If you’re like the majority of the world, multitasking is part of your daily routine. From managing personal to professional tasks, keeping it all together in your brain can be a bit overwhelming.
Thankfully, there are a number of tools, from easy to use smartphone apps to more complex software, that exist to help manage it all.
Whether you’re looking for a tool to individually track tasks, or you work with one or more people and need to manage and track a series of tasks, choosing the right process and solution doesn’t have to stressful. The following are some general tips to consider as you broach the subject.
Defining the Process
There are so many formal certifications and processes for project management that exist that the recommendations that are suggested below in no way are meant to replace these options. If your interest is becoming formally certified as a project manager, be sure to check out the Project Management Institute, as they are recognized as the experts in project management.
That being said, the simplified solutions detailed below are great for managing small- to mid-scale projects. A huge perk of these tools is the ability to manage them on-the-go via smartphone apps. If you need to make a quick edit to a task, these applications include desktop clients and web clients (or web apps) that have comparable functionality and ease of use.
Let’s look at the steps needed to get started:
Step 1: Determine project needs
Whether working alone or in a group, or if you’re sitting down to meet with a client, it’s important to extract the needs of the project and document them. The creation of a task matrix (see example below) is a great tool to use to detail the task description, owner, and due date. The task matrix can then be used a resource to recap the action items from the meeting and sent (via email or means) to everyone present during the meeting. It’s another strategy to ensure that everyone in the meeting is on the same page in terms of next steps.
Sample Task Matrix
|Task Description||Task Owner||Due Date|
|Create an HTML page
● Add content placeholders
● Add HTML tags
|Ashanti||July 1, 2016|
|Develop a PowerPoint presentation
● Add four educational images
● Insert one educational video
|Daniel||July 1, 2016|
Step 2: Task Development
Once you’ve extracted the pertinent details from your meeting with a client, bringing in production team members to help execute the tasks is the next step in your process, unless of course you’re planning to complete the tasks on your own.
If you have a team that will complete the tasks, the task descriptions in your task matrix will likely need to be further fleshed out (in addition to reviewing and including materials/ resources from the client) and embedded into a project management tool (see examples below) with specific parameters associated with segmenting the project into phases, tasks, subtasks, etc.
- Writing clear tasks
- The amount of detail that is placed in a task, especially when there’s an expectation that another colleague will step in to complete the task is paramount.
- Quality assurance process
- Incorporating a checklist for production team to use (or create on their own) to ensure a task is copy edited, proofread, etc.
- Defining due dates
- Quality assurance time padded into deadline for task owner to check work
- Buffer time to review completed task
Step 3: Vetting Project Management Tools
There are so many tools to choose from, it’s important to consider functionality that’s most important for you to individually and/or collectively manage tasks. Prior to considering tools, defining the process for your department, team, etc. is a critical step. Devising a sub-committee to
Asana, Google Drive, Podio, and Zoho are all really great tools that we’ve used in my department, but after restructuring our project management process, we chose Asana to manage and add transparency to our project management process. We also use Google Sheets to track reporting data for workload management.
Since my experience is heavily focused on the use of Asana and Google Sheets, I’ve provide specific examples along with screenshots of the tools in action for your reference.
- Asana: Asana is a web and mobile application designed to help teams track their work. It’s free to use, simple to get started, and powerful enough to run your entire business.
Sample Asana Task Breakdown
- Google Drive (Docs, Sheets, etc.): Create easy to use documents, spreadsheets, etc. with this tool. Easily work in-real time with colleagues. Great for version control concerns.
In my day-to-day management of tasks, I primarily use Asana when working with a production team, but also for tracking my personal to do lists. I also use Google Sheets with features I’ve added such as conditional formatting to color code cells and data validation to create drop down lists as a way to manage a major program that has lots of moving parts. I’ve included two screenshots of sample tasks in Asana that I’ve created and the Google Sheet used to manage a major project. One of the many advantages of each tool is the level of customization (see links above for more details) that you can apply to each environment to make it your own.
Task and Subtask Examples in Asana
Sample Checklist via Google Sheets
Other really popular tools that for one reason or another we didn’t use include Microsoft Project, Basecamp, Trello, Wrike, etc. In some instances, such as with a tool like Microsoft Project, the level of sophistication in terms of resource allocation and management (among other the features) weren’t the right fit for the department. Be sure to conduct research on these and other popular tools before investing time and money into a solution.
Whether you’re a department looking for a new process and/or system to manage projects or a faculty member contemplating whether to add a group project into an assignment, the aforementioned resources are flexible and work in most environments. It’s essential to have an understanding of what your goals and desired outcomes are before delving into which technical solutions are best.