How to Improve Task Management: Roles, Skills, Tips, and Tools

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Task management is the process of managing a task from start to finish. Learn tips on using task management tools, apps, or a task management system.

[Featured image] A project manager talks to a team member about different project tasks.

Task management is the process of effectively and efficiently tracking, managing, and executing the life cycle of a task or many tasks within a project from inception to execution. It aims to improve a task or project's decision-making, communication, efficiency, and effectiveness. You can improve your task management skills using strategies and tools like apps, software programs, and manual methods like to-do lists or charts. 

Importance of task management for project teams 

Task management is important for project teams. Teams must communicate the status of various tasks and duties within a project to keep it moving smoothly and on track. Task management can act as a line of defence against major errors. You can also use it to troubleshoot problems that arise. Outsiders can also see a project’s progress in real-time, which is helpful for stakeholders and supervisors. This sense of transparency may be beneficial for receiving feedback and constructive criticism. 

Task management roles 

*All salary data is sourced from Glassdoor as of May 2024

Depending on the team size and project scope, you may find task management used in various roles within a company. Some companies have a job defined as a task manager, while others have positions such as project managers or team leads who use task management to perform their jobs effectively. 

1. Project managers

Annual salary (UK): £54,750

Project managers lead teams through a project's lifecycle by organising and planning aspects such as budget, documentation, and resources. They use task management to ensure multiple tasks within a large project are done on time and without error. They usually work with different people outside the project group to provide a project comes together. 

2. Team leads

Annual salary (UK): £36,000

Team leads usually work with a subgroup of project participants. Individuals in this role rely on task management to achieve goals by delegating tasks to group members and helping their coworkers accomplish those goals. 

3. Program managers

Annual salary (UK): £66,200

While project managers focus on single project tasks, program managers oversee multiple projects and oversee project managers. In addition to ensuring that projects and outcomes adhere to the company's long-term goals, they use task management to maintain organisation across a wide range of projects and departments.

Benefits of a task management system 

A task management system has many benefits, from improved efficiency to greater communication among team members, supervisors, and managers. 

A few other benefits include: 

  • Increased collaboration among team members 

  • Projects staying on task and on time 

  • More transparency with task flow 

  • A better understanding of the needs of a project or tasks

  • Finding issues or concerns earlier 

  • Preventing major issues that could derail a project 

  • Completing projects more efficiently and effectively 

Task management skills 

Task management is a vital personal skill and an asset to many companies. You don’t have to be in a leadership position like a project manager to practice task management skills. These skills can translate into multiple aspects of your work day. Overall, task management can make you a more efficient, productive employee. Consider these task management skills: 

  • Critical thinking 

  • Ability to troubleshoot 

  • Attention to detail 

  • Effective communication 

  • Ability to delegate tasks 

  • More accurate goal-setting 

Task management tools 

Task management tools can help individuals, teams, or companies organise tasks more efficiently and effectively. These apps or systematic approaches to managing tasks help individuals improve productivity and manage their time and efforts. Most task management tools will include or incorporate some systems of charts, graphs, or grids that make it easy to see the progression and status of a task or project.  

Task management tools are classified as online, electronic, and manual. To choose the best tool for your task or project, consider the needs of your task or project, the size of your project group, the project scope, and your industry. 

Task management software

Task management software, sometimes called project management software, is an electronic tool for teams to organise tasks. There are free and paid options, and most software programs have accompanying apps that can be downloaded to other devices. 

Some popular task management software options include: 

  • Gantt Excel uses the Gantt charting system, which provides a timeline view of tasks scheduled over time, as an optional template in Excel. With this program, you can create milestones, highlight overdue tasks, set parent and child relationships, set project budgets, and more. Gantt Excel may be easier to use if your team is already comfortable with Excel.

  • Kanbanize digitises the concept of a Kanban board, another popular task management system. The Kanban system uses cards (tasks), columns (stages of tasks), and swimlanes (different work tasks) to create a visual representation of a project. Work-in-progress (WIP) limits and commitment points help teams manage deadlines and intervene with any issues. 

  • HubSpot task management software is built for hyper-focused task management. It uses a to-do list format structure that allows users to prioritise tasks daily. The user-friendly dashboard also provides an array of functionalities within the program, from spreadsheets to calendars—all in one place via one view. 

  • ProofHub offers a wide range of task management methods in one software program, from Gantt charting to Kanban boards, along with other collaborative tools and workplace flow features. This software program can work well with varying-sized project groups and industries.

Apps for task management 

Task management apps help teams collaborate on tasks or projects by providing a real-time platform that can be changed and amended. They are a convenient way to manage tasks or projects. 

Some popular task management app options in 2022 include the following: 

  • HiTask can be a useful task management app for smaller teams. This intuitive app features a shared calendar, time tracking, and a centralised dashboard that keeps everything visible and in one place. You can upload files to the app, assign projects, and send notifications to your team. 

  • Basecamp is a good app for managing people who work remotely. One of the first task management apps, it works well for groups of 20 or fewer. Features of this app include automatic check-ins to assess a task's status, real-time group chat to troubleshoot and communicate when needed, and a shared schedule and calendar for easy access to important deadlines. 

  • allows users to prioritise tasks and change their status in real-time using the calendar built into the app. Communication occurs via the chat function. This app will be a great fit if you have a complex project to manage with many moving parts and people involved. 

  • ClickUp is a highly customisable, user-friendly task management app for almost any industry. To stay on task, you can create comment threads specific to certain tasks and break big tasks into smaller, more manageable parts called subtasks. Like other apps, ClickUp allows you to create recurring tasks and schedule deadlines and important dates using a collaborative calendar. 

Manual task management tools 

Manual task management tools provide visualisation and organisation for smaller teams where tasks may not change often. These systems use physical items like paper, whiteboards, corkboards, sticky notes, and other items that allow all team members to see a task or project's progress visually.  

Common manual task management tools include the following: 

  • The Kanban board method uses sticky notes and large sections of chart paper. Using this system, you write tasks onto sticky notes and move the tasks into new columns based on the task's progress (i.e., in progress, review, completed, etc.). This “pull” method of task management offers a visualisation of tasks in progress by classing each task in terms of priority.

  • Spreadsheets can be a way to manage tasks manually. This could be a spreadsheet only the task or project manager uses or a shared document. You could use colour coding to separate stages of a task or people working on the project. Spreadsheets are great for organising tasks visually and can be used in several ways. 

  • Paper calendars already have built-in dates and a visual sense of time, so you may find them helpful when managing tasks—particularly deadlines and mini-tasks along the way. A calendar allows you to highlight critical dates, give a good outlook on the week ahead, note any lags in delivery time, etc. 

Task management vs. project management

Task management involves managing and tracking individual tasks, whereas project management involves managing an entire project with many tasks. 

Task management is a narrower approach to team management, focusing on the granular level rather than the big picture, as is the case with project management. Both task and project management require managing people and tasks on varying levels and degrees. You may find that task managers and project managers use similar tools to achieve their goals. 

Tips to improve task management

Tools like Kanban boards, software systems, and apps can all improve task management. Aside from these helpful tools and methods, you may find other ways to improve task management in the workplace. Remember that you’ll succeed more when you find what works best for you and your team. You can use some of these tips to improve task management:

  • Use time-blocking to improve productivity. Time-blocking blocks off chunks or sections of your day and devotes each section to a specific task. This method helps to structure your workday and can improve productivity since you’re focused on one duty at a time. 

  • Encourage team members to set both long- and short-term goals. It’s easy to hyperfocus on minute details when managing tasks, widen your horizon, and set flexible long-term goals to understand your progress better. This is a great tip for tracking progress; when you align goals to tasks, you may find better ways to achieve them. 

  • Embrace the to-do list. A to-do list may sound simple, but if you can set your intentions for each day based on the previous day’s progress, you can keep a running log of actionable steps to achieve a task. You can use paper and pencil; the notes feature on your smartphone, an app, or a software program. 

  • Maintain a flexible schedule. Keep an open schedule daily to prevent stress. This is not to say there should not be a hard and fast deadline for tasks, but be open to swapping out aspects of a task if one way works better. When you set tasks at the beginning of a new project, be open to necessary changes.

Implementing strategies

To improve your task management, consider using a tool that works for you and implementing some strategies to help you and your team achieve your goals. 

Relying on a task management strategy or set of strategies can help streamline project completion and simplify providing feedback for future projects and tasks. 

Prioritise time and efforts

Prioritising your time and efforts is at the top of the list when considering strategies for task management. Time management and task management go hand in hand. You may be more efficient and productive when you can look at the tasks for the day and know what to focus on first and for how long. 

Communication and delegation

Communication and daily assessment can help spot problems early. Have a system where you check in daily with your team and leave an open line of communication. 

Delegating tasks is another helpful strategy for task management, but knowing who to assign tasks to and how to delegate them is equally important. Provide clear, specific instructions and expectations and offer support along the way. Appropriate delegation can help your team work better together and soften the workload of any one person. 

When you’re ready to implement one or more strategies, involve your team and include them in your vision for the task or project. Remember, sometimes, finding the right strategy involves trial and error.

Get started with Coursera.

If you need guidance and support in choosing a task management tool or strategy for your and your team's needs, try learning more about task and project management by enrolling in a course or programme. On Coursera, consider the Google Project Management Certificate, amongst other certificate programmes and courses designed specifically for task and project management. 

The more you know about task management, the more qualified you may become as a task manager or project manager to decide which strategy will work best for your needs. You can start your research today and find helpful courses and programmes on Coursera that can help and support you as a task manager. 

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