Let’s face it, life is busy — at home and at work. Figuring out what tasks take priority can be a real challenge. The battle for our attention is real, and according to many studies, multitasking makes you stupid. Something’s got to give, right...? Here are 7 proven ways to manage tasks and prioritize work.
In product development, teams often find themselves short staffed and juggling many projects at one time. They are also working with a lot of uncertainty, so it’s no wonder that great teams struggle with knowing what their number one priority is to move the project forward, daily.
The good news is, there are a number of actions product development teams can take to cut through the clutter and get to working on what really matters.
Here are 7 proven ways to solve the task management and priority work problem.
Adopt Critical Chain project management
Critical Chain project management has a few benefits beyond traditional critical path methods. First of all, it requires you to load level the resources. After all, how accurate is your plan (and end date) if you have too much work overlapping critical resources? Critical Chain project management, requires you to give 50/50 duration estimates for the tasks, and use a shared project buffer to absorb the expected increase in work. The resulting overall timeline will be shorter than having each person buffer their own tasks. And by reporting daily on buffer consumption, you have a great way to measure status, as well as motivate the team members who have tasks on the critical chain.
Ensure you prioritize critical chain tasks across projects
Since most team members are on multiple projects, your visual management software should show your team—in real time—the relative project priorities as well as the individual task priorities within those projects. After all, it’s highly likely that people will have low priority tasks on a high priority project, and high priority tasks on a low priority project. When that happens, it’s important for the team to see it and make the correct decision on what to do. This visibility creates empowered teams that are confident that they are always doing the most important thing each day. Not to mention, it also prevents those evil daily slips from doubling the length of your project.
Check out this article on multitasking which explains why multitasking actually makes you stupid. Enough said.
Cut the number of projects underway
The fact of the matter is, overloaded systems are exponentially less productive (think traffic jams). If your core team members are on the critical path of two projects, it’s imperative that you pause one (use WSJF like we discussed here) or temporarily cancel it. Limiting work in the system has one of the largest impacts on productivity. It’s counterintuitive, but you’ll actually get both projects done faster, and one of them done a lot faster, if you do them in sequence instead of at the same time.
Implement daily stand-up meetings
Meet daily, for 15 minutes to ensure that the critical and near-critical resources aren’t blocked. This allows you to clear the bottlenecks as soon as they happen and prevent the delays from building up.
Implement Rolling Wave Planning
New product development is chaotic, so things change. (Sometimes a lot!) So it’s not a good idea to create a lot of detail too far out in the future. Rolling Wave Planning allows you to add the necessary detail right before it’s needed. After all, we can’t have correct priorities if we don’t know what needs to be done, by whom, and when…!
We wrote about this recently. Ensuring each team member is clear about the work at hand and when it is completed will make task hand-offs smoother and limit the amount of time the team spends back tracking.