Why you should track completed tasks

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Many task management tools, including the one that is likely the most common tool – paper & pen, do not track completed tasks.

I will be the first one to recommend that one focuses on features other than tracking completed and archived data … especially when starting out with the tool or your productivity journey.

However, there is certainly value to be gained in using your past performance data to further enhance the way you work. And so while you may not sign up for that feature immediately, you might want to keep it on the “to-be-implemented” list.

Allow me to illustrate one example of how having this historical data helped me improve my productivity performance.

Average Number of Tasks Completed per Day

In one of my annual reviews which always occur in December, I realised that the average number of tasks completed per day had increased.

This is very simple metric I calculate by taking all the tasks that I had completed in that year, and dividing that by 365.

Now there are obviously challenges with this metric as a measure of productivity because these are not all the tasks I did … they are just the ones that happen at some point to be parked in my list manager and then marked complete. The more work I happen to do as it appears, the less my calculated number represents actually work done.

Secondly, not all tasks are sized equally. A task is simply the very next action I need to take towards a goal and this could be as simple as a 5-minute phone call to writing a 10-page report.

Nevertheless, I knew my mode of working – that is, how much time I spent doing work as it appears versus work from my lists – had not really changed substantially. I also knew that because I am a consistent GTD’er, I have the majority of my work in the lists and am fairly consistent in how I break down and describe my next actions.

This then meant that given the sheer number of tasks in my system and a consistent planning style, the average size of the tasks should also be consistent.

So, I was confident that the increase in the average number of tasks completed per day, was unfavorable.

Changing the metric

One of the most helpful things with having the metric, is that I could use it to implement small habit changes that have great impact.

In this example, the average of 21.1 tasks per day in the previous year had to reduce.

And when I thought of the strategies to do this, a few came to mind.

  • Say “no” more often (and just reduce the number of commitments overall)
  • Delegate more (and hence reduce the number of tasks I personally have to complete)
  • Focus much more on work as it appears and renegotiate any parked task

I chose to delegate even more of what I was doing and give others the opportunity to lead or manage certain functions or departments.

I implemented a check to my weekly review where I would specifically look through my list for items to delegate. And the more often I did it, the more often I discovered tasks that could be delegated. And then I started to notice those opportunities even when I wasn’t in the weekly review. During the weekly review, I could check back to last week’s average tasks completed to double-check progress.

By the end of the next 4 ½ months, I was down an average of 15 tasks per day … without a drop in accomplishments (by me + my colleagues). On the contrary, the team became closer knit. That was 29% of my workload delegated, for better results.

What changes do you think checking your productivity metrics could help with?

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