How to Plan a Task at Work
As a small business owner your personal productivity can directly affect your company's success. Thorough planning can help you complete workplace tasks on time and to the best of your ability. Busy entrepreneurs can benefit from taking the time to plan tasks before diving in, whether the tasks be large or small, recurring or rare. Knowing how to plan a task at work can boost your personal productivity and help you get more done in the limited time you have.
State your objective in clear and measurable terms. Understand exactly what the end result of the task will be before taking the first step. Ask for clarification if you have been given a task that you do not fully understand, or if you have not been given all the details you need. Although business owners do not report to anyone directly at work, most tasks should have some stakeholder who can clarify task objectives. For example, if your task is to make sure that your new business is fully licensed and registered in your local area, contact the Secretary of State and County Clerk's office to clarify the exact requirements of the task.
List out or mentally note the resources, inputs and assistance required to complete the task. Realizing that you need additional resources once you have begun a task can slow down your progress, even grinding it to a halt if you have to wait for something or someone else. Analyze the potential pitfalls or challenges inherent in the task, and list out the resources you may need to have on hand to overcome these challenges. For example, if your task is to organize a conference call with your investors you will need to have information on all relevant parties' availability and you will need some sort of conferencing system in place that all parties will be able to use.
Determine the time constraints. First, determine whether your task is recurring or a one-time responsibility. If it is recurring, determine exactly how much time you have available to complete the task each time you do it. If it is a one-off, set a deadline for yourself to guide the rest of your planning.
Determine the time needed to obtain resources and complete the task. Simply preparing to begin a task can be just as time consuming as performing it. Preparation time will vary depending on the resource needs that you identified earlier. For the conference-call example, you may find that you need to set aside an hour to contact each of the stakeholders in turn, and that you may need to wait a day to hear back from one of the parties after leaving a voice message.
List out each step required to complete the task. This list can be a purely mental exercise for simple tasks; it can be a handwritten list for fairly complex tasks, or it might even be a detailed workflow diagram for highly complex tasks requiring multiple inputs from several sources. If your task is to obtain a local food sales license, for example, your steps may include obtaining an Employer ID Number from the IRS, downloading, printing, completing and submitting forms, scheduling on-site inspections and remitting payment to a local agency.
Leave some room for flexibility when planning the time it will take to complete each step in a task to allow time to overcome unexpected challenges.