To Do Lists Are Not Enough

To do lists in business

To do lists come out of the time management world.  From the very first time that an Egyptian sketched out a shopping list on his papyrus, to do lists have had a similar format.  But the problem with to do lists in business is that to do lists are inherently personal, and lack the full organizational context.

 

To do lists are the cornerstone of personal productivity, and the gurus of managing to do lists typically focus on personal systems to prioritize tasks.  These include by importance, by time, by difficulty, by impact, and so on.  The problem is, all of these are ultimately personal judgments.

 

Indeed, while to do list software has been around nearly as long as software itself, to do list software has never become a standard part of the business world.  This is because to do lists are missing certain key features.

 

The 4 key features to do lists are missing

 

To make to do lists work in a business context, to do list software needs to do the following:

 

1) Put tasks in a broader business context

2) Make tasks accessible to others

3) Allow others to contribute to and provide feedback on tasks

4) Link specific items to specific deliverables

 

Put tasks in a broader business context

To do lists have a simple personal context: What am I working on?  But in business, this isn't enough.  To do list items have to fit into the broader context of specific projects, clients, teams, departments, etc.  A manager needs to know how the team is progressing against a strategic goal, not get caught up in reviewing the minutiae of each team member's task list.

 

Make tasks accessible to others

The tasks you're working on also need to be accessible to others.  Team members may be depending on you to get certain things done; if they can't see what you're working on, they're going to keep bugging up for updates, or worse, not realize that you're done and that they need to get to work.

 

Allow others to contribute to and provide feedback on tasks

In business, few tasks are purely the concern of a single individual.  Perhaps you need to gather input from a variety of stakeholders.  Perhaps you need to hand off the task to someone else on your team to carry it to completion.  This doesn't work if your task list is invisible to everyone else.

 

Link specific items to specific deliverables

Let's say you finish off a job.  You check the item off your to do list with a flourish and a fist pump.  So where do people go to find the fruits of your labor?  Simply managing tasks without tying them to deliverables leaves the job unfinished.

 

Using PBworks to manage to do lists

 

PBworks addresses the four key features that classic to do lists are missing.

 

Put tasks in a broader business context

In the world of PBworks, each task lives within the context of a specific task list, and each task list lives within the context of a specific workspace/project.  Yet you can always access your personal task list from your personalized dashboard.  This gives you the best of both worlds--a single to do list where each item is a coherent part of a larger initiative.

 

Make tasks accessible to others

Tasks in PBworks are accessible to fellow team members of your workspace/project.  This allows the relevant people to see your to do list items, without forcing them on all users.

 

Allow others to contribute to and provide feedback on tasks

Each task in PBworks includes a discussion board where any authorized users can make comments, add links, and otherwise share their input.  As changes are made, PBworks automatically notifies everyone who is interested in a task (the assigner, assignee, and anyone who has contributed).

 

Link specific items to specific deliverables

One of the most powerful aspects of PBworks' to do lists is the ability to link a list item to specific file, wiki page, or arbitrary URL.  This makes it easy to jump to either a specification, a relevant document, or a final deliverable.

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