What to look for in a task tracker: 10 tips for better task management

Whether you're just starting to feel the pain of not having a tool to help you manage your tasks, or you're already drowning and looking to get your head above water, it can be tough to know what task tracker features are important.

Are you overwhelmed by choice and trying to understand what all these features and fancy tools can do? Asking yourself "what's a burn down and burn up chart...and do I need one"? As someone who has struggled with this exact situation, I can tell you that the ocean is wide for choice when it comes to task management solutions. But if you're already drowning in tasks, actually finding one that works for you shouldn't feel like you've just added more to your plate.

In this blog post, I'll break down the top 10 features that I believe every task tracking app should have. These are the features you definitely want, and in my opinion, they're the ONLY ones you need to get work done and be productive.

1. Task ownership

If a task isn't owned by someone, it'll never be completed. Make sure each of your tasks is assigned to a single person responsible for its completion. You want a task management tool where task ownership is easy to identify, with an "assignee" field and the ability to change who owns it later on. You'll soon notice that unassigned tasks are rarely completed. And tasks assigned to more than one person tend to languish and folks debate who is doing what work.

2. Work prioritization

It's always helpful to prioritize your tasks so you know what needs to get done first and what can wait on the back burner. This is especially useful if you have multiple projects going on at once or many different clients all with their own requirements. You want an app where creating new tasks is easy but also allows you to categorize them into groups of importance (e.g., "high priority", "medium priority," etc.).

3. Workflow and task statuses

It's great to know who's working on a task and what its priority is. Knowing where a task is within a larger workflow is also crucial. Has someone begun working on this task? If so, how far along in the workflow has it progressed?

When you need to get a task done quickly, it's good to know the status of your tasks. It's also important to be able to track progress on these tasks and keep an eye on how much time has elapsed since they were last updated or completed. This can help you stay organized by knowing what needs attention first. This leads us to our next piece of advice.

4. Task history for team accountability

Maintaining a complete task history is important for a few reasons. It can serve as an archive of what feedback was provided and when. It also provides an audit trail and clear insight into task feedback and decision making. When working with your team and client stakeholders, it's all to easy to forget when direction was provided and by whom. As such, it's important to maintain task history so everyone knows what was communicated and when.

5. Simplicity thanks to tags

Don't overcomplicate the way you organize your tasks. You don't need custom fields for everything. Tags go a long way and they're simple enough for anyone to understand.  

Try tagging your work based on simple, logical groupings. For example, if you have a task related to your website copy and another task related to editing the blog post you're writing now, create two tags for "site" and "blogging." Then when it's time to switch gears from one effort to the other, all of your tasks will organized for quick reference.

Tagging your work is the simplest way to organize all the tasks you have on your plate.  

6. Due dates for deadlines

It's important for your team to know when work is due.  That way, they can stay on track and make sure that everything is done on time and expectations are met.

Nobody likes to be surprised by a deadline. That's why task managers have built in features that help you set due dates.

For instance, DoneDone has a calendar view which shows all of your deadlines for tasks for the day or upcoming week, all on one page so you can easily keep track of everything.

7. An integration with your time tracking app

Don't end up with a jack of all trades and a master of nothing. Task trackers are great and tracking work to be done. Time trackers are great for tracking time, generating time reports and invoicing clients. It's important that the two can integrate with one another.

The easiest way to do this is with a native integration with an app like Harvest. If your task tracker doesn't provide that, consider using a time tracking app with Zapier integration.

8. It's simple enough for everyone

It's important to get your entire team using the same tracker so that they can collaborate across disciplines. That's why simplicity is critical. The more complex the task tracker, the less likely your team will adopt it.

It's not helpful if your design and marketing teams are using different apps to track tasks. If your marketing team is tracking prospects on one app and design work in another, you may be missing out on opportunities to collaborate. The ideal task tracker will allow for collaboration across siloed teams so that they can share tasks with each other and manage shared projects together.

Another way a task tracker makes life easier is by acting as a central archive of work.

All of your company's projects are easily searchable and accessible. You can quickly find the information you need when it matters most, instead of interrupting a team member to ask where a file is or who left feedback and when.

9. A built-in help desk

Customer support can provide invaluable feedback about your product or service. Why keep that separate from your product and production teams?

When looking for a task tracker, look for one that offers a built-in help desk function. This means that both customer support and product/production teams are able to work collaboratively on one platform without ever having the need for switching between apps or services. The customer support team can easily pass critical customer feedback to your product teams, and connect that feedback to a specific task or to-do. It also saves time because support won’t have to switch contexts when answering questions about your product and it keeps your production team closely connected with customer feedback.

10. Reports that don't create more work

Being able to quickly report on your team's workload and the status of work is important. But we've all used tools with complicated reporting features that ended up creating more work rather than simplifying your work life.

Look for a simple task management app that doesn't complicate your life.  It should be able to report on your teams work, showing you just want you need to know, like tasks completed and who has how many tasks, without any of the other noise.

Conclusion: Simple is better

The best task management software features should be easy to use and available for teams and individuals alike. It should encourage accountability by assigning tasks to specific people and maintaining an inventory of activity and feedback. DoneDone is the simple way to track your team's work without complicated processes. Sign up for a free trial to see how DoneDone can help you track tasks and get work done.

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