Our daily lives revolve around a certain number of tasks that we identify along the way to achieve our ambitions and SMART goals. In the struggle to be at the top of our game and retaining our competitive edge, we often bite more than we can chew.
Although everything seems of high priority, something goes amiss in this race of getting things done and keeping your head. Some of us create a long to-do list to accomplish – before a certain time period or a certain age. Others spend so much time perfecting a single task that by the time it shines, it is obsolete.
Workload balancing and time management skills are not only associated with project managers or bosses. In fact, these skills need to be adopted on each level especially working in a team. If not, it can render dire consequences for a project altogether.
According to a study by Cornerstone, work overload decreases productivity by 68% in employees who feel they do not have enough hours in the day to complete their tasks. So, what are the essential task management skills that we all need to be effective and efficient, simultaneously?
Regardless of where you stand in the organization hierarchy or personal accomplishments, this blog is for you. Here is a list of handpicked skills that you can work with today to accomplish your milestones without them getting the better of you.
1. Make To-do Lists
To-do lists are classic, yet powerful and effective more than ever today. Back in the day, people kept handwritten notes for ideas and things to get done. They are like your everyday essentials and add to your effective task management skills.
Now, people have smart to-do list apps that give out notifications and reminders before the task is due. It is easier than ever before to jot down ideas in the form of images, voice notes, text and so much more.
Shivani Siroya is the CEO of Tala, a microloan startup. Siroya states: “I’ve figured out how to make all these digital systems work for me, but I have to admit, at the end of the day, a list on paper still feels the most useful.”
Make it a habit to arrange a list of things to do. Also, make use of the many free and premium to-do list apps that will help you do just that.
Understandably, not everything on your to-do list needs to be done right away. Yes, there are some great ideas that can help you take your game a notch up. However, it is important to establish what is important at a specific instance.
Michael Mankins is a Bain & Company partner and co-author of “Time, Talent and Energy”, a CMI Management Book of the Year. According to Mankins, “Liberating time requires eliminating low-value activities altogether, not merely capturing them on a list,” he stresses.
Take help from the BCG matrix, and understand the strengths and weaknesses of your projects as well as the opportunities and threats it is facing. Once clear with what matters at the time, you can define the importance of the tasks better.
Scheduling tasks is a great task management skill and keeps the team focused on what is at hand without going off track worrying about other tasks. However, keeping on track is a major struggle in itself.
Did you know that according to a study, a person wastes about 21.8 hours a week? Professionals are more or less affected by distractions that seem harmless at the moment but result in major setbacks later. These distractions include phone usage and small talk.
According to a study by Udemy, more than a third of millennials and Gen Z (36%) say they spend two hours or more checking their smartphones during the workday.
Next, make a schedule and allot start and due dates. By assigning a due date to a task, we tend to be more aware of the cost it incurs, both monetary and time wise.
One of the best ways is to go Agile. Create backlogs and assign it to a sprint. This also gives a better perspective on the time required for each task completion.
4. Be Flexible
Holding your stance is a great quality to embody if you want to achieve milestones and deadlines. However, some instances and situations require revisiting already made decisions. Being flexible is #4 on our list of the top task management skills.
This can be due to a sudden change in the market trends, change in customer drive or if a certain task appears to overshadow others.
Any of these factors, if not acknowledged on time, can strip a team off potential chances of success and growth. It is important to be on the lookout for likely loopholes of if another opportunity seems to be passing us by. Be flexible with deadlines when you need to be.
As stated by Osman Khan, CEO, and co-founder of the online auction house, Paddle8, in a Forbes interview,” In the right roles and with the right people, flex does offer tremendous productivity improvement.
It gives people time to process properly, and it gets them out of the office in terms of being bogged down in day-to-day admin. So, there is more thought leadership that comes to the table, and that’s where your creativity and innovation come in.”
5. Manage Change
Being open to change is important but mastering the how-to of it is equally important. Most of the times, we are unable to drive the change needed for a certain project or in our strategy.
However, this skill can help increase the chances that your project meets its objectives 6 times more than with poor change management.
With the Scrum methodology, you can be open to and manage change easily through the daily scrum meetings. The daily scrum gives you an opportunity to not only have an overview on the tasks being done but also the bottlenecks they may face. This way you can alter backlogs to better suit the changing requirements.
Being over-burdened is a real thing and if not addressed well, it can significantly affect productivity. By the end of the day, we are only humans working with other humans. Each of us hold a unique set of qualities when it comes to patience, resilience, working under pressure or getting a task done in the least amount of time.
According to Eli Broad, philanthropist and founder of 2 Fortune 500 companies, “The inability to delegate is one of the biggest problems I see with managers at all levels.” Hence, it is downright crucial, to not only be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses but those of your team, too.
When you stay vigilant, you can better analyze who can better help out at a certain stage. One of the best task management skills is to know how to delegate tasks, to the right person.
This opens windows for the other person to experiment and grow as well, which leads to growth in your team.
7. Be Involved
After helping the team sort out their priorities and delegating critical tasks, leaving the arena is a complete no-no. Setting up a team and schedule is great for success, but it also needs to be consistently followed up on.
If a project requires a daily scrum meeting, increasing workload or approaching deadlines can lead teams to give it a back seat. This may often lead the management to stay aloof in hopes that the team will suffice by itself. In reality, this is the time to be more involved than ever before.
Did you know that according to a study by the University of Ottawa, 33% of projects fail because of a lack of involvement from senior management?
Instead of micromanaging, be present and reachable if the team needs you. In order to make the most of your plans, prioritization, and scheduling ensure that all steps are followed by everyone in the team. This includes stakeholders and clients.
8. Be Patient
At times things may not go as planned causing us unprecedented setbacks. As per a study by Wellington, only 37% of teams in the U.K. reported completing projects on time more often than not. It is only human to feel overwhelmed and experience a dip in your morale at such times.
By mastering the art of patience, you can get through difficult situations and help your team get back on its feet sooner as well.
As Jack Ma, entrepreneur and founder of Alibaba says, “The very important thing you should have is patience.”
The importance of communication has been reiterated on numerous channels on a variety of levels throughout the years. However, statistics prove that this is an area where professionals, even managers lack skills in.
The anomaly here is that despite the criticality of this skill, proven time and again, professionals choose to look the other way when it comes to communication. Whether it is your personal task management or project milestones to be achieved in a team, people seldom decide to state their mind. This is where team collaboration software plays a vital role in ensuring smooth communication between the concerned parties.
Fear of seeming incompetent, lack of availability by managers, and playing the blame game are some of the bland reasons why the most important information goes amiss. This can lead to major setbacks, in the long and short run.
According to David Grossman, in “The Cost of Poor Communications”, a survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees each stated an average loss of $62.4 million per year (per company) due to insufficient communication among employees.
10. Be Tech Savvy
Having the right ammunition can win you battlefields. The same goes for battling workload balancing and time tracking. Technology has paved way for many startups to become market giants and has built billionaires.
The right tool at the right time can render wonders for your personal and professional life. Task management skills may have a lot to do with on our personal traits and qualities but adopting the right task management tool can raise chances of success exponentially.
Be sure, to research and choose the right task management apps for you and your team.
Some of the free project management tools you can consider today are nTask, Asana, Trello, Wrike and more. However, be practical and adopt tools according to what is feasible, not just what is reining the market, keeping in mind finances, learning curve and team requirements.
You can start with free task management and productivity apps, and upgrade along the way.
Which task management skills have helped you manage your workload? Share your story and lend us some tips in the comments below.