Action Method: Can Task Management be “Radically Different”?

Oh hey! Look! It’s ANOTHER task/project-management application! Hold on for a second while I minimize the two other task-management apps on my computer, both of which are currently clamoring for my attention. Okay, now I’m…dang it, I gotta turn off my iPad; you don’t want me distracted by the to-do apps I’ve got synced on there. Oh, and while I’m thinking about it, give me one more second to hide my email app, otherwise my concentration will get diverted by the reminder emails coming in from the various task-managament apps that my coworkers use. Okay, now I’m ready. Whatcha got?

Action Method, huh? What’s so great about that? “A radically different approach to productivity,” you say. Well, as a frequent reader of the AppStorm network, I have to tell ya, virtually every task-management app on the market claims to do something “radically different.” But okay, I’ll bite. Let’s give it a whirl and see if Action Method lives up to its marketing.

Overview

The team at Behance sat down with hundreds of productive individuals and teams to interview them on their productivity habits. They concentrated on “creative” people, most of whom (by default) have a difficult time turning their ideas into reality. The result of all those interviews became the Action Method and all the products derived from it (i.e., web app, iPad app, iPhone app, notebooks, notepads, etc.).

The Action Method Eco-System

But what is the Action Method? In a nutshell, it’s the process of emphasizing not the noun of each of your tasks (the end product), but the verb (the action that produces the product). Instead of having a task that says, “Logo,” you have a task that says, “Design logo.”

How’s that for radically different?

Putting Email in Its Place

Okay, so maybe I’m being a little too sarcastic with Action Method. The folks at Behance obviously put a lot of time and effort into developing the Action Method, and they deserve credit for taking on the ginormous project of helping some of the most unorganized people in the world get their creative tasks in order.

One aspect of their methodology that I buy into completely is their recognition that the email inbox is a place designed for communication, not project management, which is why they’ve designed Action Method to stay out of your inbox.

That doesn’t mean they don’t send you emails when someone delegates a task to you or starts a discussion with you or shares a link or file with you, but it does mean that they’ve built in features so that the actions you take on those tasks, discussions, and references live inside the app. The idea is “to keep all revelevant information all in one place.”

And once Action Method emails you about the original task, reference, or discussion, it doesn’t send you another email whenever people update it; the discussion stays entirely within the app. This could be dangerous, of course, but if everyone gets into the habit of using Action Method, it helps that you don’t have to deal with the same information through both your inbox and the app.

Don’t do anything you don’t want

Another aspect of the methodology I agree with is the requirement that individuals accept the tasks you delegate to them, as well as the discussions you start with them. You can’t just assign tasks to people willy-nilly. Once they’re notified of your delegation, they decide whether they will accept your assignment. If they reject it, they can optionally provide you with a reason, or just reject it out-of-hand.

Is 'Do it yourself!' an appropriate reason?

When someone rejects your delegated task (or does anything else related to a shared project), the message appears in the notifications window at the bottom-left of the screen.

The red badge tells you how many notifications you have.

Nag, Message, or Appreciate

Look at the image above. You see that little chat bubble with the “a” in it? That’s not a button to bring up a chat window. It’s something much cooler.

It’s a little feature that lets you “nag, message, or appreciate” someone on your team. You’ll get 125 characters to say whatever you need to say, and then a little radio button to determine whether it’s a nag, a message, or a note of appreciation. When the nag gets to your recipient, it shows up in a little red box on your coworker’s screen; when you appreciate them, it shows up in a blue box.

Not as a good as buying them a drink, but still a decent feature.

The Other Stuff

There’s more to Action Method, of course. There’s the option of viewing everything in your project at once (action steps, references, discussions), as well as the opportunity to color-code your actions and projects to make them easy to filter. There’s also the events feature, which lets you set milestones and meeting reminders. And there’s also the cool “Backburners” section, which is where you store actions and projects that would be great to accomplish someday, but don’t have priority right now.

But is it radically different?

Radically different? No. Not at all. Well designed, yes. Great for collaboration, sure. But radically different? With so many apps on the market, we’re learning that there’s only so many ways to conceptualize getting things done. You can create lists of projects. You can develop areas or workflows to help you focus on what’s possible. And you can add some kind of delegation and/or messaging system. If you’re lucky, you can even add some storage space for files and features for collaborative writing (in real time or asynchronous).

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what “radically different” would look like in this space (if I could envision such a thing, maybe I’d be a millionaire), but I’ll you one thing: putting verbs in the front of your tasks is not it.

Final Thoughts

As with all task/project-management apps, you should go with the one that works best for you. Personally, I use Things for Mac and iPad, with a little bit of Basecamp for projects that require collaboration with other people. But that’s me. That’s what I use. If you’re happy with what you’ve got, stick with it.

But if you’re in the market for a new app in this category, or if you’re looking for something to help with collaboration, give Action Method a spin. It might not live up to its overinflated marketing, but it’s well-designed and richly featured nonetheless.

Editor’s note: Plus, for a free task management app, it’s actually an incredibly nice app. Perhaps not worth switching from you existing app, but if you’re looking for something new, you sure can’t beat the price!


Summary

Action Method is a task-management application designed especially for creative individuals and teams.

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