What is task management?
Task management is the process of organising the workflow within a project by identifying what needs to be done and monitoring the progress, in order to keep everything under control. Task management is mostly associated with business projects but it’s actually something we do day by day, even if we don’t realise it. At work, at home or at school, in order to manage our schedule in an efficient way, we need to prioritise, choose what to do at a given moment and plan ahead. That’s exactly what task management is. If effective, it can boost productivity and help organise our private or professional projects.
How do task management and project management differ?
Task management is the basis of project management as well as its integral part. The two concepts are closely related, but they are by no means interchangeable and therefore shouldn’t be confused.
Task management is a process which involves specific techniques and tools to break down a project into smaller parts – tasks. It might be short-term, long-term or permanent. As part of task management, the scope of work is distributed among team members and planned within a time frame. The process makes it possible to monitor the progress, predicting any potential delays and ensuring support to team members at every stage.
Project management is a temporary process, defined by a service, feature or product which is to be delivered and limited by a precise time frame and a specific budget.
So task management focuses on task-related aspects, while project management involves a wide array of elements of a given project, including managing the resources, budget and overseeing the progress of tasks. That’s where the two concepts are interconnected.
Why do you need task management?
Efficient task management is the first step to successful project management. First of all, it helps you remember about things you need to do. Although it might sound trivial, when you have a lot on your plate, it’s very easy to forget about something. A reliable task management tool is a sort of backup storage for your memory which, obviously, has its limits.
When you know what you need to do, the second step is to be able to plan it and set priorities. Task management helps you arrange tasks according to their priority and you do need to do this, if you want to stay productive. Why? So that once you complete the planning stage, you can focus on your work rather than thinking what to do next and, in consequence, save a lot of time.
Planning the workflow in a proper way is also essential when you have deadlines to meet. And most of us do, whether we like it or not. If tasks are put within a time frame, it’s much easier to control them and plan the scope of work they involve. At the same time, it helps you see the bigger picture and prevent potential delays.
Task management also increases productivity. Once you organise your tasks in a meaningful sequence, you can avoid switching between them and, in consequence, do more in less time.
And last but not least, task management facilitates collaboration within a team, which, as we all know very well, is what makes any team successful. You can see the progress of tasks which are assigned to other team members and collaborate on them easily as well as provide each other with support whenever necessary.
How to start
If you’re wondering how to go about implementing an effective task management strategy in your private or professional projects, it’s best if you do it step by step. What to start with?
Create a to-do list
A to-do list is the simplest task management tool, which makes it perfect for beginners. You don’t need advanced task management techniques to take your productivity up a notch. A to-do list is just enough to start with. Jotting down what you need to do is a great starting point. It helps you remember all your duties provides the basis for more advanced planning. What’s important at this point is to keep it simple and realistic. After all, it’s to motivate you, rather than get discouraged by the overwhelming amount of work you need to do.
Split bigger tasks into smaller ones
Once you have your to-do list ready, have another look at it and try to split each item into several smaller ones to have an outline of every step you need to complete to cross your goal off your list. Why so? Well, smaller tasks are more manageable and easier to get to, which prevents you from procrastinating. Completing small tasks one by one will give you a sense of achievement and take you a step further towards your goal.
You can think of each item on your to-do list as a project and its parts as tasks. Make sure they’re manageable and arranged in a meaningful order – maybe a checklist would be helpful?
Define task details
The next step is to make sure each task is specific enough to cope with and ready to take up once the time comes. If it’s not the case, you’re much more likely to procrastinate on the task, not being sure how to go about it. That’s why, you need to define the details. Prepare a clear description and provide context. If you share work with others, specify the scope of task, team members who need to get involved and what they should do exactly. A well-defined task will help you work more effectively and get more done.
Assign people (or other resources) to tasks
If you’re working in a team, think carefully about the assignees when specifying task details. Delegating tasks is a skill you need to master, although it might be difficult at times. Before you assign a task to someone, consider several factors, such as their experience, skills and working style as well as their current workload. Thanks to that, you’ll be able to delegate properly and the whole task management process will run smoothly. Also, take into consideration any other resources that you need to assign, so that nothing interrupts completing the task.
Plan your day
One of the most important elements of task management, if not the most important one is the ability to prioritise work on a daily basis. Not everything can be top priority and you need to be able to identify what is and what isn’t. And once you do, plan your day accordingly, taking into account what you must do and what can wait or get put off until the next day, if you don’t manage to complete it. At the same time, try to be flexible. Circumstances may change, so you need to be prepared and adapt your priorities, if necessary.
When planning your day, take into account your peak productivity time. You know best when you are the most productive and having that in mind will help you make sure you complete the tasks you need to. And remember not to be too hard on yourself – it’s perfectly normal that sometimes things don’t go as planned for whatever reason.
Another important aspect of task management in a team is that everyone is on the same page and up-to-date with the progress. Collaboration is much more efficient when everyone knows the status of tasks and their dependencies. Thanks to that, it’s easier to adapt the workflow to the circumstances and react in case something gets delayed or doesn’t go as planned.
The most efficient way to share progress and provide everyone with a single source of truth is to use an online task management tool, which everyone can access to get the most up-to-date information. Make sure all team members update information there regularly, so that it reflects the actual situation. And don’t forget about regular meetings which provide opportunities to clear up any doubts and share the progress.
Work with a calendar
To get better control over your time, especially if you have deadlines to meet, schedule your tasks and work with a calendar on a daily basis. In fact, scheduling may turn out useful even if you don’t have deadlines in sight. It motivates you and gives you a clear overview on how to distribute your work so that you have time to do everything that needs to be done. And it’s even better if it’s integrated with your task management tool, so that you have everything in one place and always at hand.
Simple task management tools
The beginnings with task management will be much easier if you use an efficient task management tool from the very start. It will help you with every step of your new approach to managing the workflow – from compiling your to-do list and specifying task details, to assigning tasks and scheduling due dates. Make sure it’s suitable for you or your team, has all the features you need and is easy to use.
HeySpace is a collaboration tool which facilitates teamwork and helps manage tasks in an efficient way. It allows you to plan the workflow and monitor the progress, making sure that everything is under control. You can have a separate space for every project and create smaller tasks within each space. All the options you need to specify the scope of tasks, assignees and due dates are at hand and very intuitive. It’s also very easy to update progress and monitor deadlines, as well as set priorities. HeySpace serves as a single platform which can be a source of information for the whole team, keeping everyone updated at any time.
Apart from the task management feature, HeySpace offers an intuitive chat platform, where you can discuss projects with the whole team or start on-on-one and group conversations, all in one simple tool. You can also communicate with clients and external contributors, inviting them to HeySpace as guests.
To be able to plan your day effectively, you should be able to estimate how much time a given task will take, even if just approximately. Thanks to that, you won’t end up with a packed schedule and too little time to complete your tasks.
Toggl is a time tracking tool, which can help you get hold of your timetable, by showing you how much each of your daily activities at work take. Thanks to Toggl, you can allocate your time correctly and get a better understanding of how much time each task requires, therefore being able to make better estimations in the future. With advanced reporting options, you will gain a comprehensive overview of your schedule and have a chance to eliminate time wasters.
HiTask is particularly helpful when it comes to calendar sharing and organising tasks. It’s a task management app, which enables you to set up new projects and collaborate on them with the whole team. You can share a calendar and a centralised file library, thanks to which you can easily organise your tasks and share work with other teammates.
A big advantage of HiTask is that it’s easy to use and has an intuitive user interface, which is a big plus especially when you’re just starting off with task management. On top of that, it allows you to communicate with your team using team chat, further improving the collaboration.
If you want to facilitate the process of making to-do lists and collaborating on tasks with your team, Asana is worth giving a try. It helps organise projects, set priorities and adapt them to the changing circumstances, making sure you have everything under control. You can follow tasks through every stage and keep everyone updated with the progress. With the possibility to create visual project plans, you will be able to structure the workflow and plan it carefully, before you and your team get to work.
Making to-do lists will no longer be a problem with an app which has been created to help you handle it. As you remember, the first thing you need to do to be able to organise your task management system is to make a to-do list which you can then break down into smaller tasks. That’s exactly what Todoist can help you with. Once you’ve done it, you can specify details, set due dates and collaborate on the tasks with your team or by yourself. Todoist also facilitates setting priorities for each day and updating them regularly, whenever something changes. Thanks to that, you will know exactly how to go on with your daily schedule.