Projects are a process with a start and end that deliver a product or service, but that leaves out the essential building block of every project—tasks. Completing large projects requires knocking out small tasks along the way. But there are so many tasks. Often across multiple projects for which several distinct teams are responsible. The idea of managing all those tasks and unpredictable variables can feel hopeless. Don’t give up! Salvation comes in the form of a task management tool.
But not all task management tools are created equal. Seek a tool that is dynamic and has features to handle tasks on one project or many, for one team or several. Any task management tool worth its weight is going to have four key features. If it doesn’t, keep looking. But if it does, prepare for your life to get much easier.
1. Needs to Go Beyond a To-Do List
To-do lists are the backbone of task management. Tasks must get done, and a to-do list is the most basic tool to manage how this happens. But it’s admittedly simple and basic. To-do lists could be as old as cave paintings, scratched on rocks: eat, sleep, don’t die.
The days of a simple to-do list are dead. Project management has evolved from that simple tool. When you have a task list that is part of an online task management software, suddenly, you’re not in the Stone Age anymore.
Tasks are Part of Something Bigger
Tasks are not islands, they’re part of a larger project environment. With ProjectManager, a cloud-based project management software, tasks are woven into the project making work more efficient.
For example, tasks have deadlines. In ProjectManager, these deadlines drive automated notifications to team members to keep them on track. They’re also sent to project managers, so they can see the progress of work in real time. Priorities can also be set to improve workflow. If necessary, some tasks can be ignored. Especially if they’ve been assigned to another team member and have oversight by the project’s manager.
2. Your Task Management Tool Needs Email Alerts
Email alerts are one of the main distinctions between a to-do list and an online task management tool.
What’s the Achilles’ heel of any project? Overdue tasks. They can send a project spiraling in no time: delaying schedules, blocking resources and straining budgets. It’s not a rarity. All project managers have dealt with these issues in the past. That doesn’t mean they have to become the norm, however.
Related: 5 Team Productivity Blockers and How to Overcome Them
To put it in a context we can all understand, few are able to wake up and get to work on time without using an alarm clock. We might hit the snooze button, but that’s on us. The alarm is there to remind us to get moving and start the day. But don’t think of email notifications as nagging reminders. They are another tool to keep project managers and teams aware of the big picture, while not losing touch of the short-term tasks for which they are responsible.
Real-Time Updates for Better Task Management
ProjectManager allows you to set alerts for overdue tasks or an alert to notify you if a team member comments on a task or updates its status. This way, if there’s an issue, you’ll know before it becomes a problem.
Automating tasks is easy to keep the project on schedule with notifications. Also, communication can take place on the task level. Team members can be alerted by email when a comment has been added. Attaching files like images or documents to a task fosters collaboration.
3. Kanban Task Management
Kanban is a visual workflow process that manages tasks through a board with columns with headings such as to do, doing and done. Under each of those columns are cards. Each card is one task. You can see how this helps organize work and keeps everyone on the same page. Especially if they’re all collaborating using an online task management tool like ProjectManager.
If your task management method doesn’t include a Kanban feature, well, don’t make us use that old caveman analogy again. Kanban is great for multi-faceted projects where collaboration will be a constant.
Kanban Boards for Visual Workers
It’s also a fantastic tool for the visual learner. According to Howard Gardner, there are many different types of intelligence. Some people learn better through an oral tradition, others need to read text to understand. Then there are the visual learners for which kanban is a godsend. Certainly, your team’s creatives are more likely to respond to this tool. Happy teams are productive teams.
ProjectManager has kanban boards, but that’s just one of the many views for your tasks. There are tasks lists, Gantt charts, and even a calendar view. Users can switch between views, choose the one they like best, or cycle through whichever is most helpful at the time.
4. Turn That Task List into a Project
Tasks are often dependent on one another to move forward. They’re always part of the larger project, which means they’re addressed throughout the phases of the project. Planning for a project is rooted in tasks collected in a work breakdown structure (WBS), as they relate to project deliverables.
Therefore, wouldn’t it be ideal if the task management tool was part of a suite of software features that helped control every aspect of the project? ProjectManager can take a task list and make it a project, complete with all the tools you need to better manage it.
Even if you’ve started the project on bulky and expensive software like MS Project, or your task list is outlined on a spreadsheet, you can simply import that Excel or CSV file directly into ProjectManager. You’ll be asked to choose column titles and task duration, then your simple to-do list will populate our online Gantt chart.
Online Gantt Charts Can Turn Related Tasks into Projects
On the left-hand side of your screen will be the spreadsheet and on the right a timeline with tasks laid out in colored lines, beginning at the start date and ending with its deadline. You can now assign tasks to team members and set up notifications.
But there’s so much more. Linking tasks to create dependencies helps to minimize bottlenecks and blocked team members, increasing efficiency. Also, if deadlines need to change, it’s as simple as clicking on the timeline for the individual task and dropping it at the new date and time. It’s that easy. Now a to-do list is more than even a dynamic task list, it’s a foundational part of the larger project.
Tasks are the blood coursing through a project. The better you can manage tasks, the healthier the project, and the more likely it’ll end successfully. ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software with online task management tools that give you the most control over tasks, teams and workflow. See how our online Gantt charts and kanban boards can help you manage tasks better by taking this free 30-day trial.