider meeting personally for complex issues. Written communication is often but not always the most efficient method.

Default Order
Unless sorted otherwise, the order of the Todo filter is as follows:

  • Needs discussion,
  • Ready to assign,
  • Ready to prioritize,
  • Periodic due, and
  • Normal tasks.
Within those groups, tasks are sorted by P3 and then Entered date as a secondary key. This order encourages removal of obstacles from co-workers before doing one’s tasks.

Technical Tips

  • Sometimes programming changes to TaskRing will not appear until you press Ctrl+R to refresh the browser cache.
  • Make sure your PC speakers are working for audible notifications.
  • Changing views should take less than a second. If not, check your internet connection. Refresh times are shown at bottom of the screen.

Time-saving Tips

  • Try to write tasks concisely because a typical task is read about a dozen times. For example, instead of “I found spelling errors, so please check the spelling,” just write “Check spelling”—that way, tasks are easier to scan and prioritize.
  • When someone asks you to come to his or her desk/office regarding a task, consider first setting Next to that person so that upon your arrival, he or she can easily access the task.
  • When you have a question for a co-worker that will likely become a task, instead of sending an email and then creating a task, it is recommended to ask the question via TaskRing. For example, “Did you remember to fix the image?”
  • When applicable, use hyperlinks to help co-workers find documents, spreadsheets, web pages, and so on. in one click.To create a hyperlink: create plain text, highlight text, click Link button, paste URL, and click OK.
  • Consider entering hashtags in the Action field, so you can search accordingly. For example, if Karen wants to follow up on certain tasks of co-workers, she might enter “#karenfollow” in those tasks.

General Tips

  • If you did a task not on the list, add it (so you can look back and see how time is used and show what you accomplish).
  • It happens all the time: Mary requests that John does XYZ, and they walk off. John gets distracted and forgets to do XYZ. When you think of an idea or task, enter it right away to be sure it is retained.
  • To sort a field, click the grid heading.
  • Consider creating a company-wide shared document in which policies can be described that are particular to your company’s use of TaskRing. For example, the document might explain what types of tasks should be given which priorities: Who is responsible for which areas, rules about setting P1, P2, P3, and so on.
  • Organizations that are less hierarchical can set their own rules about who can set P3, simply by setting a policy.
  • To categorize tasks—e.g. Engineering, Accounting, or Sales—add the category as a prefix to the Location (e.g., Engineering | latest model | front wheels).

Interruptions

Each time you set Next to a co-worker, it creates an interruption, so try to avoid unnecessary use of the Next field. For example:

  • A co-worker asks if a task is still needed. Instead of replying “no,” it’s better to just set the priority to Skip.
  • A co-worker adds a task for you to do, and you reply “OK, will do.”
  • “I’m working on this” or “I’ll think about this”
  • A co-worker advises you of a change in a task. and you reply, “OK.”
  • After changing the priority of a task, you add the message: “I changed the priority.”

These are all non-actionable interruptions. There are exceptions in which non-actionable messages, like the above ones, are appropriate but usually they just distract the co-worker.

Also avoid messages that are covered by TaskRing functions. For example, “Please set priority” or “please assign an owner” are unnecessary as the system, when used properly, automatically prompts the proper person to take those actions

Remove Junk

In the Action field, try to remove elements of past discussions to speed reading for everyone involved. For example, a thread like, “Date, Date, Harry, Date, John> let’s meet. Mary> Let’s meet tomorrow, sorry I missed you, John> OK” can simply be deleted.

Mobile Use
When using TaskRing on a smartphone:

  • Swipe left for toolbar.
  • Exclamation mark = discuss.
  • Yellow task = late.

Priority Management

Activity lists tend to grow faster than people can finish tasks. Take comfort in knowing that you are doing well if you are usually working on the highest priority tasks, working efficiently, and moving tasks to the Done list. Also, consider setting the priority of questionable tasks to Skip to unclutter the list and make time for more strategic thinking.

The Ominous Ones

Why are there so many tasks with priority 1?

It’s human nature. When we get an idea, we think it’s the greatest, most important thing to do. So why bury it in the list at a lower priority? One, one, one. What’s the antidote?

  1. Enter Est to get a clear picture of which tasks are big vs small.
  2. Periodically review the one’s and lower some priorities (increase the number). (Seek supervisor approval if needed.)
  3. Or ask the TaskRing administrator to use the renumber function, which will change all 0s to 1; 1 to 2; 2 to 3; and so on up to 8 to 9 (9’s stay 9’s). Then, move the most important items from 2 back to 1.
  4. If needed, schedule a meeting to discuss priorities.

Navigating the Grid

ID Task number. At times, you might want to reference one task from another (e.g., “also see task 12345”).
Source The person who entered the task. To clarify the meaning of a task contact the Source.
Owner The person who does the task. If this field is left blank, a manager will assign the task. An asterisk (*) indicates that the owner should delegate the task to another person (or self) and then should uncheck the Owner to delegate checkbox.
P1 Initial priority is set by staff members who report to a middle manager.
P2 Priority set by the middle manager who reports to the CEO, general manager, or owner.
P3 Final priority is set by CEO, general manager, or owner. To request a change in P3, set P2 or start a discussion. Although staff should generally use the P value assigned to them (usually P1 or P2), direct use of P3 is sometimes warranted when a task is small and you are certain that a manager will agree with the priority.
Est Time estimate in hours. Time estimates help set priorities. Estimates can be far off, but an estimate is better than none. Time estimates are recommended for most tasks, especially periodic tasks.
Act Rough estimate of time spent in hours. It allows you to look back and see approximately where time was spent. If you forget to enter the time spent, enter it as soon as you remember or when completing the task.
Location This field indicates where the task applies: location on web site, program menu, location in office, and so on. If location is a URL, use a readable hyperlink.

 

Put the full location in the Location field. For example:

 

Bad Good
Location Website Website | order page | address field
Action On the order page in the address field add a description. Add description

 

Avoid repeating the location in the Action field. For example:

 

Bad Good
Location Website Website
Action Check spelling on the website. Check spelling
Action A description of the task. Try to begin with verb—e.g. avoid starting with If, Maybe, or I have. If you want to include the rationale for the task, enclose it in parenthesis to separate it from the actual task.

 

Notes and discussions go at bottom of this field. See Discussion format above.

 

Prefixing tasks with Please or similar adds unnecessary clutter (courtesy is implied).

Age Number of days since the task was entered.
Done Date task was done.
Test Who tested the result of the task (if needed after the task was marked done).
Next Next person in a discussion. See how discussions work in description of Action. Generally, don’t use this to announce that you entered a task unless urgent. Clear Next when a discussion or task is done. This field will clear automatically after a few days if Next is the same as the Owner. A number in parenthesis next to a name indicates the number of days the discussion has been waiting for a response.
Type N = Normal task.

 

P = Periodic task: The number indicates the period in days. When you do a periodic task, mark it done to hide it from the Todo view until it needs to be done again. New periodic tasks assume you did not do the task yet; mark it done if you did do the task recently. To change the next due date, without changing the period: click the Tickler button, select the date, click Save, click Cancel.

 

T = Tickler task: The number is how many days untill task needs to be done.

Late Late factor for periodic task; for example, if a period is 7 days and it was last done 14 days ago, the late factor is 2.
A File attachments—click to see attachments.

 

Priorities

Below is a table of priorities and their meanings.

Est? A request from a co-worker asking you to put a time estimate in the Est field so that a priority can be decided. After setting Est, clear P3. This addresses a common problem in which the person who entered the task needs to know a time estimate from the person doing the task, in order to decide on priority. For example, if the task will take 10 minutes, it might be given high priority, but if 10 hours, it might be given low priority.
0 Emergency priority—don’t overuse it.
1 High priority—don’t overuse it (if everything is high priority, nothing is high priority).
2 Medium priority.
3 Lower priority.
4 … 9 Even lower priority.
Msg Used for e-mail and memos. Note: To send a message to several people, you can use multiple selection in the Owner drop list of the Create Task dlg. Set P3 to Msg—not P1 nor P2—you usually don’t need approval to send a msg. Do not use Msg for asking whether to do a task or an opinion on a task—that is what P1, 2, and 3 are for.
Auto Tasks you do automatically on an ongoing basis (e.g. bookkeeper paying bills, staff meeting, and son on). Auto tasks are a special type of Periodic task wherein you don’t need to be reminded to do the task. There is no need to mark them done. Keeping track of these tasks is useful because it helps to know how time is spent. Create appropriate Auto tasks based on the things you do. To create an Auto task: Click the + Button; P3 = Auto, Owner = yourself; fill Location and Action; set period to the approximate number of days between the times you do the task (e.g. 1 for daily, 7 for weekly, etc); set Est to the approximate average time you spend on the task each time. Auto tasks will not show in the normal Todo view; they will show in the Periodic view.
Bypass Task done without waiting for manager to set priority.
Meet Indicates that the item is for discussion in a meeting. Set P3 to Meet directly in most cases—not P1 nor P2—and set Owner to yourself. Consider showing a list of people at the first line of the Action field. A manager who wants to review a list with one of his or her reports might first set P1 to Meet on the tasks to be discussed. Sometimes it is convenient to have one Meet task per person so that all issues are on one screen during a meeting with that person. If you want to meet about a task in which you are neither Owner, Source, nor the supervisor of Owner, enter your name in brackets as the first line of Action (e.g., “<John>”).
Wait Waiting for something that is holding up the task.
Skip Decided not to do task, but want to keep it for archive.
Irrep Problem reported but could not be reproduced.
Dupe Duplicate of existing task but you want to keep it, so co-workers will understand that the task was not deleted.
Note Notes to self.
Paid Used by some contractors to mark task as paid.
Goal General goal (e.g. Clean code, Increase sales, and so on.
Progress This priority is intended to create an ongoing log of accomplishments; to see the forest thru the trees of done tasks. For example, you might have finished 50 tasks to revamp a website and then entered a Progress task—Revamped website. Generally, enter 0 for Act. Set P3 to Progress directly. Generally, it is recommended only to enter tasks in which you spent at least 40 hrs and to put time in Est, not Act. Mark the task done if done. To see tasks in which P3 = Progress, select Progress from the View droplist.

Toolbar

The following buttons appear on the toolbar:

+ Add a new task or done task for yourself or a co-worker. Check Notify when done if you want to be notified when the Owner completes the task. Check Owner to delegate if you want to specify in the Owner field who is responsible for setting the final owner. (This feature avoids unassigned tasks from cluttering the list of multiple managers if there are multiple managers.) See Main Grid above for details about each field. (The Propagate button copies P2 to P3 if P3 is empty or P1 to P2 if P2 is empty.)
Checkmark Mark a highlighted task as done. Click again to mark a done task as not done. To hide a done task immediately, refresh the browser.
X Delete highlighted task: First click on task ID to highlight. Sometimes it is better to set P3 to Skip to keep a record of the deletion. It is recommended not to delete done tasks, so you can see how time is spent and see your accomplishments.
>>  Copy P1 to P2 or P2 to P3 (used by managers).
Pen Edits selected task. Note that some lists are greyed, but you can set greyed items.
Paperclip Add attachment file related to the task. Try to keep files under 100kb.
2 pages Makes an additional copy of the highlighted task—usually to assign to more people.
Clipboard Copy highlighted task to clipboard—usually to allow to paste into a document
Clock If you want to occasionally time a task, click the button to start a minute timer; again to stop; and again to clear.
? Show Help.
Logout Logout of system.
Hand Marks a task as in-progress by setting Act to 0.1. It helps you keep track and gives managers a last chance to provide last-minute comments.
Bell Set’s tickler: Select date on calendar when you want to do task next.
Report Gives some stats on your list.
Face Preference settings. Notification settings allow you to select which types of changes you want to be notified about via a pop-up windows. If using in a company with everyone reporting directly to a CEO or owner consider turning off P1. If using TaskRing as an individual consider turning off P1, P2, Source, and Tested. Use Hide priority lower than if you want to omit low priority tasks from your list. Use Highlight blank est if you want to be reminded to fill the Est field for high priority tasks. Notify me when done allows you to indicate that you want to be notified when certain people complete any task.
Disk icon Allows authorized users to download all data for keeping a backup. It is highly recommended to backup data at least weekly.
Home Provides basic information about TaskRing.

Controls:

Search field Enter a text string and press Enter to find and filter matching tasks. Search occurs among tasks of selected person unless you first select All in person drop list. To search for a task number, enter the number. Use ctrl+F to find text on screen. Words less than 4 characters long must be in quotes. Note that a search, for example, for ATTACH will not match ATTACHMENT, but “ATTACH” (with quotes) will.
Person Select which list you want to view or All.

Views

The View drop list on the toolbar determines what shows on the grid and is influenced by the person selected–the DropUser.  In all cases, the filters are subject to access rights, which control which people have access to which lists.

Droplist Description Sorted by
Todo This is the most important view. Shows tasks requiring action by DropUser, including:

●     Simple tasks to be done.

●     Periodic tasks to be done every N days.

●     Tickler task to be done on a certain date.

●     Tasks needing prioritization by a manager.

●     Tasks awaiting assignment to someone (owner).

●     Tasks awaiting a time estimate (P3 = Est?).

●     Task needing discussion (Next = Dropuser).

Discussions at top, then  Unprioritized, Late, P3
Done Shows all tasks that are completed or in progress in the last 30 days (change the number in the search box for other time periods). The bar graph reflects time spent on tasks in the same period (one pixel per minute). Date of last Act
Done OTT Shows One-Time Tasks completed (excludes periodic and Msg tasks). Date of last Act
All Shows all tasks where Owner = DropUser P3
Entered Shows all tasks entered by Dropuser (Source = DropUser). Age
Entered Xover Shows task entered for coworkers Date entered
Reference Shows all tasks that have special values in P3 (Note, Goal, Wait, and Support). P3
Periodic Shows all tasks that are to be done on a periodic basis. Periodically, try to remove, automate, or delegate some of the tasks. The bar graphs are 1 pixel per minute per month. Ratio of Est/Per
Progress Shows tasks where P3 = Progress to give an overview of accomplishments. Age
Meet Shows all tasks that are to be referenced in a group meeting—P3 = Meet.
Tickler Shows all tasks that are to be done on a specific date, both due and not due (late and not late). Due date
Junk Shows all tasks that have P3 = Skip, Irrep, or Dupe—no action is needed. It can be helpful to retain such tasks so that the person who entered them knows about the priority decision. P3
Discuss Shows all tasks in discussion (Next = DropUser)—mainly for use with DropUser = All. Next
Unassigned Tasks not yet assigned to anyone (Owner is empty).
Limbo Shows unprioritized tasks, so we can verify that they appear in a normal view —a debugging tool. Age

 

Reports

The toolbar Show Report button shows various statistics.

NOTE: For organizations accustomed to report metrics, TaskRing reports can be useful. Some organizations do not enable reports.

Average hrs/day if periodic tasks done on time:

Auto: This shows how many hours per day, in theory, a person spends on tasks where P3 = Auto. It also shows the quantity of such tasks.

Reminder: This shows how many hours per day a person spends on periodic reminder tasks, the quantity of such tasks and the average value of the Lateness field.

All: This shows how many hours per day, in theory, a person spends on Auto and Reminder tasks combined.

Tasks you created in your todo list (last 90 days): This shows the percent of tasks that were entered for yourself, as opposed to someone else.

Priority counts (normal tasks): This shows how many tasks there are for each priority level.

Productivity:

This shows several bar graphs. Grey squares indicate a projection to the future based on the portion of the current month.

Productivity:

This shows several bar graphs. Grey squares indicate a projection to the future based on the portion of the current month.

 

Actual time spent (excluding auto tasks) 4 hrs per square

Shows how much time is available per day compared to time spent on tasks per month.

Tasks done (excluding Auto and periodic tasks ) – 2 tasks per square

Shows how many tasks were completed per month.

Task entered by you – 2 tasks per square

Shows how many tasks were entered per month.

 

Administrators

 

See “TaskRing – Administrator Guide