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Task Slip Through the Cracks? 10 Tips to Help You Keep Track of Projects Without Micromanaging

Task Slip Through the Cracks? 10 Tips to Help You Keep Track of Projects Without Micromanaging

By Steve Pogue

Requests and project ideas can come from all directions in an organization, making it easy for work to slip through the cracks. But how do you ensure your team gets everything done on time, without micromanaging them? After all, you don’t want missed deadlines or dropped tasks, but you know micromanagement makes employees feel disrespected, which hurts everyone.

Here are ten tips that will help you find the perfect balance between autonomy and oversight while making sure nothing gets missed.

Catch tasks before they slip through the cracks with Workzone  

10 Tips to Help You Keep Track of Projects Without Micromanaging

  1. Insist that all requests go through project request forms
  2. Require tasks be formally accepted
  3. Find the right level of detail
  4. Group projects and tasks to identify your priorities
  5. Implement workflows and utilize project dependencies
  6. Set specific notifications to keep team members in the loop
  7. Schedule check-in meetings with stakeholders
  8. Share visibility and promote collaboration
  9. Spread the workload throughout your team
  10. Don’t overlook the basics like pen and paper

1. Insist that all requests go through project request forms

How often do you or one of your team members get a work request while walking down the hall or standing in the break room? It’s natural for someone to see you and to suddenly remember they meant to ask you to do something. The problem is, it’s too easy to forget that request and for the task to slip through the cracks.

When requests come in from face-to-face conversations, emails, phone calls, meetings, chat, and so on, it becomes almost impossible to ensure you’ve captured them all. By using project request forms, you can create one standardized method to request work from your team. This ensures every request is tracked, logged, and assigned.

You can also customize the request forms to make sure that all of the information you need is provided every time someone asks you for new work. 

2. Require tasks be formally accepted

What happens if someone submits an urgent request today, saying they need a piece of work done by the end of the week, but your team is already swamped?

You don’t want a stakeholder to say you failed to meet a deadline before you’ve even had a chance to accept and plan the work.

To avoid this scenario, it’s important to have a clear process for how requests are handled. Whether you’re going to review them once a day, or once a month, every stakeholder should be clear of your timeline.

You’ll also need to let them know that a task has not been accepted until they’ve received a formal acceptance notification, either through your project software or via email. Within Workzone, your team has an approvals dashboard to approve or deny project requests.

3. Find the right level of detail

If you don’t track and manage tasks at the right level of detail, it’s easy to miss important information. After all, if everything is a separate task, you can end up with hundreds or even thousands of tasks — making it much easier to miss one. But, if you’re tracking tasks at too high of a level, you’re equally likely to miss things.

So, how do you find the right balance? Look at these two popular techniques.

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) states that all projects and work should be broken down until your team has a clear understanding of what deliverables need to be produced

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) allow you to leave the task at a higher level and then outline within the operating procedure the details of the actual task

4. Group projects and tasks to identify your priorities

Sometimes it can seem like there’s just too much work to get it all done in time. Fortunately, there’s an easy method to prioritize your work and help reduce the number of tasks you’re juggling at once.

It’s called the Eisenhower Principle.

Slip through the cracks Eisenhower matrix

Using Eisenhower’s Principle, create a list of all the tasks your team has on their plate, and move them into one of four boxes:

  1. Important and Urgent: These are the tasks that need to be completed and have to be done soon. 
  1. Important but not Urgent: These tasks have to get done, but their deadline is further into the future. 
  1. Urgent but not Important: These tasks need to be done now, but they’re not that important. They’re typically non-project or non-client related work. One example is if you have a team meeting scheduled for tomorrow. It’s urgent because it’s soon. But, if you’re already up-to-date on your project, it’s likely not important. 
  1. Not Important and not Urgent: Tasks that aren’t urgent or important are just ‘nice-to-haves’ or distractions. For example, you’ve been asked to help plan the Christmas party, but its still six months away!

Once everything is grouped into these four boxes, prioritize the work in the first box…and so on. Keep in mind that as time progresses, not urgent tasks may become urgent so always be reviewing your priorities!

Anything in box three should be considered for delegating to someone else. And anything in box four should be considered for elimination. For instance, if you’re spending a few hours per month creating reports that no one reads, consider stopping producing them.

This process should be conducted regularly. Once it’s completed, you and your team can focus solely on the first box of tasks.

5. Implement workflows and utilize project dependencies

Outlining a project naturally shows the sequence of events in the project. From there, you can identify how long you expect each step to take.

For example, let’s say you have a marketing project that is producing an ebook offer. You create separate tasks for writing the book, and editing it, designing, and creating a follow-up email.

What happens if you’ve allotted a day for editing, but it takes two?

This is where project dependencies can help you stay on track, manage workloads, and avoid distractions. If you’re utilizing project dependencies every follow-up task will push forward.

Catch tasks before they slip through the cracks with Workzone  

6. Set specific notifications to keep team members in the loop 

Have you ever had a task slip your mind, only to get a reminder warning you that it’s due today? Of course, that only leads to last-minute panic and a rush to get the work done in time. Which can result in subpar results.

What if you happened to be out sick, traveling, or using a vacation day because you thought you had nothing due?

It’s important to set up checkpoints and reminders at planned intervals before task deadlines. This process will ensure that every task is made front of mind when there is still plenty of time to finish them.

You should also make it routine for your team to regularly review their current tasks and upcoming deadlines. For instance, in Workzone, you can help them create their own personalized to-do lists so they can consistently be aware of what work is about to become due. Or, set up email alerts for those inbox-loving co-workers!

7. Schedule check-in meetings with stakeholders

If you’ve ever handed someone a completed deliverable only to get the response, “that’s not what I wanted!” then you know how important it is to touch base as work progresses.

Sometimes clients don’t communicate what they want well enough, they change their mind, or there’s been a misunderstanding.

By scheduling regular one-on-one checkpoints with stakeholders and team members, you can clarify expectations, discuss progress, and ensure everyone has the same understanding of what work is being done. Plus, by referring to your task lists or project schedule in the meeting, you can be confident that nothing has been forgotten or is about to slip through the cracks.

8. Share visibility and promote collaboration

If you’re the only one who has visibility into what your team is working on, you can unintentionally become a bottleneck and impede collaboration.

When you share visibility, stakeholders can have a better understanding of your workload, team members know what’s about to come down the pipe, and can see what their colleagues are working on. 

This means, that if one person suddenly needs help, they can see who else on the team might be available. Or if someone finishes up their task early, they can see what else they may be able to help with. Team members can also offer suggestions, share information, identify possible issues, and increase collaboration.

Plus, by having a shared calendar, it becomes easier to work and plan around vacations and other potential conflicts. Other ways Workzone promotes collaboration, increases visibility and reduces workload is through centralized communication, a 10,000 ft view of all project status, and workload reports.

9. Spread the workload throughout your team

You probably don’t want to assign a critical deliverable to a brand new junior team member. But, you also don’t want to pile everything on top of your most senior staff and leave everyone else sitting around with free time. Indecision can result in a task to slip through the cracks.

When assigning work, you need to balance both the skill sets of your team and their workloads. After all, if someone isn’t qualified to do the work, they may miss key components, and if they’re overworked, they may miss deadlines.

By using workload reports, you can see who you have on your team and how much work they each have assigned. So, if you have two designers and one has 60 hours next week while the other has 20, you can move tasks around to level the workload. 

10. Don’t overlook the basics like pen and paper

While project management software and standardized processes can do a lot to help you ensure tasks are never missed, there is no need to forget about the basics. 

For example, psychology shows that physically crossing things off a list can produce a host of benefits, including:

  • A sense of efficiency and effectiveness
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Greater optimism
  • A higher level of empowerment

Therefore, team members may find that writing the day’s tasks down on a post-it note or in a notebook can help them be more productive, while also ensuring nothing is forgotten, even when they’re away from their computer or phone. 

Catch tasks before they slip through the cracks with Workzone  

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Steve Pogue is the Marketing Operations Manager at Workzone. He writes about project management tips and the buying process. When not at Workzone, you can find him playing vintage base ball or relaxing with his family at home.