A task is a unit of work. The scope of a task can range from a matter requiring minimal labor to one requiring considerable labor that involves a host of subtasks for its completion. Tasks are generally related to specific, time-limited goals and objectives. As such, organizing and tracking tasks is important to achieve goals and objectives. By committing tasks to paper, or a computer program, you take control of your day and ultimately your short-term and long-term goals and objectives.
Go through your task list and place a numerical value for each item based on its measured priority. This orders your actions in a way that gives you the best chance to make the most impact during the course of the day. Prioritize tasks by deciding on the importance of each task to your goals and objectives. Some tasks will come with a natural sense of urgency, while others may give you pause to evaluate whether they have any real importance at all.
Estimate the time needs for performing each task. Place a time range that sets the minimal and maximum time allocation to perform each task. The amount of time required to complete a task might impact its priority for the day. For example, a simple chore that takes five minutes to complete may take priority over a task with relatively more importance that requires three to five hours to complete. Tasks requiring longer time periods to complete will naturally have to be calendared across a longer course of time.
Set deadlines for each task. Deadlines focus your attention and encourage your compliance. Some tasks will have deadlines set by external parties such as those established by clients or outside institutions. Other tasks will require you to establish a deadline. This will be shaped by factors such as the amount of time required to complete the task and whether the labor of others is required to complete the task. Also, when delegating task assignments, it helps to deliver requests with deadlines that are slightly earlier than your own deadline for the task.
Schedule tasks. This involves deciding how to arrange tasks and activities on your calendar. Consider the natural relationship between tasks when scheduling them. You will gain the most efficiency by bundling similar tasks together -- for example, completing invoicing for different projects at one set time. Also, consider your personal energy peaks during the course of the day when scheduling tasks. If your mental strength peaks during the morning hours, schedule tasks that require optimal mental attention during that time. If your energy dips by 3 p.m., this might be the best time to schedule simple chores.
Be flexible. You can prioritize, set deadlines and schedule tasks in a way that makes the most efficient use of your time, only to get a call from someone whose own urgency list demands your time and attention. Don't let this derail your efforts. Time management techniques include factoring in flex time in your daily schedule. Also, if a viable option, establish certain time periods as "disruption-free time" for tasks that require high levels of concentration.
Track and mark your progress. Develop a visual flow chart or graph of your task list that sequences activities. Develop individual activity flow charts for major tasks that include a series of subtasks. As you complete tasks and subtasks, cross them off of your list. At the end of each day and the end of each workweek, review your progress and reorganize your tasks with fresh lists and charts for the new day and the new week.
Determine whether you have sufficient resources to complete a task. Quality of work is generally more important than meeting a deadline.
- "How to Organize Your Work and Your Life"; Robert Moskowitz; 1981
Vanessa Cross has practiced law in Tennessee and lectured as an adjunct professor on law and business topics. She has also contributed as a business writer to news publications, including the "Chicago Tribune," and published in peer-reviewed academic journals. Cross holds a B.A. in journalism, a Juris Doctor and an LL.M. in international business law.