by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 13 March 2012
I postpone tasks and projects. I leave things to the last minute, hoping for a flash of inspiration and concentration. If something can be done today, I prefer to do it tomorrow.
Yet, I know I can do good if only I could organize myself.
This week's solution might just help me do that. We'll review Sandglaz, a task management app that enables you to manage personal and project tasks in a "dead simple" way. We will look at Sandglaz's features, interface and see how it can be of use to you.
Designing A Task Management App
While in University, Zaid Zawaideh, co-founder of the application, read about the Eisenhower matrix for time management. Intrigued, he tried implementing the concept but found it difficult because of "cumbersome" excel spreadsheets.
Years later, he revisited the idea with Nada Aldahleh, a software engineer with strong opinions on user interface. Together, they designed Sandglaz using a matrix to design the solution.
"Sandglaz solves the problem of complex and long task lists by allowing users to chunk down their long lists - visually - into weekly or monthly milestones so that they are easy to track and take significantly less time and effort to prioritize and manage," says Aldahleh.
Aldahleh and Zawaideh first released their personal task management app in beta and, based on feedback, extended its functionality to project management.
The founders do not view the dual utilities of their app as mutually exclusive. "For decades, B2B software had crappy UI, which brings down user productivity," says Aldahleh. "Sandglaz is one place for all your tasks. And, it brings the good user experience of consumer software to the business world."
Thus, users can create multiple grids for home and work use and share each with its own audience and collaborators including co-workers and customers.
"If you have a successful product, you must have spent more time in the non-urgent/important quadrant designing an elegant solid architecture and less time in the urgent/important quadrant firefighting with patches and broken code," says Aldahleh.
Managing Tasks Using Sandglaz
Sandglaz divides your tasks based on the Eisenhower matrix, which was later popularized by noted management writer Stephen Covey in his book - The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The matrix divides your tasks into four quadrants: urgent/important, not urgent/important, urgent/not important, and not urgent/not important.
Sandglaz extended this concept.
Thus, grids are color-coded and can be extended infinitely. In addition, the interface is simple enough for users to move tasks around.
You can use the solution to manage personal and professional tasks. While the personal task list is fairly intuitive and simple, I was more interested in Infinity grids. Think of infinity grids as a midway concept between calendars and To Do lists. While the former is specific, the latter is generic.
Infinity grids enable you to establish rough time frames for your activities. You can establish customized milestones for each grid and share specific tasks with team members. The solution assists you in time management by pushing incomplete tasks to the next milestone.
The interesting thing about Infinity Grids is that it can be used as an agile project management solution. For example, Aldahleh tells me that it can be used for product backlog management where each milestone is a release cycle.
How does a simple task management app compare with relatively sophisticated solutions already available in the market? Aldahleh says that Sandglaz is, in fact, superior to other agile project management solutions in the market. She lists several reasons in support of her argument. For example:
Most of Aldahleh's points are valid; however, given the complexities and dependencies (such as resource management) involved in project management, I think the solution works best with an agile project management solution.
In addition, the solution could do with more third-party integrations. For example, it would be great if the solution had email integrations that enable users to get notifications of important tasks and meetings. Similarly, email alerts at the end or beginning of a day for personal tasks could extend the application's functionality.
The good news is that the solution's developers are listening. Among the several important planned future updates are numerous third-party integrations such as Google calendar and iCal, incoming emails, and accepting meeting invites and changes to their API.
The Basics: What Does The Interface Look Like?
Because time-management is a necessary and intuitive activity, the user interface in task management apps is extremely important. The interface should be simple enough for the user to figure out on his or her own. However, beneath the interface, it should have an underlying complexity that enables users to add, subtract, multiply or categorize tasks based on complexity.
Sandglaz succeeds on both counts.
The grid-based interface is simple, clean and intuitive. In addition, it is reasonably extensible. That is, it can be extended to list personal and project management tasks. "Obsessed with user experience, we push the limits of current browsers to make Sandglaz as easy-to-use as a text editor," says Aldahleh. As an example, she says it is the only task manager where you can click anywhere and type, and tasks are saved on the fly.
Supporting Task Management
For a solution that is relatively small-scale, the folks at Sandglaz have fairly extensive support. Support consists of online help and support forums.
Is It For You?
If, like me, you procrastinate, then this product is for you. With its easy-to-use interface and simplicity, this is a great product. The added bonus is the intriguing idea of combining personal and professional task management. I have already created an account here!