Once you’ve built a robust project plan, you might be wondering how your team will go about completing the work. The answer? Task management.
Task assignments not only determine who’s in charge of working on which pieces of the project, but they also ensure that your team members are allocating their time in appropriate and useful ways. Every project is comprised of tasks, which is why it’s absolutely essential to sharpen your task management skills.
In this article, we’ll cover what task management skills are, how effective task management differs from multitasking, examples of skills you need, and some task management tips to improve your abilities. Let’s begin!
Task management skills are what allow you to complete a variety of job-related tasks successfully and on time. Sharpening these skills allows you to improve your work efficiency and optimize your time to complete more tasks.
Someone with strong task management skills has the necessary repertoire of soft skills to manage several different tasks at one time. There are many different interpersonal skills required in this process, such as delegation and prioritization. But we’ll get more into examples of key task management skills later on in this blog.
You’re probably familiar with multitasking, which is when you work on multiple tasks at the same time. While multitasking is certainly a type of task management, it’s not exactly a best practice that experts recommend.
In fact, studies have shown that just 2.5% of people are able to effectively multitask. This is because our brains are unable to focus on multiple tasks at once. So, when you think you’re doing two things at once, your brain is actually just rapidly task-switching, which ultimately leads to decreased efficiency.
When you’re equipped with the right task management skills, you shouldn’t need to rely on multitasking to get all of your work done. Rather, you’ll be able to rely on time management techniques and improved scheduling to help you juggle everything.
There are dozens of soft skills that can be considered essential in task management. Many of the skills that make someone an effective manager or successful team player are the same ones that help them complete their project tasks on time.
However, project managers are typically the ones in charge of assigning tasks, which means their position requires a slightly different set of skills — including task management skills — than a team member who is solely responsible for executing their assigned tasks efficiently.
Let’s take a closer look at the key skills you’ll need for each position:
Task management skills needed by project managers
- Communication: While good communication is a necessary skill for all team members, it’s especially important that the project manager is able to succinctly convey what needs to get done for each task and field any questions about it.
- Delegation: Project managers can’t do everything themselves, which is why learning how to effectively delegate and assign action items to team members is a key skill.
- Workload management: A burnt-out team isn’t going to be an effective one, which is why project managers need to be able to find a balance between fostering productivity among the team and without overburdening anyone.
Read also: A Guide to Project Communication Management
Task management skills needed by team members
- Prioritization: If a team member is handed a dozen tasks to complete over the course of the week, it’s crucial that they know how to prioritize them so nothing important goes incomplete.
- Deadline management: Team members should have the ability to complete their assigned tasks on or before the deadline.
- Adaptability: All projects are always subject to change, so it’s important that team members are highly adaptable, should they need to be.
Now that we’ve gone over some of the top time management skills you’ll need while working on a project, let’s examine a dozen task management tips that can help improve your skills.
It seems simple, but a to-do list is at the foundation of effective task management for many people — for good reason. Some struggle with prioritizing tasks, and being able to visualize everything you need to get done and rearrange them by order of importance via a to-do list can be a helpful strategy.
If you struggle with prioritizing to-do lists, then you may want to consider using the Eisenhower Matrix. This matrix is a task management tool that helps you consider the urgency and importance of each task on your list. This way, you can easily determine which tasks you should immediately complete, schedule a time for, delegate to others, and delete from your list altogether.
We all have those minor tasks that take up space on our to-do lists, such as responding to an email or calling someone back. In general, it’s a good idea to check these off first, that way you can create a plan of action for the tasks that require more time and effort.
When considering whether a task is “small,” try and categorize it as either shallow work or deep work. Shallow work is more administrative behind-the-scenes work that can be completed with minimal thinking, such as responding to internal Slack messages or filling out HR paperwork.
On the other hand, deep work is cognitively demanding and might require a distraction-free environment. Think of deep work tasks as things like writing a report or preparing a presentation.
Whenever possible, you’ll want to check off your shallow tasks first or reserve them for smaller pockets of time when you don’t have the capacity to dive into deep work tasks.
Procrastination is a common problem in task management, and it often happens when a task feels too overwhelming to tackle so you end up putting it off altogether.
This is why breaking up large and daunting tasks into smaller, more approachable tasks is a great technique to improve your task management skills. While it may feel like adding more tasks to your list is giving you more work, doing this can actually make your progress more measurable.
Plus, checking smaller tasks off your to-do list can boost your confidence and build momentum to help you ultimately conquer your larger tasks.
Although project managers are usually the ones setting deadlines for project tasks, you should always double-check that your deadlines are within reason before you begin working toward them.
Setting realistic deadlines isn’t always easy, either. It’s all about striking the right balance between achievable and not overly ambitious. You don’t want to produce low-quality work because you’re rushing, but at the same time, deadlines that are too loose are ripe for procrastination.
Believe it or not, there’s a significant overlap between effective task management and time management. If you’re struggling to complete your tasks, you should examine the quality of your time management skills.
There are multiple time management strategies that might help you out, including time blocking, task batching, and day theming. Time blocking involves scheduling time in your calendar for each task on your to-do list.
On the other hand, task batching is when you group similar tasks together and complete them all at the same time. For example, if you need to write copy for several different social media posts, you would do that all at once since those tasks all require the same skillset.
Day theming is another time management method where you dedicate an entire day to a specific project or complex group of tasks. This is a more intense type of task batching, but dedicating an entire day to a set of tasks can help cut down on the time you might otherwise waste by jumping from one activity to the next.
We all have 24 hours in a day, but that doesn’t mean we’re all productive at the same time of day. Some people are night owls, while others prefer to get a head start on their tasks early in the morning.
You might find that you prefer to stack your meetings in the morning since you tend to have more focused afternoons, or perhaps you get the most done on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
Regardless of when you tend to get the most done, use these peak productivity times to your advantage when determining when to tackle your most difficult or most important tasks.
Once you’ve identified your peak productivity times, you may want to consider factoring them into a weekly schedule to help keep your task management consistent on a weekly basis. This goes for recurring tasks as well — if you have tasks that you complete every day, week, month, or quarter, factor them into your schedule so you don’t forget about them.
Although most people think they’re great multitaskers, as we’ve already discussed, almost no one can do so effectively.
But if you need any additional evidence on why you should stop multitasking, you might be interested to learn that a Stanford University study found that task-switching can lead to a 40% drop in your productivity. Try to break the bad habit sooner rather than later so you’re able to complete your tasks more efficiently.
Change management is an important task management skill for project managers to have, as it outlines the steps you’ll follow should adjustments need to be made to your task or project schedule.
For example, what will happen to the scheduling of subtasks if a parent task is unable to be completed by the set deadline? How far back can deadlines be pushed before the project’s success is in jeopardy?
Proper contingency planning also plays a role here, as contingency planning is centered around identifying, monitoring, and planning for project risks. That said, this is a task management skill that’s important for project managers rather than for regular team members.
As we’ve discussed, knowing when to delegate is one of the most important task management skills. If you’re working on a project team, your task assignments might already involve some level of collaboration with other team members.
If not though, seek out ways to collaborate on tasks whenever you can. Not only will this allow you to complete your work faster, but oftentimes, having another team member’s perspective can improve the quality of your work, too.
If you’re working on several projects at once, it’s not uncommon to struggle with your task workload. Sometimes project managers over-assign you to various tasks without considering what else might be on your plate.
This can have several negative repercussions — namely burnout. This is why it’s crucial to maintain a line of communication with your project managers so you can let them know what’s feasible for you to complete.
Anyone who’s worked on projects with several moving parts knows that there’s more to task management than just to-do lists. In order to ensure everything gets assigned to the right people and completed on time, you’ll need a planning and task management tool.
The right tool will show you what everyone’s working on at a glance, while also making sure that everyone’s workload remains balanced. Luckily, there are several manual task management tools on the market to choose from, each with its own unique feature offerings.
Rodeo Drive is an all-in-one project management software solution that excels in task management. The platform is specifically designed to meet the needs of creative teams who often suffer from scattered workflows as a result of using too many software tools.
Instead, Rodeo Drive brings all of the features you need to manage projects together in one app, meaning your team can get rid of the costly third-party integrations. Rodeo Drive offers features like budgeting, invoicing, estimating, and reporting, in addition to task management features.
Let’s take a closer look at Rodeo Drive’s task-planning capabilities that can help your team out:
Assign tasks based on team availability
Because Rodeo Drive is built for project-based work, we know that tasks are a crucial part of turning project plans into deliverables.
Rodeo Drive’s task management software feature allows you to easily assign tasks to team members based on priority level, employee skillset, and availability. This way, your team will immediately understand which tasks should take priority over others, and you can avoid overburdening them with tasks they don’t have the skills to complete.
Track time toward each project task for better budgeting
Many creative teams struggle with the financial management side of projects, which is why Rodeo Drive’s features are all interconnected to make your budget management easier. This means that when your team members track their time in Rodeo Drive, they’ll need to link that time entry with a task. In turn, your project budget will update to account for the cost of their time.
Tracking time in Rodeo Drive is easy, as there are two ways to do so. Simply start your live timer when you begin working on a task, or you can enter a timecard later on if you forget. That’s it!
Achieve better workload management using Rodeo Drive’s planning function
Not only does Rodeo Drive assist in the process of assigning tasks and recording the time associated with them, but the platform’s planner feature makes workload management and capacity planning easier than ever.
With just a glance at your planner, you can see which tasks each team member is working on every day of the week. This way, you can identify which of their days are already at capacity and which are free for more assignments. You can also filter your planner by project or by team member, which makes it easy to manage multiple projects at once.