When you need TIME management (not task management)

August 22, 2021

Task management and time management sound similar, but are not the same thing. In fact, I often see people trying to use tools designed to manage tasks to manage their time and vice versa—with predictably poor results.

Task management apps, such as OmniFocus and Things 3, help you track your tasks and projects. (Projects being collections of tasks that contribute to a shared outcome.) You list which tasks need to be done, in which order, and you have some way of marking the status of tasks.

Time management apps help you decide what to work on when. For example, your calendar is a time management app. The focus is on “when”, not on “what”.

There is overlap, of course. Many task management apps, including OmniFocus and Things 3, include some time management features: you can indicate when you’re planning to work on a task and you can set deadlines. Conversely, time management apps like calendars often have a rudimentary tasks feature, where you can write down a list of to-dos.

I find task managers useful for across-day time management, but not for within-day time management. For example, in Things 3, I might say “today, I plan to book a train ticket to London”. That’s today as opposed to yesterday, tomorrow, etc. But it doesn’t say what time of day I’ll do that task. There is no good way in Things 3 to help me decide what time of day I should book my ticket.

And for me that’s fine. Within each day, I tend to schedule my time organically, in my head. I don’t feel the need for a within-day time management app or technique.

For others, that doesn’t work. If you have a busy calendar full of meetings, you might need to reserve time for important tasks (in addition to reserving time for meetings). In that case, you probably need more than just a task management app like OmniFocus or Things 3. You need some way of managing your time within days, such as time blocking on a (paper or digital) calendar.

Could it be that you’re trying to use a task management tool for time management or vice versa?

Could it be that you’re fine on the across-day time management, but struggle to manage your time within each day?

If so, use a proper time management tool.

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