Overdue Tasks. We’ve all got ’em. Whether you use Use our ClickUp affiliate link!, ANY other Project Management Software, or you’re the sticky note type: Overdue tasks can feel inevitable.
But what if we told you there was a better way to handle overdue tasks? That you’re not alone, and there is probably a simple (fixable!) reason why those overdue tasks become… Well… Overdue in the first place?
In this post, Layla at ProcessDriven goes over 4 main reasons why overdue tasks happen, what you and your team can do to make sure they don’t stay that way, and how to avoid them in the future.
Reason #1: Optimism
One of the biggest things that can set you up for overwhelm by Friday, is planning too much on Use our Monday.com affiliate link!.
You come in from a nice long, relaxing weekend. You’re well-rested, and you’re planning your week.
“Oh, this task will only take a few minutes, I can knock that out by tomorrow morning!”
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? We look at something on our list and assume it’ll only be a few minutes to complete. It’s especially easy to be overly optimistic when we’re feeling good and excited about a project.
You imagine you’ll be sitting there and cranking out 20+ tasks. No problem, right?
It’s great to be optimistic! But when it comes to accurately plan tasks for the week, we tend to put more on our plate than we can *actually* handle, because we overestimate our time available and underestimate the things that may get in the way or hangups we may get in another project or something completely out of our control.
Averaging your level of productivity across the week, rather than planning that you’ll feel as energetic by Wednesday as you do first thing Monday morning, is key.
Data and time tracking are great here. That routine task that was overdue last month? Don’t allot the same amount of time just to set yourself up to stare at it in your overdue tasks this month! Set realistic time estimates and goals instead. Then, if you underestimated the time it took, you knock that task off your to-do list a day early! If not, you’re still giving yourself a much more accurate picture of what you or your team can get done.
When you assume an average level of work time for your tasks, you’ll either be pleasantly ahead or right on time. Which is still better than overdue.
Reason #2: Myopia (aka You’re Too Focused)
When you have something exciting on your plate, it’s easy to dedicate all of your mental focus and energy to that shiny new project.
However, to make room for the new projects, you still need to check off your routine tasks.
The solution to this problem is to create a ritual where you can get an overview of everything else you have already committed to before you add anything else.
If you use ClickUp, we recommend going to the Everything View and looking at all of “My Tasks”. That way, you can get a high-level view of what you need to accomplish soon and you can see if you actually have any wiggle room for any new projects.
Alternatively, you can use this custom Dashboard to get an idea of how things are going across your whole team, so everyone stays on track.
Reason #3: Scale (under/overestimating how long projects actually take)
This is similar to focus, but this is how hard it can often be to judge the scale of a project.
Seeing something like “redo website” on your task list is incredibly demoralizing because you have no idea how long that will take. There’s no way to decipher what small steps you need to take to accomplish this overarching goal, or how long each step will take.
The key here is to break things down as much as you can – go down to the smallest subtasks even if needed!
The more you break things down, the easier it can be to get a good idea of how big the project is.
So for example, a huge task like “redo website”, can be broken down into smaller, bite-sized chunks like:
- Create new branding guide
- Choose new images
- Migrate information from one platform to the other
- Edit URLs
- And so on.
It’s a mental game because while the overall project of “redo website” still exists as a whole, it feels good to be able to check off small tasks as you go. Knocking two subtasks off your list today brings you that much closer to your end goal tomorrow.
Set realistic deadlines for the smaller steps, and before you know it, you’re done with a huge project in no time!
Reason #4: Culture (you don’t pay attention to overdue tasks in the first place)
This one is probably the most common out of all of them. This is a work or personal culture based on just ignoring due dates in the first place.
If there’s no one holding you accountable for your overdue tasks, you’re likely to just let them build up. If it’s common in your workflow to say “this is due on Monday, but it can really be done anytime” – then you’re more than likely not going to rush to get it done by Monday.
The solution to fixing this one is simple: give yourself due dates that actually matter, and start giving a shit about them.
If you have a weekly routine task that is “due” on Monday, but you never get it done until Wednesday, change the due date to Wednesday! If you have a task that’s always due on Wednesday, but it’s your least favorite task and gets put off until Friday – just glaring at you with those judgy overdue eyes all week – stop putting it off and just do it!
Having team meetings where you go over what’s overdue and who needs help is also super beneficial. There’s so much you can learn when you discuss as a team what’s overdue. You might see that someone is waiting on something, or a client hasn’t been responding. Going over all the overdue tasks together will help illuminate the problems that are causing the backlog. This gives the team a chance to divvy up the workload so nobody feels the majority of the pressure.
ClickUp Tip for Monitoring Your Team’s Overdue Tasks
If you use ClickUp, thankfully there’s an easy way to manage overdue tasks. We recommend a ClickUp Team Monitoring Dashboard, which you can read about: here.
It’s one of our favorite ways to keep an eye on everything happening inside our team. This helps us decide how we can decrease the risk of tasks becoming overdue in the first place.
Whether you use ClickUp, another project management software or you’re the old school pen and paper type – it’s essential to avoid the overwhelm of overdue tasks by not putting more on your plate than you can handle.
It can be hard to figure out what should be a priority when there’s a ton of red, glaring overdue notices.
When you find yourself with overdue tasks again in the future (because you will!), take a look at how you’re scheduling those tasks, if you’re allotting enough time to actually get them done, and reach out to your team for help!