Some days my task list runs on to multiple pages. I’ve got so many actions that I don’t know where to start. Have you ever felt like that? I mean, writing a to do list is helpful, but when your to do list doesn’t seem to end it can be disheartening.
A good task list is at the heart of staying organized on your project. Whether it’s a list of To Do actions for you personally at work, or a project task list, here are 5 ways to smarten up how you make and manage your list.
Avoid small tasks
You don’t need to have every tiny task on the list. Anything that’s duplicated in your calendar (such as attending certain meetings) is already in your system, and doesn’t need to be on your To Do list as well.
The problem with having lots of very small tasks on the list is that you spend more time updating your To Do list than doing any actual work! Keep a balance, and ask yourself whether it’s worth including something on the list if it’s very small.
The caveat to this is that there are some small activities that are really important. For example, remembering to reply to the CEO’s email is something you definitely don’t want to forget! Put that on your To Do list and get to it quickly.
Allocate owners to tasks
The actions on your personal To Do list will be owned by you. However, when it comes to making task lists for projects, you’ll need to allocate someone to each activity. That person is responsible for doing the work.
They don’t have to do all the work themselves, but they are responsible for making sure the work is completed. They could work with someone else, or delegate it to someone in their team, but ultimately they are responsible for telling you it’s under control and finally completed.
Give tasks deadlines
Every task (OK, in real life – most tasks) should have a deadline. That’s the date by which they need to be completed. You can easily set task completion dates in your project management software for scheduled activities. Simply add a finish date to your Gantt chart so you can track the work.
Deadlines are a little harder to manage when it’s your personal To Do list because often there are no straightforward deadlines for when things need to be done. However, you can set dates and that will help you prioritise the work.
Order your tasks
To Do lists don’t have to read sequentially. The action at the top is not necessarily the most important or the one you have to do first – it’s simply the action that you wrote down first.
But humans like a logical structure. If you can order your tasks, or even just put them into groups – you’ll find it easier for your brain to create a sequence and deal with the work in a structured way. If you can, organise your personal To Do lists in the same way, with the tasks that need to be done first at the top.
If you are used to creating project task lists that then become Gantt charts, you’ll know that it makes the project schedule clearer if the tasks are grouped together and put in a logical structure.
Share your list
Make sure that the project task list is accessible by everyone on the team. While you don’t necessarily want the whole team looking at your personal To Do list, the project task list should be open to everyone. Yes, even the tasks that aren’t relevant to the whole team.
I have met project managers who try to make the team’s life easier by only sharing with them the parts they need to know. They get to see their tasks and no one else’s, and the project manager feels they are doing the team a favour. There’s no overwhelm, and very clear direction.
But in reality all you do when you take this approach is end up disconnecting the people doing the tasks from each other. If you can’t see the bigger picture you have no way of knowing whether your work impacts someone else, and how it might impact them.
So share your project schedule and task list widely.
This article was written by Elizabeth Harrin.