Reducing task management overburden
Day-to-Day Task Management at Work
I have been using Outlook to manage tasks for over 10 years now. The integration is great if you live in an “email centric” world where you can quickly flag an email so that it will end up on your task list to be eventually dealt with. I manage about 50% of my workload this way…
…That’s a problem! Work comes from all different sources, not just email.
Working in IT, have my own work queue for Incidents, Problems, Changes and other types of (ITIL type) tasks in my IT Service Management System. These are critical for my day-to-day, and yet, they do not show up on my task list in Outlook unless I flag the email notification (which adds to the burden of email) and now managing two work queues.
If you are in internal/external communications, you probably have a running list (backlog) of “postings”, articles, new employee announcements so on and so forth that need to be published on your Intranet, Extranet or Public portal. Again, these might come in the form of an email, however, most modern systems provide an approval or content review workflow functionality or at the least, the work is managed by using an online form that sends an email or creates an item in a list for you or anyone in your team to tackle.
This covers the day-to-day work for the most part. Now, if we add projects into the mix, we open another can of worms.
Project based work
Most traditional environments will use some form of project management software, such as Microsoft Project, which provides the team with the work items for the project. Again, in some cases this information is not usually stored in a centralized location.
In recent years, newer project management practices such as Agile or Scrum benefit from using tools such as Jira, Trello or Planner which can be used to create Kanban boards.
So, yes, more buckets!
Last, but definitely not least, comes life related stuff!
Life is filled with other things such as errands, things to buy, “honey-do” lists, etc. How are those managed? My spouse asks me to pick a specific brand of cereal on a text message, that also needs to go on a list or I will forget!
I’ve used tools such as Wunderlist (and recently I’ve been exploring Microsoft To-Do) to manage my personal tasks. Also, on a whim, I’d probably ask Google to keep a reminder for me, which adds yet another bucket!!!
Let’s recap the many “buckets of work” I keep an eye on, with the occasional fluctuation, especially in the projects area:
Can this be improved? You bet!
Simplifying personal buckets
Personal tasks should be the easiest to tackle, since there’s no need to consult anyone else. The key here is to reduce the number of buckets as much as possible and stick to one standard. I have chosen to stick with Wunderlist for the time being.
Moving to Microsoft To-Do is in my plans in the next few months, as the Wunderlist (now part of Microsoft) team has had a few months to polish the new app and improve it based on the feedback received early on when the tool was announced.
While using voice commands (with Google Now or Siri) to create tasks or reminders is handy, I find it only useful when my hands are tied with something else, I rather type my new task and have more control.
Project work management bonanza
If you are leading a digital workplace initiative, this potpourri of tools may not be a surprise to you. Any mid/large size organization will, at some point, have all these different systems and more. Some of them, being Cloud based (Software as a Service), don’t even need servers, and in most cases, a free version is provided in hopes that shadow IT will prevail.
In some areas of the organization, a project management tool will be deeply ingrained as part of the process, however, in other areas, managing tasks happens organically, but work still needs to be managed and tracked. The key here would be to find a common set of needs where the number of tools can be reduced, providing a common ground for most teams to be familiarized with. Another benefit to this will be cost savings, as some of these tools can be costly to manage and keep running
Day-to Day tasks, aka The daily grind.
Integration and savvy use of rules should help easing the load. While there are systems you can’t really change. Creating a few rules to move email notifications into folders could go a long way. For bonus points, enable a retention policy (If your license allows) to ensure you don’t keep those notifications for longer than you need.
In other cases, use tools such as Microsoft Flow, IFTTT, Zapier, that make automating tasks between systems a piece of cake. We will cover this type of tools later on.
Finally, my buckets of work reduced a bit, hopefully, further iterations and some work done at the project level can bring a simpler setup.
An ideal state would be to further reduce those buckets to a minimum. If you’ve also thought about this? What does your ideal look like? How do you plan to get there?
Mine looks like this:
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash