Vague tasks are often comprised of several smaller tasks, which, if unaccounted for, will throw your workflow off when you’re nearing a deadline. It doesn’t help when building effective workflows with your Executive.
The good news is there’s a better way to write your tasks. This technique will help you overcome procrastination and ultimately give you the clarity and direction you need to move your projects forward quickly. Poorly written tasks will lead you to underestimate what needs to get done when it needs to get done and how it will move your more significant priorities forward.
A well-written task will help you work more effectively and efficiently. Without giving our tasks the required context, we risk getting blindsided by deadlines and scope creep. To move projects forward, we must finesse our task-writing skills. The ideal task includes four components:
A task should begin with a verb, so write it down as an action. Imagine you’re Executive wants to apply to be a speaker at a conference. The deadline for the application is October 3rd. You must know instinctively that the first step toward putting together a presentation is to design the slides, so, therefore, your task must begin with the word “Design.”
Now, the key to structuring your task is to recognise the difference between single-step and multi-step tasks and write them out accordingly.
Taking the presentation design, for instance, “Email draft presentation deck to the executive”, is a multi-step task which in and of itself doesn’t reflect the multiple steps which comprise it. You’re better suited to break it down into “Outline Presentation,” “Draft Presentation,” “Review Presentation,” and so on.
Next, look at the detail.
You’ll want to provide details about exactly what you’re doing.
For example, you’ve been asked to write a report for your Executive detailing the return to the office and what will be needed to start a hybrid system. It’s worth including as many details in the task as possible so that you don’t have to search around to get the full scope of the project.
“Write the First Draft of Return to Office Policy”
Consider the following questions:
Who? Who needs to take action? Who needs to be involved? Who needs to know?
What? What is the purpose of the task? What is critical information?
Why? Why is this task conducive to moving the project forward?
How? How do you complete the task? What do you need to make it happen? Don’t assume that you know all the details based on the wording of the task alone. Make sure you have as many details as possible.
I know it seems like a long-winded process using this structure for detailing your tasks, but after a while, it will become second nature to quickly ask yourselves these points when taking instructions from your Executive. I recommend writing who, what, why, and how at the top of your notebook every time you go into your one-on-one with your Executive.
It also ensures that the task is understood and doesn’t require unnecessary back-and-forth clarifying questions.
Make sure you assign a deadline to each aspect of the task to be on track and report back to your Executive when each part of the workflow is completed.