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Submitted by fchalif on


[color=darkred][size=18]How can I effectively Track Delegated Tasks?[/size][/color]
Please provide your approaches when using Outlook.
I have followed with great appreciation the Effective with Outlook thread. I feel a new branch focusing exclusively on tasks is warranted as for me this element gives me the greatest headaches. The original thread is getting very dense with lots of great tidbits, but hard to refer back to. Hope you don't mind.

I have read Total Workday Control (TWC) and Getting Things Done.
I follow the Inbox Zero rule quite well.

[b]How I treat Tasks - Generally[/b][u][/u][size=18][/size]
I drag from my Inbox to Tasks (or ctrl-shft-K) and assign delegate's Initials as the first 2 characters of the tasks subject. This works quite well as I later sort by subject by due date, etc.
I also add categories for Directs\Projects\other processes in our business. This helps when doing weekly-quarterly and annual reviews.

[b]How I delegate tasks[/b] [u][b][color=red][/color]
I do as above. I meet with Direct and ask help - try to follow the MT guidance. I go back to outlook in my weekly GTD review and update the task on my Outlook to show that I have delegated it and put the date I did this as well as date we agreed it would be done by. I also use the Due Date in the Task and most often it is the same.

I want to use the Assign task feature so that my Direct can have it on his\her Outlook as well. I am encouraging all of my directs to use Outlook more effectively.

However, I find that when I do that I lose ownership and can no longer update the task.

refbruce's picture

If you have Sharepoint 2007 and Outlook 2007, you may be able to use a Task List in a SharePoint area. I've got one of my students tinkering with this to see how/if we might make it work. M$oft has added off-line capabilities in SharePoint 2007, which really helps with things like this.

dennis_sherman's picture
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I use a GTD based process very similar to yours. I have a category for my projects and a category for each of my directs. "My" projects includes whatever I'm responsible for my team delivering, whether I've delegated the entire project or not. I add the appropriate categories to a Task before I assign it, and that lets me see what's on everyone's plate by using the right Task view in Outlook.

I have to ask, why do you want to update the Task? Once you've delegated (assigned) it, the assignee owns the Task and is responsible for it. If the Task needs changing, you need to deal with the Task's owner, and either have them change it, or assign it back to you.

I'd be worried about micromanaging or not having defined the Task well enough in the first place if I often had to change them after assignment.

Perhaps you're using Tasks at a different granularity than I am. We're software developers. Generally I assign a Task that is a feature or large chunk of feature, with an expected time span of a few days to a few weeks, up to maybe 5-6 weeks at most. If a Task looks like its going to be more than that, it gets broken into smaller deliverables before assignment.

I do encourage my directs to update the Tasks as they work, using a set of conventions we've agreed on

// completed work
-- work in progress
work to be done
work to be done

That keeps me informed on their project progress in a more timely and detailed way than I'd get from O3s or MBWA.

US41's picture

I don't use tasks in outlook for anyone but myself. I keep a list of tasks I have doled out with the person's name on it in brackets. I print it out every now and then and scan it for anything that might not be in the O3 folders. But I prefer not to track tasks electronically. I want my directs to get experience in reporting verbally on the task while under interrogation as to how the tasks was completed and if they learned anything.

ctomasi's picture

Like 41, I keep track of delegated tasks (aka Waiting For in GTD-speak) in my own Outlook tasks. I've used two methods in the past, one is a category called "Waiting For" which makes it quick to sort/filter. The other is to use a symbol as a prefix. I hold the Alt key then tap out "215", then let go and get a little "x" symbol, then the person's name, then the task.

Whatever works for you - just capture the task and follow up on it.

tlhausmann's picture
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I enter delegated tasks in my O3 books for each direct.

If an update is required I bring it up at the O3 during my 10 minutes. Ideally, the symbol converts to an 'accomplishment' without having to flip many pages.

fchalif's picture
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[quote]I'd be worried about micromanaging or not having defined the Task well enough in the first place if I often had to change them after assignment.

Your comment above describes well what i do. I think the tasks i look to keep up to data are really projects that evolve over a period of weeks. For example, I manage our IT Manager who is currently implementing our EBI software. It is a 3 month project on which he updates me weekly. I update the task whenever a significant milestone is met, or not met on time. The smaller tasks i assign either in an O3, verbally, or via a task assignment. The risk there is to have tasks that are not specific enough.

Does anyone use outlook to manage Projects?

dennis_sherman's picture
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[quote="fchalif"]I think the tasks i look to keep up to data are really projects that evolve over a period of weeks. [/quote]

Frankie, for the kind of tracking I think you're talking about, we use an internal Wiki. That allows multiple people to update a summary page for a project, and it is visible to anyone who cares to look.

"Project" is an overloaded word. I use Outlook to track my own projects in the sense Getting Things Done (GTD) means project. But for projects in the meaning our software development company uses the word, we use Microsoft Project to plan and track progress. I think Outlook isn't a good tool to coordinate a lot of different complex activities done by a lot of different people. It just doesn't scale well enough.

fchalif's picture
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Thanks Dennis,

Can you give us some insights as to how you use the wiki.
Which wiki do you use?

dennis_sherman's picture
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[quote="fchalif"]Can you give us some insights as to how you use the wiki.
Which wiki do you use?[/quote]

Sorry to take a while getting back to this.

We use both JSPWiki ( and MediaWiki ( in different parts of our company. I also use TiddlyWiki ( for some things that stay on my PC. I use JSPWiki most.

For project management purposes, I use a wiki page as a dashboard. (Google project dashboard if you don't know what I'm talking about). Typically there's one line per requirement, or major subproject. There's several columns, typically including an accounting code for the requirement, a short text description, and for the various phases the requirement will go through with my team. Each cell in the table might link elsewhere, although usually we start by using the accounting code as a link to a page with more detail about that requirement.

We may have links to requirements documents, design documents, test plans, and developer's notes. But for what I think you're interested in, the power is in the link to requirement or sub-project details. This could easily be a (dated) list of tasks, with some convention used to indicate completion. Easy for you to update to add, and for your direct to update to mark as done. And all available for anyone to see that wants or needs to get a detailed status.

Hope that's helpful

fchalif's picture
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Hi Dennis,

Thank you for the detailed reply. I will look at the option you mention and try one of them. I'll let everybody know how it works out.

sklosky's picture


Here's my unorthodox method. :)

I use a personal sharepoint site for tracking this. I had the IT guys at HQ set this up for my use only. Appearantly it's not difficult to do. (Note that other systems support web folders as well. This would be find.)

Then I use the document area to establish folders per the GTD scheme. I find this easier than Outlook. I use the "web folders" or webdav version of this system for the most part.

One big benefit for me is that I can get to the webfolders from the client site, HQ or home.