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Productivity - 11 min READ

Task management: 5 non-newbie ways to get things done at a new job

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Author photo: Shabnam Kakar

Shabnam Kakar


First off, congrats on the new job (or new role)!

Starting a new job can be super exciting—but also nerve-wracking. What’s your new “normal” going to be? What will your typical work day look like? What kinds of new tasks will you need to take care of? How will you ensure they all get done on time?

“Task management” is a super broad category that encompasses literally everything you have to do at work.

But everyone’s got a specific task management method that works best for them.

Maybe you’re the type who can sit at your desk and hammer out deliverables for eight hours straight. Maybe you use an app like Wunderlist or Trello to manage your tasks, or set reminders for yourself in Google Calendar (more GCal hacks here). Maybe you’re the classic pen-and-paper type.

Or maybe, you don’t have a technique yet—which is why you’re here, reading this blog post.

We’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll go over five task management methods that’ll make you a little bit less of a newb at in your new role, the pros and cons of each, some app suggestions for them, plus how to get started.

The first step is choosing a task management method.

Task management is not a one-size-fits-all thing.

So, it’s important to look at a few different options to help you figure out which task management method will work best for you.

We’ll go over the following five methods here:

  1. The “grocery list” method
  2. The “kanban” method
  3. The “6-box to-do list” method
  4. The “four Ds” method
  5. Classic pen and paper

1. The “grocery list” method.

If you’re looking for a no-frills way to manage your tasks, the grocery list method is for you.

It’s literally just a list of items with checkboxes next to them, similar to a grocery list (hence the name). You should also have due dates next to each task.

Just like that, all your tasks, their completion status, and due dates are available to you at a glance.

Apps you can use for this method:

  • Reminders: an iOS app that lets you create multiple to-do lists and even share them with others
  • Bixby: an Android app that lets you manage your tasks and reminds you to do them—it’s like having a secretary in your pocket
  • Wunderlist: a website and mobile app that lets you create organized to-do lists quickly and easily


  • The big picture of your tasks is always in view
  • Checking boxes feels great
  • Many list apps let you set reminders, so you’ll get push notifications reminding you about your tasks
  • Very easy and minimal effort, giving you little excuse to not do it


  • Not good for capturing intricate details or subtasks
  • Depending on which app you use, tasks may not always be arranged in order unless you move them manually

Pro-tip: Learn about the powerful task management tool that flies under the radar. (Yes, we're biased, and yes, it's a CRM.)

2. The “Kanban” method 

The word “Kanban” originates from Japanese and refers to a visual scheduling system. It’s since been adopted by Product teams as a simple way to track product feature releases and sprints.

The easiest way to use this method is with sticky notes and a board. Here’s how:

  1. Divide your board into three sections titled “To Do,” “Doing,” and “Done.”
  2. Write each of the tasks you need to get done on sticky notes, and stick them under “To Do.”
  3. As you start working on your tasks, move their respective sticky along your board through the “Done” section. (And then leave them on the “Done” section, so you can feel great about how much you got accomplished!)

Pro-tip: Take this method a step further by color-coding your sticky notes based on priority. For example, urgent items can be on neon pink stickies while low-priority items are yellow. Alternatively, you could use different colors to signify different projects, and make all the parts of a project the same color. Whatever floats your boat.

Not a fan of using paper? You can create a digital Kanban board instead. Trello is a perfect app for this.

Apps you can use for this method:

  • Trello: free task management tool that organizes your tasks into movable cards with a simple drag-and-drop interface (also a good collaboration tool)


  • The big picture of your tasks is always in view
  • Having a “Done” list can boost morale as you’ll see how much you’ve finished already


  • Not good for capturing intricate details or subtasks; using Trello as an example, you can add subtasks but they’re not visible unless you click on their parent task, so it’s easy for them to fall off the radar

3. The “6-box to-do list” method.

This method is similar to the grocery list method, but instead of simply listing all the tasks you need to complete, you choose the five top action items only and throw the rest of your tasks in a box at the bottom of the list.

The technique here is to put the less-important tasks out of mind while you focus on the top five tasks first. This is especially helpful for those of us who give equal amounts of love and attention to low-priority tasks as we do high ones.

While your low-priority tasks may be out of mind, they’re not out of sight. This way, you’ll still remember them so you can tend to them once the top part of your list is complete.

Apps you can use for this method:

  • Wunderlist: yes, you can use this for the grocery list method above, but Wunderlist also lets you create organized to-do lists quickly and easily
  • Todoist: to-list software with a clean, easy-to-use interface that reminds you about your tasks and even lets you set productivity goals


  • Forces you to prioritize your tasks
  • Helps prevent you from feeling overwhelmed with tasks by narrowing them down to just a few


  • Not good for capturing intricate details or subtasks

4. The “four Ds” method.

The four Ds are: Do, Delegate, Defer, and Drop.

This is a great task management method to use if you’ve just landed a new management position. Not only will it help you organize your own tasks, but all the tasks you need to get done as a team.

Separating the “Delegate”s from the “Do”s can make you breathe a sigh of relief, visually seeing that not everything on your task list is for you to do on your own.

“Defer” is essentially like hitting the snooze button a task, and “Drop” means you’re just not going to do it.

If you’re thinking, “why would I ever drop something?” think of it this way: if you’ve been telling yourself for years that you’re going to start packing a lunch for work even though you’ve never done so at a previous job, just drop it. All it’s doing is making your task list bigger than it has to be. Enjoy that take-out sushi at noon and a tidied-up task list.

Apps you can use for this method:

  • straightforward task manager that lets you add tags and rearrange your to-dos by priority (or which D they fall under)
  • Trello: another multi-talented app, Trello is not only the ideal kanban board, but its movable cards and simple drag-and-drop interface are also great for the 4 Ds task management method


  • Organizes all your tasks by who is going to own it: you, someone on your team, or no one


  • Makes “deferring” tasks awfully easy

5. The OG method: pen and paper.

Some people enjoy using a pen and paper to manage their tasks, and that’s totally okay. We won’t deny it, there’s something romantic and oh-so-satisfying about ticking items off a physical piece of paper.

Our advice for this one to use a notebook dedicated it to your task management—not loose sheets. That way everything stays in one place and in order, not scattered around your workplace. Carry this notebook on you at all times so you’re always able to whip it open and jot things down when new tasks come up.


  • Paper doesn’t use Wifi, so neither will you when focusing on your tasks (no chance now of getting distracted by cat videos on YouTube)
  • No apps to open up or log into; just open your notebook and go


  • You’re more likely to forget your notebook at home than say, your phone; so not having it constantly accessible is a concern
  • Paper isn’t the most durable medium, and can’t be backed by the cloud either so if you lose your list, it’s game over
  • No built-in alerts to notify you when a task is due

Here’s how to start managing tasks with your chosen method— and how to keep up with it.

Regardless of which task management method you choose, you can kick off your new routine by following these steps:

1. Write out every single task you have.

All those to-dos floating around your brain? Here’s your chance to spill them all out on to a single document (digital or paper works).

There are no rules here. Just write down every task you can think of that might need to be done at some point at your new gig. Don’t worry what order you’re listing them in yet—that’ll be covered in the next step.

2. Order your tasks by priority.

Next, you’ll need to organize your tasks by how important they are/how soon they’ll need to be completed.

You can do this either by using the “123 technique” for simpler lists, or the “ABC-123” technique for longer, more complicated to-do lists.

The 123 technique is pretty self-explanatory: you just stick a number next to each item on your list, ranking them by priority.

When you add ABC to it, this adds new layers to your prioritization. For example:

“A” tasks: These are the tasks you absolutely have to get done… or else there will be consequences such as affecting other tasks or your team’s tasks (like preparing speaking notes for a big meeting).

“B” tasks: These are things you need to do but nothing’s going to break if you don’t (like finding a new task management method).

“C” tasks: Low-priority things that you should do but won’t impact any other aspect of your life if you don’t (like organizing your dress shirts by sleeve length).

In this example, “A1” is the most important task.

3. Set aside time to make time.

Your task manager isn’t going to take care of itself.

So, set aside some time each day dedicated to keeping your to-do list up-to-date. This could be as simple as taking 10 minutes on the train on your way to work, or driving in 10 minutes early just to sort your tasks for the day.

Those few minutes will go a long way in making sure you stay on top of things. Plus, you’ll develop a great new routine for yourself which will help you settle into your new workspace.

Start your new job like you’ve been there a while.

With the right method under your belt, you’ll manage your tasks so well that your new coworkers won’t even be able to tell you’re the rookie of the group.

Want to take efficiency to the next level? Learn about how to use a CRM to really stay on top of your tasks and organize your workday.

Try Copper free

Instant activation, no credit card required. Give Copper a try today.

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