Notion’s Eleven: Task Management

Introduction

In this article, we’ll explain how we manage tasks in Notion and how you can too. Here at Optemization, we are firm believers that keeping tasks in centralized databases (and then retrieving them contextually) is the best and most versatile approach for teams of any size.

An effective and easy to use task management system is essential for any business who needs to operate effectively. This is even more important for distributed teams who depend on transparency, accountability and efficiency for handling, creating and completing tasks.

Frameworks

As mentioned before, we at Optemization are firm believers in leveraging Notion’s incredibly powerful database features to hold and manage our tasks. We approach task management from the framework that there should be one, single source of truth for our tasks (in the form of a tasks database) which we can then collectively call upon and retrieve in our personal dashboards and team dashboards.

We’ll explain how this process works in this tutorial and how you can implement your very own task management system in Notion - so that you can continue to bring all your workflows under one, centralized platform.

TLDR: We use a centralized tasks database with several properties attached to it and then contextually link to this database to add, change and manage tasks within our workspace.

Detailed Tutorial with minutia / step by step - some best practices

The Tasks Database

By creating a database - and ensuring that all team members have access to that database - we can make sure that all tasks are logged in one centralized location.

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The tasks database is therefore the only repository of tasks within the workspace. At no point will any tasks exist as text in pages. The tasks database is very much the primary and only source of truth for accessing tasks.

What are the benefits of using a tasks database?

By using a tasks database, you can essentially recreate all of the functionality of the various task management platforms out there, inside of Notion.

Different views on the database

Perhaps the most obvious benefit is being able to view your tasks in any variety of different views, including:

  • A table view
  • A calendar view
  • A timeline view
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By selecting different views, we can gain insights into the different tasks that exist across the whole team. If you have a multi-day task then you can display it in a calendar. If you’re looking at your task list from the perspective of a personal dashboard then a table view may be better.

Assign individual or multiple team members to tasks

By leveraging the tasks database, we can assign people as owners of a task. This means that you can easily and quickly create a task and assign it to an individual from anywhere in the workspace where the tasks database exists.

One use case for this is if you’re a project owner - i.e a person responsible for leading a project initiative. You can create a series of tasks and then simply change the owner of the task to the person who’s assigned to complete the task. You can also tag other people as Interested / Collaborators on the task which provides an easy way to provide transparency across the organization.

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Due dates, start dates and contextual insights

By leveraging the tasks database, we have access to a ton of different properties to provide us context into any given task. We can assign due dates and start dates for tasks to begin and be completed by, as well as sort our tasks by when they were created, edited and who they were edited and accessed by.

This is an essential feature required for many teams: being able to track how long a task has existed, when it’s due, and who last edited it therefore rivals tools like Asana and Basecamp which have this baked into the software.

Personal and Team Dashboards

By linking the tasks database on personal and team dashboards, we can set filters so that team members can do their work, check off tasks, and assign new tasks right within the dashboards where all the individual or team’s notes, thoughts and deadlines are. As a result, you can bring all of your task management right into the Notion workspace and therefore centralize a far higher degree of your team’s work to take place right inside of Notion.

How do I create a tasks database?

The first step to implementing a tasks database is to create a new database in the backend of your workspace (a dedicated space where all databases are held) - or alternatively on your sidebar. This will be the starting point upon which you can add additional properties and build out more functionality within your workspace.

Using the tasks database with projects

Going one step further allows you to associate tasks with projects. This allows you to organize your tasks according to projects - an essential feature of a robust task and project management setup. To do this, you need to create a projects database and create a relation between the tasks database and the projects database.

How does this implementation work for teams?

In practical terms, this setup allows anyone on the team to create, assign and complete tasks. We also have good visibility into what everyone’s working on given the fact we assign an Owner to every single task.

If you’re unsure or would prefer a pre-built ready to go task management system in Notion, you can purchase our template for $99 below.

What are the advantages of having a task management database in Notion?

The first advantage of using a task management database in Notion is that tasks - the daily work which needs completing - can live alongside your company’s knowledge. This means your team can effortlessly create meeting notes and tasks from the same page. By bringing your task management into Notion you continue to add value to your workspace and make it the single source of truth for your company.

In our experience - and working with well over 60 clients - we’ve found that clients who bring their task management into Notion consistently gain an operational advantage against their competitors. Take for example Loop who came to us with an idea to implement Rocks (collections of tasks to achieve a desired objective) into one, single workspace. As a result, everyone could access and see everyone’s tasks in real-time - and benefit from all the rich authoring features that Notion provides.

Task management in Notion is very powerful, so it’s essential that you approach building your own task management workflow using our best practices mentioned above. If you rush into building out a task management system in Notion - and don’t consider the possible ramifications of permissions, views and educating your team on how to use the tasks database correctly - you run the risk of organizational entropy and operational drag.

What are the disadvantages of using Notion for task management?

This leads me to the first disadvantage of using Notion for task management. Given the platform’s incredible flexibility and modularity, it’s vital that you approach building out a task management system with some degree of constraint.

If you don’t set out clear parameters on what properties should exist in the task database, you may run the risk of endless properties which are not used and overall difficult to understand and navigate. This is ultimately frustrating for your team who are likely to resort to other tools for their task management.

Therefore, ensure that when you’re building out your task management system in Notion you are always asking yourself: is this a nice to have, must have, or simply not needed? By limiting the initial scope of your Notion build you can ensure that you only have the functionality that needs to be there - and the rest is left for later down the line.

Can this be done with other tools?

The task management tools industry is a sprawling one: there are literally hundreds of platforms which promise to offer robust task management for teams. Generally speaking, a couple of tools dominate the market, including: Asana, Trello and Basecamp.

These tools represent a different (arguably, legacy) approach to task management by offering a suite of features that are opinionated. To this end, it means that if you’re willing to buy in to a certain, prescriptive way of working - and have the bandwidth to enforce this across your whole team - then they can certainly work.

This is where Notion is different. Notion is based on a modular approach to building out workspaces - and while there are hazards to be aware of, as discussed above - overall represents a more fluid, flexible and nuanced way of working. For example, each team member can configure their own personal dashboards in a nuanced way - displaying tasks how they see fit - while at the same time fundamentally using the same, centralized tasks database that everyone else is using.

Save time and download our ready to go template

OK so you’ve made it this far, well done. That was a lot to take in. If you’re feeling anxious or unsure on where to start - why not check out our pre-built and ready to go task management template? This template features all the best practices we described here plus some added features to really help your team become laser efficient.

The template is based on the concept of the tasks database and includes both a personal dashboard and team dashboard featuring access to the tasks database. Essentially, this is a good to go template to bring all of your task management inside of Notion.

Setting up an effective task management system inevitably takes time. This template will speed up the process of building your customized workflow by giving you everything you need to bring your task management into Notion.

Want to learn more?

Here at Optemization, we’re passionate about educating distributed teams on how to leverage Notion to become more effective and efficient at doing what’s most important: the work. That’s why we’re proud to be holding a dedicated task management event where we walk you through everything we discussed here and show you how to build out a task management database inside of Notion. Additionally, we’ll have plenty of time for questions and answers so that you can have all your doubts alleviated and be confident that you’re building out your task management system.

Conclusion

In summary, task management is a large and complex topic of discussion in the Notion community. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of options out there and the best way to implement an effective tasks system in your workspace. However, by following the best practices, we outlined in this article you can be sure that you’re on the right path. You may have noticed by now that our tutorials follow a similar theme: create centralized databases in the backend and then contextual views to these databases in the form of user-friendly and delightful dashboards. The same is true of task management as it is of taking notes in Notion - which, if you haven’t read yet, you can check out here.

Don’t forget that we’ve packaged everything outlined here into one, simple and easy to use template which will get task management off the ground quickly and effectively. You can check out our task management template by clicking here. And if you’re interested in our online event, you can book here. It’s free.

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