Microsoft 365 has a lot of task management tools, and it's not always clear which you might want to use in which scenario.
We'll give you an overview of each and talk about why you might use one over the other so you can keep track of your tasks and prevent them from falling through the cracks.
Effective task management keeps us focused and productive, no matter which app or device we are working on. With the expansion of apps for both communication and collaboration, the need for a convenient place to view all your tasks has become critical.
Task management in Microsoft 365 revolves around 2 main tools, To Do and Planner. Microsoft Lists is a newer app that has task management capabilities, but its best use is in more specific use-cases which I’ll get into below. All three of these apps have integration capabilities with Microsoft Teams, but only To Do and Planner shows up in the Teams’ Tasks app. This integration is important because if your workflow is in Microsoft Teams, all your tasks are centralized in one place, even if those tasks originate in multiple places. Which tool you use will depend on a few things, such as if the tasks are private or within a group, or where you’d like them displayed to best suit your workflow and preferences.
Microsoft To Do lists all your tasks in a central spot. It is available on the web, or through the app (both mobile and desktop). It is very user-friendly and therefore great for when you are on the go. It is aimed at individual task management, covering both personal and professional tasks. To Do is great for granular task management and therefore is a tool you would use on a day-to-day basis. It helps build your personal schedule which is easily referenced on the “My Day” and “Important” tabs in the main navigation menu.
Additionally, To Do is available via the tasks section of Outlook (replaces Outlook Tasks). If you flag an email in Outlook, it is easily referenced from the “Flagged email” tab on the navigation bar of the To Do app. Microsoft To Do also allows you to check tasks assigned to you from Planner, simply click the “assigned to you” tab on the menu and you’ll view all the tasks assigned to you in Planner along with which project those tasks are associated with:
Viewing all your tasks in a large integrated list can be intimidating. Personally, I like to review my tasks from both my personal tasks lists as well as flagged emails and the tasks assigned to me and add the most important ones to the “My Day” tab. Simply right-click the critical task, and select “Add to My Day.”
This way I have clear priorities for the day by simply viewing the “My Day” tab. The curated tasks for this tab keep me on top of my priorities and feels more achievable than viewing the full list. Plus, if I happen to complete them, I can easily access my full tasks lists to gather my next priorities.
Microsoft planner addresses the need for group task management. If you are working with a team and need improved task organization and management, Planner is a great tool. Planner is a lightweight project management tool based on visual Kanban Boards for task management and organization. Project Boards in Microsoft Planner are built on Office 365 groups, and permissions are inherited from the assigned group. If you wish to use Planner for personal task management, you do have the ability to create a board that is not associated with a group. Each task is represented by a card on the board which can display a variety of information including the task owner, description, due date, label, and status. Cards are organized into columns which you can label however works best for the team or project you’re working on.
Planner provides different views of the task board to best provide at-a-glance information. You can view your board as a calendar, or also via status charts such as this status tracker:
Fast, visual stats are one of Planner’s most useful features. You can instantly view status by task or by person, or total tasks by priority. Another benefit of Planner is that it integrates nicely with Teams. You can add Planner as a tab on your channel and edit from there. This is an excellent feature for groups who are using a Teams channel to discuss a project, share files, and with Planner, manage tasks.
Overall, Planner is a great task management tool that addresses the need for basic tasks or project management. The pitfalls of Planner are that it doesn’t centralize your tasks from other M365 products, and therefore doesn’t display tasks from another source such as Lists or To Do.
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