Heading up a project and moving a team toward the finish line can be a real challenge, but it’s long been known that breaking down a goal into manageable, bite-sized chunks is one of the best ways to get things done.
Every business owner, office head, project manager, or at-home go-getter has found themselves creating a to-do list full of tasks. Whether they realize it or not, people who thrive on lists of chores are using task management strategies constantly. And if everyone is doing it in the back of their minds already, why not make small tweaks to better utilize task management for increased accountability, organization, and productivity?
Task Management Defined
Task management is the fundamental process of dividing a day’s work into tasks to be completed. The management process includes the creation of these tasks, assigning each task to an individual for completion, tracking the tasks’ progress, and making informed decisions based on the status of these tasks.
Task Management vs Project Management
While task management and project management may have some overarching similarities (and yes, even some overlap), they are not the same thing!
Differentiating a project from a task is as simple as asking, “Is this item something that needs to be done in conjunction with other things to achieve a goal?” If the answer is yes, you’ve got a task. For example, “Clean the kitchen” and “Make sugar cookies” are tasks that are part of a larger “Decorate for the holidays” project.
In summary, one might say that task management is often an essential part of project management, but the scope of project management is much larger than the individual tasks found on a to-do list used for task management. Many tasks will make up a project, but a project itself should not be considered a task.
So, what are the consequences of confusing task management with project management? Including large-scale project management tasks among smaller, more targeted tasks can cause a great deal of confusion. Task managers who focus too much on projects may impede overall productivity and delay getting things done, whereas project managers who spend too much time managing tasks risk losing sight of a project’s overarching goals.
Getting It Done…
Everyone will have their own preferred strategies to manage tasks. A few strategies successful task managers might draw from are:
Popular amongst people who thrive on visual cues, Kanban boards allow managers to divide their tasks between three columns:
- To do
- Currently in progress
These columns provide a visual cue for progressing through tasks and help managers reduce or limit the amount of in-progress work in their queue.
One of the best things about Kanban boards is that they can be utilized even with minimal resources—all a manager needs are some sticky notes and a flat surface (like a wall or whiteboard) to create a Kanban board for the entire office to reference throughout the day.
Of course, more refined options exist online, like Hive, but the ease and accessibility of Kanban boards that make them one of the more popular task management methods out there.
- Time Allotment
Some people prefer to organize their tasks by tagging them with the amount of time it will take to complete the task. For example, those who use the time allotment method might separate their tasks into categories labeled “15 minutes,” “30 minutes,” “1 hour,” “1 day,” and so on. This makes it a breeze to efficiently tackle tasks no matter how much (or little) downtime might exist on a schedule between other obligations.
While this is a good way to envision task lists and avoid overcrowding a schedule, the act of determining how much time might be necessary for each task can be a challenge itself. If it’s hard to determine how long a task might take, it could be better to use another method to avoid adding more time to your tasks.
Like Kanban boards, Gantt charts provide another way to manage tasks for the visual taskmaster. Instead of the columns associated with Kanban boards, Gantt charts take advantage of both columns and rows in order to list tasks and then assign an expected length of time to each task. Visually, this allows task managers to keep work levels manageable by tracking times of overlap while also viewing the bigger picture of many tasks coming together to yield project completion.
One might say that Gantt charts are the perfect marriage between Kanban boards and time allotment methodologies, making them an incredibly popular way to manage tasks by both listing and scheduling them at once.
While bullet journaling was created for task management on a more personal level, no list of task management methods is complete without it. Why? Because the basic concepts of bullet journaling can be applied to large-scale projects, too, and it is excellent practice for task management in the workplace.
In a bullet journal, items are traditionally broken down into tasks, events, and notes. A key that utilizes simple dots and arrows allows users to mark tasks as complete, canceled, or migrated to the following day or week.
Bullet journals can be highly personalized, and it’s okay if they’re a bit messy. Task managers can use them to organize their thoughts and develop a starting place for more effective and revised management in the workplace.
…With a Little Help
Of course, it wouldn’t be the end of 2019 if there weren’t numerous tech tools to make the process of task management easier and more efficient. In fact, there are so many task management tools out there that it can be a task in and of itself just to choose and implement a program!
Below are a few of the more popular options that successful managers are using each day to succeed.
In just a few years, Hive has become one of the most effective and competitive task management tools out there. Its numerous features and sleek interface allow users to manage their tasks (and projects) in a way that makes the most sense for themselves and their team. For example, Hive allows users to manage tasks with digital Kanban boards, Gantt charts, and more.
Summaries, templates, forms, and over one thousand integrations with other applications make Hive an excellent choice for task managers striving to emphasize communication amongst their team.
ClickUp is a free or paid application that allows users to list tasks, communicate in-app with other team members, create timelines, set reminders, and list goals. Plus, docs and spreadsheets have their own home within the app for a truly all-in-one solution.
Those who like the visual nature and columns characteristic of Kanban boards will love Trello, a tool that’s perfect when a Kanban board is all that’s needed to manage a series of tasks. Trello may not be as complex as other task management tools, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing! Its simplicity and ease of use make it a popular option for everyday task managers.
In the end, there is no one correct way to manage tasks, and every go-getter out there will have their own preferences about how to mix and match these methods and technologies. What matters is efficiency, which can be achieved by any combination of the task management tools above! Let us know any additional task management methods you’re using in the comments below.