Contextual Task Management

Some of the best project managers seem to have an uncanny sense of what needs to be completed by whom. If you sit in a meeting with these types, they instantly recall what activities those in the room are performing, what questions need answering, and what next steps are required. Whether interacting with individuals or teams, they’re always aware of what needs to be done in that particular environment.

While project planning is second nature to most PMs, many miss out on a critical element of consideration for each task: its context. Context is occasionally the same as the person assigned a particular task, but more often it’s the environment where a task must be completed. By organizing tasks and project elements in this manner, you can quickly reflect on your current environment, and gather the tasks relevant to that environment.

If you’re having a meeting with a particular team, you can quickly retrieve tasks for that context, and with a moment of foresight, come to the meeting with an idea of what needs to be accomplished in that particular context, making the meeting and its outcomes significantly better. Similarly, when you have an uninterrupted moment with your PC, quickly retrieving tasks that revolve around that context will focus your efforts, and prevent scattershot time wasting.

Contextual task management is also very effective at the individual level. One of the key skills that separates highly effective individuals is their ability to rapidly transition between tasks, essentially being able to “close the books” on one task, and immediately begin working on another. Less effective workers spend much of this transition time attempting to get organized and gathering their thoughts, all while dealing with everything from ringing phones to email pop-up alerts. Given five minutes, the person whose tasks are organized contextually can quickly accomplish a relevant objective, while the less effective person has barely determined what to do next.

While too much planning and categorization can make your project or individual task planning overly burdensome and complex, briefly considering the context of a new task can greatly increase your effectiveness when it comes time to perform that task. Like a manufacturing facility that carefully plans its production to reach maximum efficiency as it transitions between products, this planning will certainly pay off in the long run.

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