Keep it short - how to keep task names clear

Written by Delfina (Nozbe Support - CHO - Chief Happiness Officer)

Working at Nozbe with our fabulous team gives me the opportunity to go through almost every situation you can imagine. I see all kinds of actionable tasks, project names and descriptions.

I'll try to draw your attention to important matter in productivity which is: reaching a perfection in terms of short, clear and understandable task names.

The background

We live a hectic life where concrete, precise and short information is worth its weight in gold. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as it sounds. Starting with our over-long emails (a very good article on this is to be found in Productive! Magazine no.8 by Leo Babauta “Your emails are too long”) through everyday writing to as simple things as names of actions. I would compare creating tasks to writing a book. If you give it a title that is too long what can the consequences be like?

Keep short Nozbe task names

How not to write

Being productive in some ways is having everything optimized and kept as clear as possible. Having that in mind, sometimes we come across task names like this example:

'Tom please go to the coat rack, pick the dog leash, leash the dog, open the door and take the dog out, please make sure it has enough time for running and doing its things because it needs at least 30 minutes of running, plus for his toilet.'

First off, this is not a task, but a checklist... or better yet - even a small project. Second thing - Tom will not be happy about receiving a task like this. He might get confused.

The key to perfect task naming

The valuable thing we all learn here at Nozbe is to provide short and precise information as possible.

Don’t you think task like 'walk the dog' delegated to Tom says it all? I believe if you pass it to him he will already know how things go after another as where the dog leash is. Else, why would you delegate the task to him in the 1st place? If there is any information you do need to provide Tom with think that it may be better to post it in comment. Easy to find and quick to reach.

Just take a look at this detailed and yet everyday occurance: when Tom takes a look at his chores and sees 'walk the dog' I bet he would feel pretty OK about it and proceed to doing it. I think Tom would appreciate it much more then this absurdly long task name which I originally quoted :-) Simply, don't place any additional information that can be given in comments in the task's name - you will notice the change very quickly!

Task name's situations from Nozbe

The first thing I see in the morning is my Next Action list which contains maybe around 30-50 tasks with short, snappy names like “walk the dog”; “view/comment on forum”; “support”; “refunds”; “write to Mr. X about a post” and so on… If I didn't have lists like that I would not even get half of them done because just reading long names would take lots of my time and what about the time I really need to perform those things?

Most of these task names are routine and I don’t even need notes for them. Some have notes added as comments by my colleagues informing me who e.g. needs a refund, what is Mr. X email address and all other needed info. But now you can agree with me that I really don't need to see it as soon as I see the task. I will need it once I get down into doing it. All the 'filling' does not need to distract my attention until I'm actually ready to do the action.

Summary

As I see it, most successful are these tasks that have short and intriguing names. Names that are pure essence of what needs to be done. Any further information can be described with as much gruesome details as you like in the task's comments. If you dump the details on someone right up front, you will make your team members feel simply overwhelmed and confused.

Question: How do you deal with tasks in your team? Feel free to post your methods below and inspire others :-)

Posted on Tuesday, May 20