Daily life is busy and getting busier every single day. Keeping up with it all can feel overwhelming at best and impossible at worst. We could all use some help organizing the various projects and associated deadlines we have at work, school, and home.
The key to meeting deadlines and staying on track to complete projects is effective task management.
Think about it. Projects are really just a set of tasks that need to be completed, one after another, until the project is done. Task management can help you stay on track, focus your efforts, and stop missing deadlines, big and small.
In this guide we will explain task management, share the skills you need to have to be a taskmaster, outline specific methods for approaching task management, and discuss how task management software can help.
Let’s do it.
- What is Task Management?
- 5 Essential skills for Effective Task Management
- Methods to use for Task Managements
- Why you should use Task Management Software
- Key features of Best Task Management Software
- How Doit.io can help you
What is Task Management?
All tasks have a life cycle of sorts. Task management is the process of taking a task through that entire cycle from beginning to completion. It involves aspects such as planning, assigning, tracking, delivering, and reporting.
Task management is the process of taking a task through that entire cycle from beginning to completion.
The goal of task management is to ensure that the projects associated with the tasks are completed within the specified deadline. Task management is useful within work teams, families, or for those flying solo.
5 Essential Skills for Effective Task Management
Not all taskmasters are created equal. Some lucky folks are born with a natural gift for managing tasks that make them especially effective. The rest of us can improve our task management results by working on the skills that are essential to the process.
Here are five skills that are considered essential for masterful task management.
- Prioritization: Recognizing which tasks need urgent attention and which tasks can be put off until later is a key skill for task management.
- Flexibility: This skill goes hand in hand with prioritization. Things are going to come up that change the direction of any given project. Those who can successfully shift things around without a big fuss are going to be more effective than those who struggle with rigidity.
- Scheduling: The best task managers are those that can see the big picture of the end goal or project and schedule tasks in accordance with the larger timeline. Oftentimes this requires us to do a task that may not be a favorite, but is a necessary task to move things forward.
- Communication: This skill is found on the key skills list of everything from long term personal relationships to leadership. Task management is no different. Open, clear, and constant communication about the tasks at hand and to come is absolutely essential to successful task management.
- Delegation: Task management is not about shouldering the entire load alone. The best task managers are those that can identify who is best suited to which tasks so that progress is made in the most effective manner possible. Sometimes you will be best suited to the task. Other times, assigning tasks to others leads to much better outcomes.
Methods to Use for Task Management
The body of work around task management is vast. It’s such an important process that there have been countless books, coaching sessions, articles, and methods created around making it more effective.
Task management can help you stay on track, focus your efforts, and stop missing deadlines, big and small.
We have identified a few methods that are especially worth consideration. They are actionable strategies that can be implemented as-is or tweaked to fit your personal preferences. Let’s take a look at some specific methods for task management.
Eat That Frog
This method has a silly name but it gets seriously impressive results! The moniker comes from an oft-cited alleged quote from Mark Twain. He is quoted to have said, “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.” Esteemed author and productivity expert Brian Tracy ran with this evocative quote and turned it into a task management method and book by the same name.
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.
The main idea with the Eat That Frog method is that you should jump right into hard, important, and difficult to deal with tasks first. Once they are done you can move on to other tasks that are easier to swallow, if you will. It is beautiful in its simplicity. It works because it aligns your focus, helps you prioritize, and urges you to take action.
The Ivy Lee Method
This task management method is also rooted in a historical account of folkloric proportions. As the story goes, a man by the name of Charles Schwab (yes, that Charles Schwab) wanted to help his employees increase their productivity. He hired a consultant called Ivy Lee who promised to teach his employees a sure-fire method for improved productivity in just a few minutes.
Better still, Schwab would pay absolutely nothing up front. Lee asked that the employees use the method for a period of three months and then Schwab should pay Lee what he felt the method was worth. Ivy Lee was paid $25,000 way back in 1918 which is worth over $450,000 in today’s dollar.
The key to meeting deadlines and staying on track to complete projects is effective task management.
The secret is out and now we all have access to the Ivy Lee Method. It goes like this. Every day at the conclusion of your work day, spend a mere ten minutes thinking about what you have to accomplish tomorrow. Write down the six most important tasks and order them by priority. When you start work the next day, start with the most important task and work your way down one task at a time. Whatever is left undone should be included in the next day’s list. That’s it.
Get Things Done or GTD
This method comes from author David Allen whose book on the process remains popular since it’s publication nearly 20 years ago. It stands the test of time because it is fairly simple to implement and it actually works. The basic assumption is that our minds are cluttered with a flurry of things we need to remember or that we want to accomplish. If we can get those thoughts out of our heads and onto paper, our minds will be cleared and we can get things done.
GTD has five steps that we have explained in greater detail in a separate article. They are:
- Capture: Dump all ideas, thoughts, ideas, tasks out of your mind and into the space or place of your choosing.
- Clarify: Go through the list and eliminate anything that is not actionable. From what is left, see if any tasks can be broken down into smaller tasks.
- Organize: At this stage, you take each task and prioritize it against the others.
- Reflect: The list must be reflected upon regularly as circumstances and priorities change. Make adjustments as needed.
- Engage: Get going! Start taking action and get things done, one by one.
The Eisenhower Matrix
This method is aimed specifically at prioritization. It comes from the legendary productivity of former U.S. president, five-star army general, and all-around amazing accomplisher Dwight Eisenhower. The method was made popular by its inclusion in Stephen Covey’s perennial bestseller The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Recognizing which tasks need urgent attention and which tasks can be put off until later is a key skill for task management.
The core idea of the Eisenhower Matrix is determining whether or not a particular task is important, urgent, both, or neither. Importance and urgency are not the same thing. A task is important only if it moveImportance refers to how much a task moves us forward in achieving a long-term goal or mission. Urgency refers to how quickly something has to get done or how “in the moment” it is. Urgency doesn’t always equal importance.
Tasks that are both urgent and important must be assigned the highest priority. Tasks that are urgent but not important should be delegated to someone else. Those that are important but not urgent should be planned. And those that are neither should be eliminated all together. For more in-depth information on the Eisenhower Matrix, check out our previous exploration of the method.
Why Should You Use Task Management Software
Based on the methods we have recommended and the skills we have identified as necessary to improve management of tasks you may be thinking that all you really need to become a taskmaster is a pen and paper. That would be true if you lived and worked completely on your own.
The reality is that our tasks are often commingled with the tasks of others. It is true in work teams, in classrooms, and in households all over the world. Collaboration is a regular part of our professional and personal lives. Task management software can make collaboration with others so much easier and tasks will be better managed, too.
Task management software allows you to implement all of the necessary components to the task management process more efficiently and effectively. Specifically, task management software improves visibility, access, communication, and collaboration.
- Visibility among all people involved in a particular project is improved. Everyone can see who is supposed to be doing what.
- Access to tasks is instant and always available in the palm of your hand.
- Easily delegate and communicate with others involved in the task or project.
- Track and report progress to identify critical need areas and keep things moving.
Key Features of the Best Task Management Software
If you decide to incorporate a task management tool to your productivity routine, there are some key features that will really help you get more done. At a minimum, task management software should allow you to:
- Plan for completion including deadlines and due dates.
- Delegate tasks to other people.
- Prioritize tasks in order of importance.
- Track progress and generate reports.
- Notify all involved when tasks are coming due or assigned.
How Doit.io Can Help You Manage All the Tasks, at Work, School, and Home
We at Doit.io knows that you have a ton of choices when it comes to task management software. Our productivity tool is unique in that it is designed to be used for your whole life, not just parts of it. The lines between home and work were once defined. The lines are blurred now, if they even exist at all!
We designed Doit.io with this reality in mind. Our tool manages your home, school, work, personal, aspirational, eventful life. All the parts of it, organized and assigned and accessible in one delightfully simple place. Join us and get more done. It’s free. Doit Now.