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Task Tracking

Each day we are faced with a number of tasks that we need or want to complete. It can be overwhelming at times. Here are a few tips to help you manage your workload.

Technology

While pen and paperwork for a To-Do List, there are lots of technological tools that can help you with this. If Outlook is part of your toolkit, be sure to check into Outlook Tasks to discover what it can do for you. Outlook allows you to prioritize your tasks, break them down into subtasks, and assign due dates when applicable. Within Outlook, you can also quickly generate tasks from Calendar entries or from emails. With a few clicks of the mouse, you can take that email requesting that a report be made by Friday and turn it into a task with a due date. All of the email information will be available to you within the Task entry.

You can also delegate tasks to other people from within Outlook, which is always an excellent option when you are getting overwhelmed.

OneNote interfaces with Outlook Tasks, to provide you with the ability to associate documents of any kind with your Tasks. This method can become a great way to consolidate all of the information that you need for any given Task.

Some people prefer to put their tasks right in their Calendar instead. This allows you to block off time in your day for each task, and prevents others from booking meetings in time slots when you planned to be working on something important.

Prioritize

It is easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that you face each day. An essential part of managing your workload is to prioritize. Think about Urgency and Impact.

Urgency is how quickly something needs to get done. If there is a hard deadline approaching, or if the task is required in response to a critical outage, then these are higher priority and should be dealt with first.

The impact is how many people are affected by this task. If you need to generate a report for one person, it should have a lower priority than if you needed to generate an analysis for a whole department. In some office cultures, the impact may also be related to ‘politics’. That is, the report that your CEO asked for has a higher priority than the one requested by the marketing manager. Finally, there are certain types of tasks that inherently take priority, from an Impact point of view. If you have to choose something related to Payroll compared to something related to vacation schedules, Payroll should always come first.

Once you have identified Priority, based on Urgency and Impact, for each of your tasks, you should then consider how long you anticipate each task will take to do. Completing three quick high priority jobs before tackling a longer one, not only gives you a sense of accomplishment but also provides at least three people with what they need immediately, rather than making them wait.

Make Tasks Manageable

Some jobs can be overwhelming by their sheer size or length of effort required. In these cases, you want to consider breaking them down into smaller chunks. This allows you to ‘complete’ the subtasks, again, providing a feeling of accomplishment, which helps you to continue on. It also allows the smaller parts to be more easily scheduled in as you won’t need a large chunk of time to try and complete the whole task.

Streamline your task list1. Delete or delegate anything that you can. If there is an item that you truly know that you will never get to, and the consequences of not doing it are small, then dump the task, or pass it along to someone else who may be able to get it done. Delegation is often a great way to provide learning opportunities to other people. Even if they take longer than you to get the job done, it will get done sooner if you are overwhelmed, and the other person will learn from the experience.

Visualize

Find ways to display your tasks visually. This may be through a Gantt chart, via Outlook Calendar, or utilizing different views of Outlook Tasks. The fact is, that all of us are better at interpreting visual data, than simple lists of data.

A few things to keep in mind when building up your visual overview2:

  • Use color well
  • Less is more
  • Increase understanding by grouping and sorting your data intelligently

Recurring Tasks

There are some tasks that we need to do regularly. Every week, every month, or even every day. Make sure that you include these tasks in your list as well. It can be easy to overlook these if they are not part of your schedule.

Resources

Check out KWTs Tutorial Courses to learn how to effectively use Outlook task tracking capabilities.

 

1 Psychology Today. “ How to Only Do Things You Actually Want to Do.” 24 July, 2016. <https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brave-over-perfect/201607/how-only-do-things-you-actually-want-do>.

2 MPUG. “ Cognitive Psychology + Project Management.” 7 November, 2016. <https://www.mpug.com/articles/cognitive-psychology-project-management/>.

 

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