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The difference between Tasks, Actions and ToDo’s


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Calling all work a task? ??

In most workplaces, people consider everything that needs to be done as tasks. Tasks can be related to each other to create bigger tasks, such as projects or strategies. While smaller tasks can be used to create ToDo lists.

If we simply look at work as a lot of tasks, we quickly get overwhelmed. Because:

· some tasks are big and provide context,

· some tasks explain how work fits together (sometimes called workflows), and

· some tasks detail what we need to do to contribute bigger tasks.

When you think about it, it is obvious why people get confused and have difficulty sorting out what tasks are relevant to them and what they personally need to do. I agree that on the surface, calling everything a task seems to make managing work easier.

But the opposite is true. When all tasks are managed the same; every time we look at a number of tasks, we have to spend time and effort working out the purpose of each task. What a waste of time and effort, and unnecessary stress!

Sorting Tasks by Purpose (Inputs, Processes, Outputs)

Now, what would happen if we sort tasks by the purpose they perform? Then we would instantly see what we are looking for. The other great benefit is confusion that inevitably occurs when people sort tasks differently can be eliminated. This reduces potential conflict and stress.

I have found that an easy way to sort tasks is to call them what they are: Tasks (outputs), Actions (processes) and ToDo’s (inputs).


ToDo’s (INPUTS) >>>>> Actions (PROCESSES) >>>>> Tasks (OUTPUTS)


· Tasks are something we need to complete. In my definition, you don’t do tasks. The task is an output.

· Tasks are completed by doing Actions. Actions are list of the things that need to be done to complete a task. A number of Actions details a process.

· ToDo’s are the work each person needs to contribute to complete relevant actions. ToDo’s are inputs.

This sorting may seem like unnecessary work, but it is not new work. We do it now. The proposed change is to sort out tasks by purpose only once; so every time we look at a number of task, we don’t have to mentally sort the tasks.

Now lets think about how tasks are done in the workplace. Someone is made responsible to get a task done. They usually follow a sequence something like this:

  1. They think can I do the task (output) myself or do I need help?
  2. If they can do it themselves they create a list of actions (processes) that need to be done. Then they add these actions to their ToDo list (inputs) so they don’t forget.
  3. If they can’t do the task themselves, they need other people to help.
  4. They meet with the other people physically or virtually to create a list of actions (process) required to complete the task.
  5. Then relevant ToDo’s are allocated to each person to do relevant actions.
  6. Each person adds the ToDo’s (inputs) to their list (so they don’t forget)
  7. They go and do what they need to do.
  8. The task is complete

Consequently managing tasks by purpose: Tasks (outputs), Actions (processes) and ToDo’s (inputs) matches the way people work naturally and significantly reduces the complexity of most work tasks.

Using software, such as TASKey TEAM or TASKey Me2Team, makes this tracking and sorting process simple. All the user needs to do is to decide whether a task is an output, part of a process or an input. . Visit and for more information.


Dr Neil Miller


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