Getting Organisedon 14 August 2017
Do you have a ‘to-do’ list? Most of us do. We have a long list of tasks we need to do. Many of us need to delegate tasks to other people too. Back in the day, your whole team would be sitting just outside your office, ready to answer questions about what tasks they were doing and how far they had progressed.
Today many of us have become virtual nomads, as wherever we lay our laptop is our home (office). We have software tools that are able to track time and tasks automatically. They improve organization and workflow efficiency. They also make information about progress available to anyone who needs to know, whether inside or outside of the team. When these tools are web based, they have the added benefit of being available any place, anywhere, anytime.
Although the basics of task management largely remain the same, technology allows us to manage tasks in ways that make us more efficient and allow us to be more certain of completing those tasks when we should.
1. What exactly is a task?
It may seem obvious, but not all tasks are created equal. You wouldn’t try to eat a whole loaf of bread in one go as it’s better to slice it into easily digested slices. Tasks are the same. Whether your tasks are for yourself, your work team or for a project, breaking them down into easily understood single tasks will make it more likely that you complete those tasks correctly and on time.
For example, ‘work on blogs’ is not enough. But ‘write a weekly blog post about the benefits of task management, by this Wednesday’ is specific enough to be actionable.
A task is a single action with a clear outcome and timescale.
2. Have all tasks in one place
How many task lists do you have? I know that’s a bit of odd question, but it’s an important one.
When I ask people this question, the answer I usually get is one or two. However, when I dig deeper, I discover they’ve tucked away tasks in scores of different places, out of sight and out of mind. That is, of course, until they have to complete those tasks, remembered at the last minute and completed in a panic.
A task list is any place, formal or informal, where something you need to do resides.
This includes the task lists you create on your PC and the pieces of paper strewn across your desk. It includes the pile of bills in the kitchen drawer and the reams of paper in your briefcase. It includes the files sliding around in the back seat of your car, the crumpled receipts stuffed in your wallet, and the notes you took at the marketing meeting last week that you put away (Somewhere, who knows?).
Get all your tasks in one place. Do this for both yourself and your individual team members.
3. Prioritise tasks
As I mentioned earlier, not all tasks are created equal! One of the problems with task management is working out which tasks are the critical ones. For example, some tasks will have other tasks dependant on your tasks. Although it may be more obvious if they are part of a project plan, it’s a good idea to highlight those tasks that are particularly important to complete on time.
Good time management means focussing on the really important stuff. Prioritise the important over the merely urgent.
4. Assigning tasks
When everyone worked in the same office, it was easy to tell Nick ‘I want you to do this task by next Tuesday week’. You might have perched on the edge of his desk and had a happy chat about what else Nick was doing. Anything he wasn’t sure about could be resolved with another chat.
With the advent of technology and remote working, it’s become very easy to throw out piles of tasks to anyone and everyone. Don’t overload people. By giving people only a few key tasks to do in a day, you force them to do only the most important tasks and not waste time on other stuff.
Also, allow them to break up your bigger tasks into their smaller ones. Sometimes big tasks can look too overwhelming, and human nature is to want to avoid them. As the saying goes, you wouldn’t eat an Elephant in one go. You’d break it up into bite-sized chunks.
5. Track progress on tasks
When everyone worked in the same office, you could pop over to Nick’s desk and check how he was doing whenever you want. Now, Nick could be in a different building, a different office or even another country. You could send him a stream of emails, but this is time consuming and emails have a way of being readily misunderstood.
Make it easy for people to log progress on their tasks.
Track things like:
- Is the task started?
- Any questions raised?
- Any Comments on the task?
- What priority tasks are due for completion this week?
- Are any tasks slipping?
- Have any tasks been re-delegated?
- Which tasks are unassigned?
- Which tasks are completed?
Finally, to help you retain control over the tasks you have assigned, implement a good task or project management system. Most good secure collaboration tool sets like Glasscubes have this as an integrated tool. This will save crashing your inbox with hundreds of progress emails, and will mean you can review progress more easily.
Glasscubes is a cost effective, easy to use, and secure collaboration tool set for any organisation. Find out more about how it could help you take control of your tasks, call +44 (0)20 3274 2310.