Manage Your Tasks

Task Management Illustration
The concept of task management deals with managing and working towards the completion of your to-dos, often collected in a to-do list. Tasks can develop two ways: either from the top down, like those vision-oriented goals that are broken down into a project plan, or from the bottom up, either by yourself, somebody else, or an event outside of the plannable. Being able to manage these tasks as they develop is important.
When working on tasks, different people employ different strategies. Some collect a daily to-do list and start off fresh the next day while others choose to keep and update the same list regularly over a longer period. Another strategy and popular alternative is a weekly planner where you plan each week, including goals and tasks for every day, ahead of time. Some might sequentially put down to-dos while others choose to work by priority or other measures.
Theoretically, there are different ways to look at, order, and work your tasks, depending on your personal preference:

  • Priority: Start with the most important first
  • Complexity: Focus on getting quick wins first
  • Due Date: Complete urgent tasks first
  • Dependencies: Put those tasks first that you could do without outside feedback or help

You might also want to track the status of a task:

  • Incoming, reported, or just “new”
  • Assigned (to a designated owner)
  • Delegated, dependent on, or blocked by others
  • Started or ongoing (often at a certain percentage of completion)
  • Completed or done
  • Stopped, dropped, or otherwise no longer required

If you find you have more to-dos than you can handle, or otherwise too many concurrent demands, a decision tool like the Eisenhower matrix can help filter out the ones you should not do yourself or not do at all.
The medium – whether online, using software, or offline, using plain old pen and paper – counts less than actually unloading the burden of to-dos off your mind, getting clarity on what to do, by which order or when.

Best Practices for Managing Your Tasks


Deep Work
by Cal Newport

One thing to make sure — for yourself, within your team or when delegating tasks – is to assign clear responsibilities, always. Is it something you delegate? Who will be performing the actual work? Who will be supporting, inside or outside? If it is a team effort: who will be fully responsible; who will be monitoring progress with which frequency; and who will measure the final result?
Through many years of teamwork practice, it has been shown that it makes sense to designate a lead person accountable for completing each task. There can only be one person responsible; if you make multiple people accountable, it will just result in a lack of commitment and finger pointing later. The lead person might not necessarily be the one doing all the work, however; they may choose to internally delegate responsibilities or source externally either in part or whole. Also, while the lead person does get the fame, they also get the blame given the responsibility that comes with leading.
Especially with your own tasks, remember to follow your plan in what and when you wanted to work on something. Consider proper planning, timing, and execution. For more ideas on how to holistically optimize your output, see Productivity.
Get it done, on time. No more excuses!