Many people use them, but with varying degrees of success: to-do lists are undoubtedly an indispensable tool in project management, but you have to find the right method. The well-known lists, which have been created by almost everyone at some point, offer considerable added value in a professional context - especially for you as a project manager. They serve as an efficient tool when it comes to managing a large mountain of important tasks and ensuring that none of them are overlooked.
A to-do list not only lists all upcoming tasks, but can also be customised to the specific requirements of your projects. This ensures a high level of clarity and enables you as project manager to precisely track the progress of each individual project step.
There are various methods available to you for keeping a clear to-do list - from the basic to the complex method. For you as a project manager, a more complex method is ideal, as all project tasks are divided into sub-areas and the required resources and Stakeholders are listed. This gives you in-depth insight and comprehensive control options.
The key question is: What are the advantages and disadvantages of to-do lists for effective project management? In this blog, you will learn 5 helpful tips on how to make your projects more successful with to-do lists.
As a project manager, you know the crucial importance of effective time management and a clear organisational structure in your working environment. A to-do list is particularly helpful as it removes unfinished tasks from your mind and allows you to concentrate fully on the task at hand. Focusing clearly on one task allows you and your project team to complete it efficiently before moving on to the next.
The creation of a clear organisational structure, combined with improved time planning and Prioritisation according to relevance and deadlinemakes the to-do list an indispensable tool for you. The ability to track the status of individual project steps and keep an eye on the overall progress at all times motivates the entire team to achieve the goals set.
Despite the promising benefits of to-do lists, you should also keep potential challenges in mind. Especially in situations where time resources for a project are already limited, creating a to-do list could be perceived as an additional time commitment. The resulting time pressure could lead to unconscious or even conscious stress, which can have a negative impact on performance or quality. If stress persists, further negative consequences - such as like burnout symptoms - occur.
There is also the possibility that unrealistic goals are set as a result of the to-do list. This can often be attributed to the fact that too high expectations are placed on one's own performance or that of the team. When going through the list, unfinished tasks can have a demotivating effect, while what has already been successfully achieved and ticked off is overlooked.
If you realise that the advantages of a to-do list outweigh the disadvantages for your day-to-day project work, it is now crucial to determine the optimal form of such a list for your needs. First of all, you should decide whether an analogue or digital solution is better suited to your requirements. Analogue variants would be a notebook, whiteboard or handwritten lists, for example. If your project team works together in one place, these are accessible to everyone. In addition, analogue writing is better remembered. The disadvantage of this method is that priorities cannot be changed as flexibly without increasing the workload. In the digital world, you can simply move entries to a different position without losing a lot of time. With the manual method, you would have to rewrite various items or possibly recreate the entire to-do list.
The digital version of the to-do list is accessible to all employees in one system. This is a huge advantage, especially if your project team works from home or at different locations. You can read more about cross-location project work here. With software such as ZEP, you can divide your projects into individual task packages and sub-projects and always have an overview of which tasks are due next.
To-do lists allow you to focus on one important resource in project management: time! With the ALPEN method put your individual to-dos in the right order:
By applying this method to your time management, you also integrate decision-making and control into your to-do lists. You prioritise and make decisions about which tasks are to be completed, how, when and by whom. A period of time for buffers is also taken into account, because: Priorities can change over the course of the project! Although the follow-up check takes additional time, it saves you a correction loop if you recognise errors before submitting a project.
Especially with extensive project steps, it can be difficult to keep an overview and know where to start. An effective strategy is to divide complex tasks into several small steps. This gives you a better structure and clear indications of where and when to start a task.
In digital solutions such as ZEP this can be realised, for example, by introducing subtasks within a main task. With the Module Tickets, Tasks & To-dos you can divide projects into individual tasks for your team and even integrate support requests from your customers directly into the project process as tickets. Subdividing tasks not only makes them more manageable for your team, but also leads to quick successes and an improved overview, concentration and organisation in the course of your project. The option of assigning subtasks to individual team members and setting individual deadlines is particularly practical.
A common problem arises when Too many tasks in too little time have to be completed. Tackling a large number of tasks that cannot be completed in a single day anyway can overwhelm you and your project team and lead to stress and dissatisfaction. In order to better estimate the number of tasks that can realistically be completed within a working day, it is advisable to always plan them with the approximate time and resources required. To do this, get your expert project team members on board and ask them for their time and resource estimates for your project. The employees concerned are often very good at estimating how long they will need for the respective project steps.
The estimated time for each project step gives you a clear overview of how many hours of your day are planned. In digital tools such as ZEP, you can enter an estimated time for each sub-project and task package.
The next deadline is already looming, but you haven't completed the project step yet? Set yourself shorter deadlines in future and build a buffer into your project planning. If you finish earlier than planned, you can move on to the next task or take a well-earned break. Even the most effective to-do list can become frustrating if the number of tasks does not decrease or new to-dos are constantly being added. It is therefore advisable to make sure you have sufficient buffer time. As it is often impossible to predict the exact amount of work required for tasks or sub-projects, create enough leeway to avoid getting stressed!
Large and unpleasant tasks are often postponed and, in case of doubt, are left undone. However, if you start with the most difficult task, your motivation for the other items on your to-do list will increase. Why? Then you have already done the worst - these method is also Eat the Frog named.
Procrastination can cause a considerable loss of time, so that even the most well-thought-out time management and the most precise to-do list in project management suffers from this procrastination.
You can optimally organise digital notes with the help of suitable tools. Apps such as OneNote or Microsoft are often sufficient for simple to-do lists. However, when it comes to to-do lists with direct reference to individual tasks, a Project management software such as ZEP considerable added value.
With ZEP, you can create a list of your customers' tasks or support requests directly in the project with reference to priority and duration - and assign the individual tasks to different employees in your project team. By using the planned hours module, you can define hours and services in advance to enable professional and detailed planning of your projects. You can choose between fixed and dynamic planned hours to manage your projects according to your individual requirements. This allows you to divide your project progress into individual to-dos per employee and keep an eye on every project step right from the start.
The undeniable advantage of to-do lists in project management lies in the simplicity of their structure. Therefore, if you can strengthen the overview of your entire project - from planning to control to successful completion - with to-do lists, it is definitely advisable to do so. Especially if you make sure to check the lists regularly, they can be very clear and contribute to the success of your project. This is especially true if you use software such as ZEP to divide each major project step into sub-projects or work packages. In this way, you can always keep an eye on the progress of the project.
By using ZEP, you can not only track the tasks completed, but also precisely document the working time spent. Just as it has been since the BAG ruling from September 2022 is mandatory in Germany. This makes it possible to precisely analyse working hours, identify efficiency potential and Improved resource planning. If you would like to find out for yourself what options ZEP offers you for more effective project management, you can download the Test the software for 30 days free of charge and without obligation.
Content Marketing Manager at ZEP
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