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I have used simple excel-style Gantt Charts to create a high level plan of tasks for the academic semester, noted the end times depending on conference and grant deadlines, and then managed my time according to the deadline. I have also added details under each task as the semester proceeds. I am wondering if there are better task planning & management tools that people have used, especially when they are working on multiple projects with different deadlines?

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    I am a bit old fashioned with this - I have pieces of paper in a very large physical Gantt chart on my wall. – user70612 Apr 21 '17 at 23:25
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    A frivolous comment: although I certainly do recognize the issue, my own sincere answer would be "none"... although I do acknowledge that I may be one of the "grandfathered-in" "old people" who "are not compliant". In any case, I write paper notes to myself, and try to TeX them suitably (I'm a mathematician) and back them up suitably. – paul garrett Apr 21 '17 at 23:26
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    @paulgarrett my system does not crash - unless the wall collapses – user70612 Apr 22 '17 at 0:05
  • I find Mac OS X's Notes application does the job rather well :) For a long-term todo list, you just make a multi-level bullet point list under different headings, and cross things off when you're done. I sometimes cherry pick some of the tasks into a short-term todo list (e.g. for a weekend), and then update the long-term todo list again once I'm done. – Stuart Golodetz Apr 23 '17 at 9:48
  • The problem with a simple bullet list is that there is no time tracker. I cannot keep track of deadlines easily or even the amount of time I am investing on each item. But I do see the value in simplicity. – tan Apr 23 '17 at 18:43
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I have tried many kinds of the task planning apps/softwares for organizing reseach projects. At the end of my search, I interstingly find that ('old school') simple online spreadsheets (Google sheets or Microsoft excel etc.) are the best tools by many standards as outlined below.

  1. Simplicity: Just make a column for date/time and rest can be the variables such as name of the project, members of reaserch group etc. The entries in each row can be task planned for each member.
  2. Customizability: Every project is likely be different from each other. So rather than sticking to the pre-alloted platform, spreadsheets allow wide canvas to add all and any kinds of variables (eg. holidays etc.) into your plans.
  3. Sharability: Applications such Google sheets and Microsoft Excel are well developed, cross-platform tools which allow user friendly sharability and simultaneous editing by multiple users.
  4. Quick analyses: Since it's a spreadsheet afterall, one can easily plot numerical variables such as time wasted per day, number of pages written per day etc. This allows pretty good real time progress reports of the projects.

I would therefore recommend spreadsheets!

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A different approach would be the Kanban board, which you can use using online resources (like Trello) or simply sticky notes or a whiteboard. The concept revolves around listing your pending tasks, the tasks you are actually performing, and the completed tasks. As you complete your different activities, you move the respective sticky note from the "In progress" group to the "Completed", hence you have more room to move a new activity from the "To do" group, to the "In progress" column.

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