Projects are complex and require a lot of work to complete — so much work that it’s seemingly impossible to juggle it all without a thorough project task list.
So, why not make a task list?
In this post, you will learn:
- What a project task list is,
- Why it’s important,
- How to create a project task list, and
- How to use a team management tool for project task lists.
Moreover, we will provide you with a free project task list template.
Table of Contents
What is a project task list?
A project task list is exactly what its name implies — a list of all the tasks that need to be finished for a project to be done. It is created at the start of the project, in the planning phase.
The list usually includes the most relevant information about the tasks, such as:
- Estimated time necessary to finish the tasks, etc.
💡 Plaky Pro Tip
Find out more about the phases of project management, in this article:
Why is a project task list important?
When managing a project, making a project task list is a step you should never miss. A high-quality task list will serve as a foundation for further management of your project.
A task list is important when managing a project because it has a positive impact on:
- Prioritization of tasks,
- Delegation, and
- Tracking progress.
Benefit #1: Productivity
When team members have clearly stated tasks with deadlines, they can organize their work better and be more productive. No time is wasted on deciding who is doing what and when past the planning stage. Everyone knows what is expected of them, and they can focus on their work.
This helps team members feel less stressed at work. According to the Health and Safety Executive, one of the major causes of stress for workers is not understanding their role and responsibilities.
Moreover, Gallup’s Employee Engagement Survey shows only every other employee feels they know what is expected of them at work. But, if 8 employees out of 10 felt that way, the companies could gain a 10% increase in productivity, among other benefits.
Benefit #2: Motivation
Projects can be long and exhausting at times. Even if the team was motivated and excited about the project at the beginning, that motivation may drop as the work progresses.
The ability to check things they have already done from a list and to see their progress clearly displayed helps employees stay motivated. It makes them feel that their work is recognized and noticed.
Benefit #3: Prioritization of tasks
Once a task list is formed, it is easier to determine the priority of each task in relation to all the others.
Being able to prioritize tasks correctly is vital because it ensures all team members are aware of which tasks have the highest priority and can direct the biggest portion of their efforts working on them.
Benefit #4: Delegation
A clear project task list makes delegation of work straightforward and fair.
Each task is assigned to one or several team members, and it’s immediately apparent if one team member has too many tasks, while another barely has any work to do. This system prevents everyone from being overworked and under too much stress.
Benefit #4: Tracking progress
Managers and stakeholders can easily track the progress of a project by referring to the project task list and checking which tasks are finished, in progress, or still haven’t been started.
By keeping an eye on the task list, you can check if the project is on track and react if there are delays and problems.
How to create a project task list?
Creating a project task list may seem complicated, but, if you simply follow the steps below, you will be able to produce an extensive list of tasks that will aid you in managing your project.
Here are 4 steps to help you create a project task list:
- Define project scope,
- Specify the tasks,
- Estimate the time needed for each task, and
- Delegate tasks.
To make creating a project task list simpler, you can use project management software — which we’ll elaborate on later in the text, after the basics of making a project task list are covered.
Step #1: Define project scope
The very first thing to do before even comprising a list of tasks is to define the project scope. To do that, answer these questions:
- What are the goals of your project?
- How do you plan to carry out your project?
- What do you need to do to realize your project?
- What resources do you need to realize your project?
At this stage, you:
- Decide what the project will include,
- Set the budget, and
- Determine the project deliverables.
It would be best to include all the stakeholders in this part of the process, just to make sure everyone is on the same page, since, once composed, a project scope should be changed as little as possible.
Step #2: Specify the tasks
Now that the scope has been determined, it’s time to break the project into tasks.
First, divide the project into large, more general parts. For example, if you’re developing a marketing campaign, you could break this project down into:
- Content creation,
- Visual design,
- Social media promotion, etc.
Once this is done, specify all the tasks necessary to complete each part of the project. In our example, content creation can be divided into specific texts that need to be written and designed into specific visuals that need to be created.
Then, think about task dependencies — which task needs to be completed so another can start? For example, there has to be a clear idea of which texts will be written before the visuals are created for them. Sort the list accordingly.
The challenge is to get the size of the tasks just right. If the tasks are too complex and require a long time to finish, that defies the purpose of the list — to divide a project into manageable portions.
On the other hand, splitting everything into small tasks can result in micromanagement.
In the case of our marketing campaign, if a team member has been given the task of writing an article, this task will not be subdivided into writing an introduction, developing a story in the middle part of the text, and writing a conclusion.
Step #3: Estimate the time needed for each task
It is essential to estimate how long each task will take to complete so that you can determine the timeframe of the whole project.
You should strive to be as precise as possible since even small discrepancies throughout the list will add up and lead you to constantly change your project timeline.
Still, this is not a simple job. One way to make time estimation easier is to use a project management tool that has a time tracking option.
This way, you can easily estimate how long each task will take based on how much time your team has usually spent on similar tasks in the past. Once the time has been distributed and dependencies determined, each task can get a deadline.
Step #4: Delegate tasks
Finally, every task should be assigned to a team member. Consider your team members’ experience and expertise and delegate work accordingly.
A clear delegation of tasks helps increase the accountability of each team member since their tasks are clearly stated and expectations set.
A project management task list example (+ template)
To give you an idea of how a project task list should look and what to include in it, here’s an example:
At the beginning, in the upper part of the project task list template, there should be general information about the project:
- The name of the project,
- Project manager’s name,
- Starting date,
- Deadline, and
- The name of the client.
After this, comes the main part of the template — the list of all tasks followed by additional information. This segment can include, for example:
- Task number,
- Task name,
- Estimated time,
- Assignee, etc.
🔽 Get the template here: Project task list template
Using project management software for task lists
While a template is not a bad option for creating task lists, it’s much more practical to use to-do list software.
Most management tools have templates already made for you to choose from and customize to your needs.
- Due date,
- Progress, or any other that you need to further specify your tasks.
This way, you get a clear overview of your tasks, and you can monitor the project’s progress. Moreover, it’s easy to make changes, and you receive a notification whenever someone changes the status of the task (e.g. from “to do” to “in progress”).
Also, you can group tasks however you wish (e.g. according to the assignee or status).
💡 Plaky Pro Tip
You can check out some of the best task management tools on the market right now here:
Conclusion: A clear task list leads to a successful project completion
When starting a project, composing a task list is a crucial stage that will help you manage your project smoothly.
Its benefits include:
- Increased productivity,
- Higher motivation,
- Easier prioritization of tasks,
- Better delegation, and
- Better progress tracking.
In this article we have listed and explained the 4 steps you need to go through to create an effective project task list:
- Define project scope,
- Specify the tasks,
- Distribute time, and
- Delegate tasks.
If you follow these steps, we are confident that you will be able to make an excellent project task list.
✉️ Has this article helped you in creating a project task list? Can you think of other steps that are important for making a project task list? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know, and we might include your ideas in some of our future posts. If you know someone who would find this article useful or interesting, share it with them.