In today’s chaotic business climate, multitasking is the norm. Jobs have been trimmed and companies are doing more with less. The roles and responsibilities have to evolve to deal with the chaos; they cannot be defined clearly enough before there is a need to adapt again. People are juggling multiple projects and often acting as both project manager and team. More frequently, people are feeling completely overwhelmed by the amount of work always waiting for them.
David Allen, a noted author and consultant, does a great job in his articles and books describing the difference between a task and a project. He says, “Most people are inefficient because they don’t force themselves to decide what things mean and what they are actually going to do about them when they first show up. So they are constantly rethinking the same things over and over and not making any progress in doing so—only adding to their stress” (http://www.davidco.com/faq.php?detail=32&category=5#question32 ).
In truth, most people are responsible for more projects than they are even aware of. Think of some of the tasks that are currently on your to-do list. Chances are, if there is an undone item that has been on the list for a while, it’s really a project, not a task. Use these questions as a way to decide:
Instructions: Answer the following questions for each activity. Then consult the scoring section to learn if your activity is a task or a project.
1. Can you complete the activity in one sitting?
2. Can you do the activity without anyone else’s help?
3. Can you complete the activity in less than four hours?
4. Has the activity been on your to-do list for less than a month?
5. Can you clearly define the measurements you will use to determine that the task is done?
If you answered “yes” to the majority of the questions, your activity is a task. If you answered “no” to three or more of the questions, treat your activity like a project.
Treating a project as a task prevents you from clearly defining the multiple steps and time commitment necessary to complete it. That creates the following problems:
• You avoid the task because you really haven’t figure out how to do it.
• You do small bits of the task but never get the momentum to see it all the way through.
• Your to-do list stays jammed with stuff you never get to, adding to your stress and making your list almost impossible to use.
• Every new task you get adds to your feeling that you’ve lost control.
Many people are struggling to balance a task list that’s really a project list. Take a minute and see if you can tell the difference. Which of these are projects and which are tasks?
making cookies cooking Thanksgiving dinner
writing a status report preparing a status meeting
coding a Webpage creating a Website
drawing a blueprint developing a new product
Clearly, the tasks are on the left and the projects are on the right. But there also are many things we do that sit squarely in between—and that’s where we often lose our way.
By the way, this is a picture of Einstein's Desk More at www.russellmartin.com