This article originally appeared on the FOCUS blog.

If you’re a startup or a small business owner, it’s likely you don’t have enough time or resources to do everything you need to get done. There are only so many hours in a day, and it can often feel like you’re running on an endless hamster wheel of tasks and deadlines. 

When there’s so much to do and so little time to do it in, it can be hard to reach the holy grail of peak productivity. However, it’s important to streamline processes and ensure you’re working smart, not hard if you want to push away from the endless day-to-day grind of running a business.

One survey showed that 72% of small business owners feel overwhelmed by their roles and responsibilities, while 56% believe that communication is key to boosting productivity. 

This information is all well and good, but putting it into action is the hard part. For startup owners, the answer lies in optimizing and managing tasks effectively. There are two major aspects involved in effective task management:

  • Effective communication within your team.
  • Excellent time management.

Optimizing both of these aspects will create a much slicker process overall, leading to an increase in productivity and team morale. There are five steps involved in optimizing task management:

  1. Outlining tasks.
  2. Categorizing and prioritizing tasks.
  3. Scheduling in key activities.
  4. Delegating to the right team members.
  5. Tracking and measuring results.

Let’s dig into each of these in more detail.

Outline Tasks

The first step in any kind of process is to determine what exactly needs to be done. Doing this will give you an idea of where to go next and what steps are involved.

For every task that needs to be completed, create a checklist of everything that’s involved in getting you to the end result. For example, if you’re planning a marketing campaign to launch your latest product, think about the key steps that are involved in that. This might include:

  • Identifying the best channels.
  • Commissioning graphics and materials.
  • Writing content.
  • Creating a landing page to direct potential users to.
  • Publishing and distributing the content.

This is a barebones outline of what might be involved, but you get the gist. Once you know each step in the process you can start to get a feel for how much time you’ll need and which tasks need to be completed first before the next can be started.

Categorize and Prioritize Tasks

Once you’ve got an overview of the steps involved in each task, you can start to identify the high-priority ones. These are the ones that require the most time or that need to be completed first.

If we use the marketing campaign example above, the priority tasks are surely the commissioning of necessary materials and the writing of the content itself. Without them, the publishing and distribution stage comes to a grinding halt.

The easiest way to determine which tasks are of highest priority is to write the outline out in chronological order, starting with the tasks that need to be completed first.

Task Management

Schedule Tasks 

By this point, you should have a deeper understanding of which tasks are the most important and which ones are going to take the most time.

Tasks aren’t all created equal. If we look at the marketing campaign example again, it’s easy to see that writing the content is going to take a lot longer than identifying channels to publish it on. As a result, the timeline you have for this needs to be a lot longer.

Mark each step onto a calendar that can be shared with your team. Be sure to include all deadlines and ideal finish points for every task. This ensures everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing and when, and it provides a top-level view of where each project is at a glance.

Task Management

Delegate Tasks 

This is where your team gets involved. Delegate specific tasks to the most qualified team member. It’s important to play to individual strengths here and use the resources that you have available.

Make sure every member of the team knows what role they play in the bigger picture.  It’s also a good idea to let all team members know what other team members are doing at all times, to avoid any overlap and unnecessary back and forth.

Track and Measure

Optimization in task management is all about doing something, measuring the results, and tweaking it to make it even better. Make sure you track how long each task takes, what type of communication works best with your team members, and assessing the performance of everyone involved.

This will help you streamline the process every time you have a new task. Eventually, you’ll have a well-oiled machine that’s highly optimized and that dramatically increases productivity. Every time a task is completed, make sure you:

  • Check and evaluate the work completed
  • Ensure team members correct any mistakes
  • Provide feedback to foster growth
  • Learn from the experience and apply any lessons to the next project

Enjoy it!

Task management is necessary for all startup owners. Turning it into an enjoyable process that boosts productivity and creates contagious team morale is key. To do this, it’s important to optimize every step of the process, from the outlining stage to delegation and tracking.

This article originally appeared on the FOCUS blog.