How do you think your employees feel when you tell them to ‘redesign the website’ or ‘set up a marketing campaign’? With such broadly stated goals, they might not know where to start, or how long it’s going to take, they might be frustrated if the deadline seems to short, or they might not even feel like doing it at all if they don’t have a clear roadmap.
Long and complex tasks are killing productivity.
This is how you get procrastination, low motivation and everything that comes with it. And to make matters slightly worse, employers don’t know how to break up tasks - it’s not their specialty so, understandably, they don’t know which processes are involved in each project.
On the other hand, employees are just following orders, they want to get the job done and the deadlines aren’t allowing them to dedicate time to planning.
Luckily, there are a couple of things you can do to ensure that you give your employees small manageable tasks that they’ll want to get right on to.
Sharpen Your Knife
Breaking up complex projects into smaller chunks is a team effort and it will almost certainly take some time and practice. On the one hand, you need to do the initial slicing so that your workers don’t feel dizzy when they get a gigantic task that’s going to take them two months. On the other hand, it’s the Team Leads and employees who need to do the fine chopping because they know the steps and processes best.
So, when you get a brand new big project, first try to figure out how to divide it in phases. If you’re not familiar with the processes involved in that type of project, you can use time tracking software to analyze projects. Task tracking apps give you the ability to take a look at what goes on on your employees’ computers when they do a certain project or task. This includes websites and apps they use, who does what and how long each process takes.
Take this task tracking software data into account when formulating tasks. It will help you decide who to assign each part of the project to. Alternatively, you can chop up the project based on which tools are used for each part of it. This way, employees get tasks that seem at least slightly more manageable and they’re ready for work.
Which brings us to the second step. Now, let’s be honest here, your contribution to the task chopping process will probably be a very small one - good for initial motivation but not much else. Now it’s time for employees to get their hands dirty.
There are two things you can do at this point. First, trust your employees’ judgement - they are the experts, right? Well, at least some of them. And secondly, encourage planning. Allow time for the team to get together and map out the work that needs to be done. Encourage them to figure out the smaller steps in the process and to allocate tasks based on expertise. Tell them they could make to-do lists or organize everything within a project management system. Give them a couple of hours for this, maybe even a couple of days for very complex projects. This time investment will return manyfold.
(Useful tip: If your task tracking system has an option to give employees access to their data, make sure to tell them about it because the time tracking reports will come in really handy when estimating how much time to dedicate to different tasks.)
Just allocating smaller tasks doesn’t mean that your work is done. Just like with anything, you need to make sure that everything is working. Tracking progress is an essential part of process optimization. And luckily, you can use your employee project time tracking software for this too.
Keep tabs on which tasks are in progress, which are done and how long everything is going to take to finish. And if you see that something isn’t working, adjust.
Today’s technology even allows you to implement automated time tracking solution that makes the whole tracking process easier, more precise and error-free.
Doing task tracking in a methodical and accurate way will not only ensure that the team is on track with the project, but it also makes a neat client progress report.
How Does All of This Affect Productivity?
Smaller tasks improve productivity in a number of ways.
First of all, the employees and teams are more organized. They have everything mapped out and they always know exactly what they need to do next. Organized workload makes them more focused and productive.
Secondly, smaller chunks make progress tracking easier. Employees can check off completed tasks, so they know precisely how much work they’ve done and how much still remains. A sense of progress increases motivation to move the needle.
Finally, when employees have tasks that are doable in the foreseeable future (read: today), they are much more willing to start instead of procrastinate, and much less likely to succumb to distractions before they finish the task.
Long and complex tasks are scary. With no end in sight, they prompt procrastination more often than productivity. But technology and inter-team collaboration are here to save the day. Using project management and time tracking software along with encouraging employees’ common sense in organizing their workload open up the doors for a fresh burst of productivity, motivation and readiness to get down to business.