How do we get trapped in wishful thinking? We overfocus on plans, overthink and fail execution.
You know how it goes: you start working on a project, but then you get distracted. Coming back to that project, you realize that you have no idea where you were or what you were doing. Indeed, surveys confirm that 28% of knowledge workers' time is lost due to distractions.
It's annoying. It's expensive. And it's preventable!
To avoid a limbo of aimless work and frustrating distractions, there is the magic of task management.
Task management is the practice of breaking down your projects into small tasks and prioritizing them so you can:
- keep track of what needs to be done
- set timeframes and track when it needs to be done
- assign performers of the tasks.
This article will introduce 5 basic tactics of task management so that you can feel confident about project completion from start-to-finish.
Why should you use task management tactics?
Tasks are an integral part of our daily life. They include everything from completing an ambitious project on time to planning a vacation. Managing tasks well is key to managing your time and improving productivity.
In everyday life, it's important to have a system in place that allows you to keep track of everything on your plate.
Task management directly relates to individual and business productivity.
It also helps complete tasks according to schedule, which brings the business efficiency to a new level by allocating time and resources effectively.
Being a thorough task manager means you ensure the success of your project at the stage of planning.
Task management and time management
It's important to note that task management and time management are not the same things.
As we stated above, task management is about breaking down a project into manageable pieces and prioritizing them based on importance and urgency, while time management refers to how you use each moment of your day.
That said, they work together hand-in-hand: if you don't prioritize tasks correctly, then you'll likely find yourself running out of time before everything gets done!
Task management facts and basics
🔖Task management tactics are applicable to the work of all the categories of workers, from freelancers to onsite/remote/hybrid employees at any level in an organization.
🔖Task managers help users make the transit from planning to execution and keep track of deadlines, project status, and other project specifics.
🔖Application of task management allows giving a structured response to challenges of complex projects.
🔖Having task management in place brings great results at work and far beyond it. It explains why task managers belong to one of the most popular apps in app stores (if you enter 'task manager' in Google Play, you will be rewarded with 245 results.
Best task management tactics for work
Tactic #1: Ask questions
Thinking for a living makes knowledge workers' agenda. To structure it so that work was both meaningful and efficient, it is vital we start building a task backlog with the question:
- What outcome do we expect?
What It Implies: We focus on task purpose. Teams can mistakenly relate the number of tasks to the success of the project. Though the task is indeed a unit of project management, the quantity of tasks does not reflect the project quality.
Actionable Steps: Deciding which tasks are to be in the project is a crucial part of task management. Yet, deciding what tasks are NOT to be in the project is equally important.
Taking this approach makes task management more effective when it comes to:
- determining the scope of the project with clarity
- allocating time and resources with efficiency.
Best recommended task managers for those in need of clear goal-setting:
Tactic #2: Categorize
Tasks links to goals. Tasks build in projects. Tasks can be recurring. It raises the question:
- How not feel confused and overwhelmed by actual task variety?
To address the issues of differences in task types, the tactic to apply is to categorize tasks for the optimized management, especially in the case of project creep.
What It Implies: We focus on task categories. Labeling tasks by categories reduces confusion and stress.
Actionable Steps: Define the type of work. The challenge lies in striking a balance between general and specific. Admin tasks will probably include recurring tasks.
Under team or tasks, you can get more specific and list project-related tasks, which can be organized into sub-categories. It helps visualize what needs to be done.
Tactic # 3: Check whens
Mostly, we allot worktime slots for performing tasks. But to power up, migration of to-do lists to the calendar is unbeatable. Hence, ask 'when' questions twice:
- When is the best time of the day?
- When is the best time of the week?
What It Implies: We focus on calendars. Calendar linking benefits a project of any complexity and empowers the teams with the means of efficient task management by removing the risks of task conflicts or clashing time allocations.
Actionable Steps: Find a system that can connect your tasks with the calendar (for instance, we use time tracker integration to display performed tasks on most popular Google and Outlook calendars). It prevents overlaps in tasks and schedules.
Tactic # 4: Create task dependencies
One of the optimal ways to meet the challenges of bigger projects is to build a task backlog based on task dependencies.
What It Implies: Building in dependencies at the stage of task planning helps assignees and project managers work in teams stress-free, be intentional about project goals, and control workload at the stage of task performance.
Actionable Steps: Define tasks according to how autonomous their performance is. The tasks that are highly dependent and fall into succession line might need to be allotted with margins in time estimates.
Besides, it is advisable to pay attention to task sequence when setting priorities of the tasks. All team members should follow the unified priority system. For example, If priority 1 is critical and 3 is the least critical, it makes no sense to make all tasks priority 1. This way, teams can practice priority diversity without fail.
Tactic # 5: Measure and analyze
To be efficient, task management requires a reliable and systematic analysis and evaluation.
What It Implies: Teams can reach increased efficiency by exercising task performance evaluation. There is no single rule to evaluate team and individual work but self-evaluation and management by objectives always work.
Actionable Steps: Target tasks to your plans’ milestones. Measuring progress is easier with metrics when remaining tasks and issues can be related back to the plan. Evaluating results of performance against the plans linked to specific tasks builds a reliable mechanism of feedback and helps teams work toward a common goal.
If you find a lack of capabilities when completing a task, ongoing evaluation can assist in identifying the causes of failures and prevent breakages of workflow. Thus, collecting data on performance and measuring progress in quantified metrics feed the process of evaluation and analysis:
- for providing productive business outcomes
- for facilitating employee engagement
- for employee promotion and rewards.
- Planning is critical for managing tasks. To make planning more goal-oriented, it's important to start by asking what you need to do, and why.
- Categorizing tasks is vital. It helps visualize not only your daily agenda but distributes workload evenly using a link to a calendar. It also filters recurring tasks, elevates the level of automation, and keeps tasks from falling through project cracks.
- Considering task dependencies is crucial for making sure every step of your process takes place in the right order so nothing falls through the cracks at any point along the way (or otherwise becomes unnecessarily complicated).
- Measuring task progress helps you know if there are any problems with completing a task so that you can fix them before they become big issues.
- Analyzing and updating existing task management systems should be done regularly to make sure they're still working well enough for new projects or changes in workflow requirements over time—just like any other software system.