Task Management – A Complete Guide to Manage Tasks

• Team

Projects are made up of a bunch of tasks. Right from the development of an idea, you need to plan, track, test, monitor, and report all the tasks that are involved in the project. Task management comes in handy with all these, helping you complete the project efficiently and in the most effective way possible.

What is task management?

Task management is defined as the process of handling the entire life-cycle of a task, right from planning to tracking to execution. It helps teams track tasks from the beginning, setting deadlines, prioritizing tasks, and assigning them to the right people. It ensures projects stay on track and get completed on time.

Task management, a part of project management is a pretty simple idea. It’s how you break complex projects into simple, bite-sized tasks so you can manage them quite easily.

Task management enables teams to coordinate among themselves and to effectively complete tasks and eventually projects.

How is task management different from project management?

Projects have a clear start and end date and have milestones in the middle to know how close you are to completion. Tasks, on the other hand, are units of work. They are actions that need to be accomplished as the project progress. They create an ongoing process that forms a part of your daily work.

Task management focuses on organizing tasks (that may be spread across multiple projects), prioritizing them, setting deadlines, and delegate tasks. Project Management is far more encompassing.

In addition to task management, it also focuses on resource allocation, budgeting, and dependencies. Usually, task management capabilities are built within project management software.

The different approaches to task management

Different companies approach task management differently. Some of these were developed almost 60 years ago and some are pretty recent. They were created to help different teams; what may work for the software development team may not work for the marketing team.

These project management methodologies and techniques help you get more things done in less time by keeping you organized. Each of these comes with its own set of pros and cons. You can use one or more of these in tandem to suit your team’s requirements.

1. Agile

An alternative to the more rigid and sequential waterfall method, Agile was developed in 2001 by a group of software developers. It’s an iterative approach where teams ship faster and more often. Agile project management delivers the value sooner to a customer through quick deployments.

With smaller teams and shorter sprints, teams are able to get more things done in less time. Also, the wastage of resources is less because the tasks are always up-to-date.

As the Agile approach detects and patches up the issues faster, it has a faster turnaround time. Best of all, the huge community following comes in as a great help when you hit a wall or run into any trouble in your project.

Even though the agile methodology has a number of advantages, it falls short in some cases. Not much importance is placed on documentation, making it extremely difficult to bring new team members up to speed.

The constant need for communication demands more time and energy from everyone. Since there is no clear end, projects can go on forever and ever.

2. Kanban

Kanban methodology (meaning billboard in Japanese) was developed by Toyota in the 1940s as a system for just-in-time manufacturing. The goal of Kanban is to limit the buildup of excess inventory during production.

It limits the number of tasks currently being worked on and this serves as an identifier for inefficiencies when the number of tasks in the line exceeds a certain limit.

An offshoot of this framework, the Kanban board is an effective way of organizing tasks and keeping track of them. It works in the form of cards and lists and as a simple to-do list. There are tasks listed under each stage (like plan, to-do, doing, done).

The “digital sticky notes” can be moved around helping teams visualize the flow of tasks from one person to another using the kanban board.

Kanban boards are an extremely effective tool to identify bottlenecks, deliver quicker results and offer a transparent view of the task status to everyone involved. However, its loose structure limits its application to only non-complex projects.

3. Eat that frog

This comes from Mark Twain’s famous quote: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

Eat the frog is a method that aims to overcome procrastination, something we’re all guilty of. You start by identifying your “frog”, the most difficult task, and set it to the highest priority. Once you have the most time-consuming, complex task complete, it becomes easier to get the rest of the tasks done.

An Eisenhower Matrix helps you come up with the priorities classifying things based on their importance and urgency. A “need vs. want” matrix helps you categorize your tasks into different priorities. The frog is the task that falls under the category “you don’t want to but you need to”.

4. Getting things done

“I don’t have to write that down. I’ll remember it.”

These are the exact words that probably led to David Allen writing his famous book, Getting Things Done. He outlined a task management methodology based on the idea that the head is for having ideas and not holding them.

The book popularized this framework which enables people to add more context and structure to their task management by using a task management system so they have a higher chance of completing them. The GTD methodology has five steps:

  • Capture – immediately note down ideas
  • Clarify – process the ideas and check if it can be done
  • Organize – add action items and categorize them under the right project
  • Reflect – Monitor task lists and track progress
  • Engage – Do things on the list and check them off

Skills you need for effective task management

Prioritization

Not everything in your to-do list requires equal attention. There are activities that can wait and that’s really what freeing up time is–to eliminate low-value activities. Use an Eisenhower matrix to find the tasks that are both important and urgent.

Scheduling

Creating a schedule is easy; sticking to it is hard. Scheduling helps you to focus on the task at hand and not sidetracked by the ones that come later.

Flexibility

The project scope can change due to numerous factors, some outside your control. You’d need to adapt to those changes quickly and be flexible in your operations.

Delegation

Being a project manager involves a lot of things which also include task delegation. You’d need to identify the right people to do certain tasks so you can focus on what requires your skills and attention.

Communication

The project manager needs to have effective communication in project management both with internal teams and other stakeholders about deadlines and task assignments to get tasks done on time.

How to manage tasks effectively

Task management can get unwieldy sometimes depending on the scale of the project. However, with these tips, you can easily overcome the challenges that come with task management:

  • Use Kanban boards to keep track of backlogs, bottlenecks, and completed tasks
  • Break down large tasks into smaller, manageable subtasks
  • Set a deadline to every single task and make sure your team sticks to it
  • Focus on one task at a time
  • Use dedicated task management software
  • Prioritize tasks for your whole team
  • Set up reminders when deadlines are approaching

Why do you need task management software

The simplest form of a task management tool is pen and paper. It’s an inexpensive and effective means of organizing all your tasks. But, its use is limited to only individuals and doesn’t work for slightly larger teams.

However, using tools to keep track of tasks and sub-tasks helps with many things:

  • Everyone’s tasks are on the same system and it ensures that team members know what others are working on
  • Since all the tasks are organized, it’s easier to find information and collaborate with each other
  • You have access to your tasks from anywhere and anytime
  • You can easily keep track of tasks and know which ones need immediate attention
  • Prioritize tasks, set deadlines, and assign tasks to people
  • Generate reports to identify bottlenecks

Essential features of task management software

There are plenty of project management tools that perform task management and finding the right one is a daunting task. Depending on the organization, the requirements, and the approach to task management, you have many options.

Though there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, there are a few key features you need to look out for:

1. Task planning

It’s important to plan your tasks ahead of time to ensure smooth execution. The tool needs to accommodate due dates and deadlines.

2. Task assignment

Once all the tasks have been planned, they must be delegated to different team members. The system should let you invite team members and assign tasks to them.

3. Task prioritization

With so many things on the to-do list, it’s easy to spend so much time on meetings deciding what tasks need to be done first. The system should let managers prioritize tasks to manage tasks better.

4. Kanban Board

kanban board elements

The kanban board view keeps everything organized and allows users to drag and drop cards into different lists as soon as they’re complete.

5. Track Status

With a number of tasks on the board, it’s a struggle to keep up with them. When you keep track of the status of each task, you can easily identify bottlenecks.

6. Notifications

The system should notify whenever a task needs your action. A mobile app comes handy so you’ll be notified no matter where you are.

Trello

Trello is a leading task management software that lets you work with your teams. It uses boards, lists, and cards that are easy to use. It’s ideal for individuals or small teams that manage a handful of tasks. The basic plan is free to use.

However, there are paid plans that add automation, integrations, priority support, and more.

Kissflow Project

Kissflow Project offers a simple, easy-to-use Kanban interface to keep track of progress. You can create as many tasks and subtasks as you need and add as many users as you want. You can also set deadlines and milestones and assign stakeholders to the project board.

It’s ideal for non-project managers and creative teams to manage their tasks.

Asana

Asana lets you create visual boards and lists to see what stage your project is in and know which tasks need your immediate attention. It also allows creating project templates to save time when managing similar projects in the future. While not as powerful as others, its easy-to-use interface is a massive selling point.

There’s a free, basic plan and paid plans start at $9.99/user/month.

HiTask

HiTask is an intuitive and simple-to-use task and project management software that’s ideal for small businesses. It has robust features like time-tracking, task assignment and sharing, and reporting. It’s free up to five users. The enterprise plan starts at $20/user/month.

Zoho Projects

With Zoho Projects, you can keep track of tasks, collaborate with your team, and run intuitive reports. It comes with powerful features like Gantt charts, task dependencies, milestones, and feeds for easy communication.

You can share documents from within the tool. There’s a forever free version with basic features and limited users.

Manage all your tasks with Kissflow Project

With Kissflow Project you can easily organize all your tasks in multiple kanban boards and invite team members to collaborate with you. You can assign priorities, set deadlines, and ensure that your task management in projects is right on track.