GMD Tutorial – How To Capture New Projects And Tasks

Achieve Planner provides a convenient way to help you capture new tasks and ideas that pop into your head while you are working on something else.

The Quick Task Entry feature provides a simple entry box where you can capture new projects, tasks and ideas for later processing.

The Quick Task Entry form is available by right-clicking on the Achieve Planner icon in the system tray area and selecting the command from the menu.

Notification menu

You can also use the Quick Task Entry HotKey defined in the general tab of the Options dialog (Tools  ->Options menu item.) This HotKey is available even while working on other applications. The default HotKey is Alt+Win+T key combination.

The following Quick Task Entry dialog appears when you use the HotKey or notify icon context menu.

Quick Task Entry dialog

This tutorial video walks you through the quick task entry process.

Quick Task Entry video cover

Click Here to View the Tutorial

How To Enter Multiple Tasks At Once

If you check the Enter multiple tasks… checkbox, then you can enter multiple tasks (one per line) and use indentation (spaces) to create subtasks at any level.

For example, if you enter the following tasks (replace (Space) with an actual space character):

Task # 1

(Space)(Space)Task # 2

(Space)(Space)Task # 3

Task #2 and Task # 3 will be children of Task # 1.

By default, Achieve Planner inserts the new tasks into a project called “<New Tasks>” (which by default is under the <Inbox> project.) You can also directly specify the parent for the new tasks using the Project button.

The default mode is to enter the task details into the box and then process them later, but if you already know the project where the new task belongs, you can specify it here as well.

This entry box doesn’t distinguish between projects and tasks, but you can make that distinction later during the processing step.

Check the Activate Achieve Planner… box if you want to activate the main Achieve Planner window when you add the tasks. Leave it unchecked if you want to return to the application you were working on after you add the tasks.

How To Add Notes To Tasks When Using Quick Task Entry

You can add notes to the new tasks by using ## to separate the task name from the note text.

For example,

Task 1.1##These are the notes that will be associated with the task.

Note: The Quick Task Entry HotKey can only be associated with a single Achieve Planner main window. If you have multiple files open simultaneously, the HotKey will only work for one of them. If you find that the HotKey is not working once you close all other Achieve Planner windows, invoke the Quick Task Entry from the system tray icon context menu to “rehook” the hot key.

GMD Tutorial – Zooming In On The Outline

If you want to be able to look at several sub-projects and all their tasks at the same time while you do your planning, then the Outline tab is the best place to do that.

You can use the “zooming” feature (also called hoisting in Outlining applications) to zoom-in on a specific project and only look at it’s sub-projects and their tasks together in one place.

For example, if you only want to see projects in the Work result area, you can use zooming to only view this particular branch of the outline.

  1. Select the row of the outline where you want to zoom in by clicking on the row header. This row will be the new root of the hierarchy after you zoom in. In this case, select the Work result area row
  2. Select the Outline->Zoom In command.

The outline should now be zoomed in on the Work result area, showing only its children. You can tell when the outline is zoomed because the caption of the outline grid displays the root of the zoom hierarchy.

Zoom: Work (Result Area)

If you want to see more of the hierarchy, you can use the Outline->Zoom Out and Outline->Clear Zoom commands.

  • Zoom Out – This command zooms out by one increment to the parent of the current zoom root
  • Clear Zoom This command clears the zoom completely and returns the outline to its normal state

To continue:

  1. Select the Outline->Clear Zoom command.

The normal outline should now be displayed once again.

You can zoom to a specific item in the Outline using the Outline -> Zoom to Item… command. This command displays a dialog box that lets you select the item that you want to use as the new zoom root in the Outline and is a handy way to switch from one zoom root to another.

GMD Tutorial – Converting Between Sub-Projects And Tasks

This tutorial shows you how to convert between sub-projects and tasks.

Converting projects/tasksClick Here to View the Tutorial

To convert a Task into a Project (in either the Outline or Tasks tabs):

  1. Select the Task(s) that you want to convert
  2. Use the Actions -> Convert into Project menu item to convert the task(s) into project(s)

NOTE: When you convert a task into a project, it will automatically become a sub-project of whatever project (or result area) the task was part of.

To convert a Project into a Task (in either the Outline or Projects tabs):

  1. Select the Project(s) that you want to convert
  2. Use the Actions -> Convert into Task menu item to convert the project(s) into task(s)

NOTE: When you convert a sub-project into a task, it will automatically become a task of it’s parent project. Any sub-projects (or tasks) of the project being converted will also become sub-tasks of the converted task.

GMD Tutorial – Bookmarking Using Next Action Reminders

This tutorial shows you how to use bookmarking to help you remember where you left off when you complete a project block and start working on something else.

Next Action Reminders TutorialClick Here to View the Tutorial

When you have done some work on a task and are ready to move on to something else without fully completing the task, you can use the
Actions -> Record Work/Expenses command to help you remember where you left off.

  1. Navigate to the Tasks tab and select a task for which you want to record some work
  2. Select the Actions->Record Work/Expenses command. This will bring up the Work/Expense Record dialog.
  3. Dialog

  4. Optionally enter how much time you spent on the task in the “Effort Spent” box. This will automatically reduce the effort left by that amount. If the Effort Left is a different amount, you can adjust it as needed.
  5. Optionally, enter the bookmark reminder task in the “Follow up action” box.
  6. Press the Add button.

The Work/Expense Record dialog provides the following fields:

  • Name – Name of the project/task for which you are recording work
  • Expected effort – Your original estimate of the amount of effort it would take to complete the task
  • Effort to Date – This is the “actual effort” for the task so far
  • Effort Spent – Enter the amount of work that you want to record for this task (for example: 30m, 2h)
  • Effort Left – Enter your estimate of the amount of work that is still needed to complete the task
  • Expected cost – Your original estimate of the cost of the task
  • Cost to Date – This is the “actual cost” for the task so far
  • Additional Cost – Enter the cost you want to add for this task (or leave blank)
  • Follow up action – Allows you to add a “next action reminder task” as a child of the current task to serve as a bookmark or reminder of where you left off

In the example above, after entering the above information, the task list for this project would contain:


Notice that the “Effort Left” field has been reduced from 30 min to 20 min because this is the amount entered into the Effort Left box of the dialog.

In addition, a new child task called “Left at chapter 5” was added to the “Come up with chapter titles” task. This is a next action reminder or bookmark task because its effort values are both set to 0h.

This tells Achieve Planner that it is not an actual task, but just a reminder of where you left off and what you need to do next when you continue working on the “Come up with chapter titles” task.

GMD Tutorial – Working With The Tasks Tab

This tutorial shows you how the Tasks tab supports the structured style of work.

Completing Tasks TutorialClick Here to View the Tutorial

The state column denotes the current “state” of a project or task. You can use this column to change to state of the item or to mark it as completed (C). Click on the dropdown arrow to see the various state codes.

State Column Available States

When you have completed a task or project, you can use the Actions-> Complete Task command to complete the task and record the work that you spent on it.

  1. Navigate to the Tasks tab and select the task that you want to complete.
  2. Select the Actions->Complete Task command (also available from context menu when you right-click on a task)
  3. Note: You can also complete a project/task by changing its state to (C) Completed.

  4. This will bring up the “Work/Expense Record to Complete” dialog.
  5. Fill in the effort and cost that you want to add, and optionally provide the next task that you need to do for this project in the “follow up action” box.
  6. Press the Add button to complete the task or Cancel to cancel the completion.

Work/Expense Record Dialog

Notice that the “Effort Left” box is disabled because you are completing the task, so it won’t have any effort left.

If you enter a task in the “Follow up action” box, it will be placed immediately after the task that you are completing in the task list.

In this case, the Effort and Effort Left fields are initialized to 30 min, which is the default value for new tasks. This indicates that the task is an actual task and not a next action reminder.

How to turn off the Work/Expense Record to Complete Dialog

If you would rather not record work/expenses when you complete a project or task, you can disable this dialog in the General tab of the Options dialog (Tools->Options)

Just uncheck the “Record work/expenses on project/task complete” box and the dialog will no longer appear. Check the box to restore the dialog when you complete a project/task.

When you complete a project/task, the completion date is recorded in the ‘Date Completed’ field available by default in the Completed Tasks view.

GMD Tutorial – Using Project Blocks To Guide Your Work

This tutorial shows you how Achieve Planner supports the structured style of work and how you can use your project blocks to get your work done.

Working With Tasks TutorialClick Here to View the Tutorial

The most common way of working with project blocks is to take advantage of the appointment reminder that comes up when the project block start time arrives.

When you select a project block appointment in the Reminders Window, the View Tasks button allows you to go to the Tasks tab filtered by that project.

Reminders Window

That will allow you to focus on just the tasks for that project and start working on the most important task first.

Another way to get to the Tasks tab when using project blocks is to right-click on a project block in the weekly schedule. You can use the View Tasks command in the context menu to take you to the Tasks tab filtered by that project.

Once you are in the Tasks tab, you can easily switch to a different project using the Project dropdown in the view bar, or using the Actions -> Switch Project (Ctrl+H) menu item.

GMD Tutorial – Weekly Planning Wizard

Achieve Planner supports several ways to create project blocks in your weekly schedule, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Weekly Planning Wizard

The method I use most frequently is the Weekly Planning Wizard, which helps you allocate time to different projects and then select the times when you are going to work on each of those projects during the week using project blocks.

I typically use the wizard as part of my weekly planning routine that I do Monday mornings just after doing a quick scan on my email to identify anything important that may affect how I plan the week.

For now, I’m going to focus on just the weekly planning wizard as a tool you can use to drop project blocks in your schedule.

The Wizard consists of five steps. Steps 1 and 2 deal with reviewing your result areas, goals and dreams, which is something that I typically do separately on Sunday nights.

I’m going to skip these steps for now.

For this tutorial, you’ll want to focus on steps 3, 4 and 5 of the wizard.

Step 3

In this step, you can select your time chart for the week, which will guide you later as you drop project blocks into your schedule.

Step 4

This step is where you decide the amount of time that you want to commit to your various projects this week.

The time commitments you make in this step are used in the next step to determine how many project blocks to create for each project.

Time Commitments

Step 5

In the final step, you use drag and drop to create project blocks for each of your big rock projects identified in step 4.

This step helps you put your big rock projects into your schedule first, and allows you to make time for important long-term projects that may not yet be urgent.

This video shows you how to use the Weekly Planning Wizard.

Weekly Planning WizardClick Here to View the Tutorial

Other Ways of Creating Project Blocks

While the weekly planning wizard is the best way to create project blocks, it only works at the start of the week.

When things change in the middle of the week, you need to do something else to adjust your schedule.

Some additional ways to create project blocks are:

  • Copying existing project blocks
  • Setting the project for new appointments
  • Scheduling project blocks from the Projects tab or Outline
  • Dragging projects from the project’s panel

Working with Project Blocks

This video shows you some other ways to create project blocks in your weekly schedule.

Working With Project BlocksClick Here to View the Tutorial

Moving or Copying Project Blocks

As your schedule changes, you’ll often find it useful to rearrange your project blocks by moving or copying them.

To move project blocks, you can use standard drag & drop:

  1. Click on the project block you want to move and, while holding down the left mouse button, move the block to its new location.
  2. You should see a floating image of the block as you drag it.
  3. Once you’ve moved the block to the place you want, release the left mouse button to complete the drop.

You can also select the project block, use the Edit->Cut menu command, move the selection to the new time for the block, and select the Edit -> Paste command.

To copy project blocks, you can use standard drag & copy drop:

  1. Click on the project block you want to copy and, while holding down the left mouse button, move the block to its new location.
  2. Press and hold down the CTRL key as you drag the block. You’ll notice that the cursor changes to include a (+) sign indicating a copy of the block will be made, and the original project block is now in its previous location.
  3. Move the copy to the date/time you want and release the left mouse button (while still holding down the CTRL key) to complete the copy drop.

Turning Appointments into Project Blocks

You can set or change the project associated with an appointment or project block:

  1. Right-click on an appointment or project block in the Weekly Schedule
  2. Select Set Project from the context menu.
  3. Chose the project from the tree
  4. Press ENTER key or press OK button

The appointment is now associated with the project that you selected.

Using the Projects Panel in the Weekly Schedule

You can create project blocks using the Project’s panel in the weekly schedule.

  1. You should see the Project’s pane hidden at the right edge of the screen. Hovering the mouse over the pane should display it.
  2. <-  expands to  ->   Project's Panel

    Note: If you don’t see the Projects pane, you can display it using the View­->Project Explorer command.

  3. Click on one of the Projects in the tree and, while holding down the left mouse button, drag it into the weekly schedule area.
  4. As you drag the mouse over the weekly schedule area, you should see a “Project Block” for the project. Drag this block to the desired location on the weekly schedule and release the left mouse button to drop it.

You should now have a project block for the project in the weekly schedule.

Using the Master Outline or Projects Tab

To create one or more project blocks from the Projects tab:

  1. Navigate to the Projects tab, or use the Go->Projects command.
  2. Select a Project for which you want to create a project block using the row header.
  3. Select the Actions->Schedule Block command (or right-click on the project row and select Schedule Block from the context menu.)
  4. The Weekly Schedule tab should become active and enter into drop mode. As you move the mouse around the screen, there should be a “project block” attached to your cursor.
  5. When you are ready to drop a project block, just click and release the left mouse button. This will drop a block at the current location.
  6. The weekly schedule will remain in “drop mode” allowing you to continue dropping more blocks on the weekly schedule.
  7. When you are finished dropping blocks, press the ESC key to get out of “drop mode.”

Project blocks work just like appointments, so you can move them, edit them, and copy them just like other appointments.