By: Leanne Armstrong
If you tend to move through your day in a blur of sticky notes and to-do lists – and you still can’t keep up with your workload – task management holds the solution.
Officially, task management is the process of managing a specific task over the course of its life cycle. As an important part of project planning, it includes identifying, planning, monitoring, and following up on the various activities involved in completing a particular job.
Unofficially, however, task management can refer to any system that:
- Helps you achieve your individual goals (aka personal task management).
- Helps you collaborate and share knowledge to meet group objectives (aka team task management).
- Enhances your decision-making process through map-based task planning and tracking (aka visual task management).
Whether you work alone or as part of a team, embracing task management will help you organize your goals, and provide a framework for how to manage your tasks that will ensure success.
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What you need to know about managing personal or team tasks
Every project, regardless of size, includes a start date, an end date, and a series of milestones that need to be met. Achieving a given milestone means completing certain tasks. And successfully handling each task is what task management is all about.
Whether the actions required are part of your own daily work or someone else’s, task management is your key to:
- prioritizing tasks to eliminate “dealing with whatever’s next on the list”;
- managing work schedules so there’s no struggling to complete multiple tasks at the same time; and
- consistently meeting the deadlines for individual or group targets.
The reality is that you can’t be productive or efficient if you spend the better part of your time reacting to events instead of managing them. And that holds true whether you’re dealing with personal or team-driven tasks.
Personal task management
Some of us rely on good old-fashioned pen and paper or advice from the pros to cope with our daily to-do’s. Others simply cross their fingers and hope for the best!
Either way, attempting to manage your tasks without a plan and the right tools is like trying to build a house without a blueprint or hammer: it’s frustrating and likely to fail.
Depending on your responsibilities, a few personal task management tools like an online calendar, virtual whiteboard, or basic time management app may be all it takes to stay on top of your day-to-day objectives.
But you’ll need something a little more comprehensive when your duties include contributing to or managing the workload of others.
Team task management
From planning to tracking to execution, a team task management system is essential for ordering and assigning group duties and deadlines.
Not only does a systematized approach to team projects help you break out complex assignments into more manageable tasks, it keeps every task on track to ensure it’s completed on time.
The task management system you choose should make it easy for everyone involved to share and coordinate ideas, activities, and outcomes. And that’s why so many companies and project managers turn to visual task management software and tools.
Why it’s important to have a good task management system
Adopting a structured, highly visible task management system will help you juggle any number of personal, group, or shared tasks. To that end, the most effective systems are based around a centralized management point.
Using dashboard-based visual task management software, for example, makes it easy to:
- see everything you’re working on in one place,
- monitor the schedules assigned to individual tasks, and
- review and edit priority actions
Not only can you group like tasks together to save time, you can effectively balance your personal workload.
Project and team task management is especially suited to diagraming or mind-mapping software. As a project manager, it will help you keep an informed eye on the time spent on each task so you can tweak individual assignments for better performance and prevent bottlenecks, delays, and missed deadlines.
MindManager is a good example of a visual task management platform with various views where you can:
- see the status of time-critical tasks,
- update and amend task information as needed, and
- access an integrated, interactive Gantt chart for even better control over timelines
Applying the same system to personal task management, meanwhile, will let you see your entire history of pending, completed, and overdue chores laid out before you.
Last – but certainly not least – a good task management system is a must for preventing common work gremlins from sabotaging your project or plan.
How task management gets rid of goal gremlins
Task management is a seemingly simple matter of setting goals, breaking them into tasks, and organizing and prioritizing your actions.
But without an accessible, user-friendly task management system, you risk falling victim to three common task saboteurs:
Let’s take a quick look at each culprit and find out how task management helps keep them at bay.
Beat procrastination by breaking up tasks
As one of the biggest stumbling blocks to getting things done, procrastination is a well-known task and productivity killer.
On the downside, research shows 1 in 5 people are chronic procrastinators – and that the rest of us suffer from “task aversion” (a tendency to put off tasks we view as difficult, boring, or unpleasant).
On the upside, there are a number of proven ways to beat procrastination – including the “chunking” or breaking apart of tasks. And breaking work into smaller, more manageable pieces is exactly where task management systems excel.
Overcome distraction by organizing tasks
In today’s world of email, instant messaging, and social media, it’s increasingly difficult to keep external distractions out of the workplace. It’s been suggested, in fact, that the average employee gets interrupted 50-60 times every day – and that close to 80% of those interruptions are inconsequential.
Unfortunately, divided focus is linked to disorganization. And when we don’t take steps to visibly schedule our time, we’re more likely to react to distractions by reaching for whatever odd job appears next.
Experts advise that side-stepping work disruptions by organizing responsibilities into tasks can:
- instantly make you more productive,
- help you accomplish more within a certain time frame, and
- make it easier to say “no” when you need to
Using a task management system to assign individual tasks to distinct time slots – and then visually monitoring their progress – will keep you centered on hitting your deadlines.
Prevent multitasking by prioritizing tasks
Sometimes a simple lack of knowledge is responsible for our failing to rank work objectives. Did you know, for example, that rather than helping you accomplish more goals, multitasking:
- curbs your performance,
- reduces your accuracy, and
- sabotages your output?
Research from Stanford University has effectively concluded that multitasking is less productive than performing a single task at a time.
The good news, however, is that you can abolish the perceived need to multitask once and for all. Adopting a visual system that sorts, prioritizes, and tracks project tasks will make it easy to give each your undivided attention.
It’s a fact that setting goals keeps us motivated, clarifies our direction, and helps us make better decisions. And there’s nothing quite like seeing that hard-won aim come to fruition.
By taking a consistent, visual approach to team-based and personal task management, you’ll not only accomplish more goals, more often, you’ll keep those pesky task gremlins from holding you back.
- How to manage tasks better with 4 basic planning components
- 7 task management tools to keep you and your team organized at work
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