How to make the most out of visual task management systems
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Finding a method in the madness is a challenge as old as modern work itself. From to-do lists to spreadsheets to whiteboards to sticky notes on computer monitors, there are many ways to stay organized and make sure tasks don't fall through the cracks—some more effective than others.
Research shows that 65% of people are visual learners. While it's long been known that visuals do a better job at communicating memorable messages to the masses, visuals can also improve the way you organize your workload.
Visual task management is a technique that replaces overwhelming to-do lists and spreadsheets with visual task and project boards making it easiest to communicate complex projects, handoffs, and tasks. Let's take a look at how to make the most out of a visual task management system.
The rise of visual task management systems
Traditional task management systems, like to-do lists, do many of the same things visual task management systems do—just in a more analog, less digestible way. Visual task management software and systems help improve project management by providing a more holistic, birds-eye view of all in-progress tasks, due dates, priorities, workloads, and task dependencies.
Essentially, visual task management can help you quickly visualize all the work at hand to better prioritize tasks and allocate time and resources.
Research has shown that the brain is pre-wired for visual thought processes. After all, 95% of all cognitive information is perceived through sight. Visual task management taps into this natural ability to help teams stay organized and productive. Some of the most common visual task management boards include Kanban, Scrum, Gantt charts, and calendars.
Let’s take a more detailed look at each type of task board.
Kanban board: A Kanban board helps you visually plot out projects and workflows using columns and cards. Kanban boards are a common tool used in Scrum or Agile methodologies and help teams quickly visualize progress and spot risks, missed deadlines, and other blockers.
Scrum board: A scrum board is used to track work in short, incremental sprints. A scrum board format is flexible and adaptable to your team's needs but is typically divided into horizontal and vertical sections to track in-progress work.
Gantt chart: A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart used to illustrate a timeline of a project, program, or task. Each section of a Gantt chart illustrates a step in a larger process or task, as well as the amount of time it will take to complete that step. When you zoom out on the chart, you can see a full overview of what work needs to get done, who's doing it, and when.
Calendars: A tried-and-true calendar is a great way to manage lots of tasks with different due dates, stay abreast of deadlines, and plan ahead.
Advantages of using visual management boards for project management
Think about how you navigate your daily life. Traffic lights and walking signs dictate your movements, and colors help you quickly identify categories without using any written language.
Visual cues are all around us, and visual project management utilizes those cues to organize tasks into clearly and quickly understandable workflows, roles, and responsibilities. Sure, you could send a detailed spreadsheet or a lengthy, bulleted email, but simple visuals like flowcharts, timelines, and planning boards can do a lot more to get your team on the same page.
Here’s a few benefits of visual project management boards.
Plan and schedule projects by tasks with clarity and ease
There are few things more stressful than realizing you've let a project or task fall through the cracks. Whatever method or board you choose, visual task management makes it easy to organize tasks and schedule future work to give your team full visibility into what's in-progress and what's coming up next.
Easily give necessary stakeholders access for enhanced transparency and accountability
Traditional project management tools like spreadsheets and to-do lists may work well enough for small, boots-on-the-ground teams, but they don't communicate much to people who aren't working on tasks day-to-day. Stakeholders need quick visibility into in-progress work. Visuals make it easy to provide it to them during check-ins, updates, one-on-one meetings, status reports and updates, and board meetings.
Visual boards also move tasks out of rows, columns, and buried emails to improve team accountability—it's tough to claim you weren't aware of your step or task when it's clearly visualized on a board or calendar.
Flexibility to suit your team
No two teams work exactly alike and task management methodologies vary by company type and industry. What apps or tools does your team already use? Make sure any new visual task management tool you implement can integrate with the apps your team needs to use every day.
Tools like Lucidspark can help you organize your tasks in the types of boards best suited for your specific workflows.
Create a central repository for all up-to-date documentation
We all know the feeling of hunting for information about a task in a crowded inbox or chasing down a colleague for a creative brief or datasheet. With traditional project management tools, it's easy for information to get siloed in disconnected spreadsheets, emails, tools, and systems.
The right visual project management tools make it easy to collate, consolidate, and sync information across tools and processes in a centralized location. Many visual project management tools also make it easy to forward or attach relevant information to tasks without ever leaving the tool.
A flexible tool that enables visibility and collaboration is crucial. However, not everyone should have the ability to adjust workflows or edit tasks. Look for a tool with permissioning functionality to make sure you maintain some governance over your workflows.
Set helpful rules and expectations
Suppose individuals and teams in your organization are all using different tools to manage their projects and tasks. In that case, it's tough to establish benchmarks, quality controls and ensure teams stay aligned to company goals and strategic objectives. You can customize a visual project management tool to fit your organization's needs and project goals and keep everyone aligned on a shared standard of working.
Emails, Slack workspaces, instant messages, and desk drive-bys are acceptable ways to interact and collaborate with your coworkers. But when it comes to the mandatories of projects and tasks, your team needs to standardize communication methods to ensure details aren't lost in email threads or figurative games of telephone. Using visual project management tools, you can ensure that communication on projects and tasks are consolidated in a centralized location.
Humans are visual beings, and legacy, robotic, or analog ways of working simply don't work for how we're wired. Visuals can significantly impact the way we work, and visual project and task management can tap into your team's innate abilities to improve collaboration and boost productivity. Whatever your business goals, selecting the right visual project management can be one of the most important and productive decisions you make for the organization.
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