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Best practice for ad hoc assignments

Eric Power
edited 12/09/19 in Archived 2016 Posts

I am evaluating Smartsheet as a tool to help me do my job managing a small department.  I think I see how to implement Smartsheet for what I consider true projects that will span months.  But, I also need a tool that can help me manage ad hoc assignments and tasks that are not projects.  (e.g. review final draft of revised Employee Handbook.)  Sometimes these tasks belong to me, sometimes I assign them to someone in my department.  I currently use Outlook tasks for such assignments, but Outlook tasks have limited functionality.  Plus, I really want to have ALL my work planning in one place: Smartsheet. 


The first approach I thought of is to create separate sheets for all the major programs that my department handles. Then when a task comes in I decide which category (sheet) it belongs in, then add the task, assign it, and negotiate a completion date.  The downside of this approach is that it may create up to 30 sheets, with some sheets having only two or three rows in a year. 


The second approach I've thought of is to set up smartsheets for each member of my department and call them "Person 1 miscellaneous", Person 2 miscellaneous", etc.. This approach does not feel as satisfying to me, for reasons I'll describe below.  But, it is probably the simplest approach. 


I do NOT know or track everything that staff in my department do. I like that they are significantly self-managing and I do not want to force them to use Smartsheet to manage all of ther work.  Instead, I want provide them a tool and let them decide whether or how to use.  That's why I prefer the first approach; to create sheets based on programs or contracts; cause I think that may be more conducive to them adding their own projects to those programs or even create a new sheet for a program I don't think about (cause I don't get involved). 


Would appreciate any comments from the community on these two approaches or how you set up your smartsheet to manage ad hoc assignments? 







  • One of my favorite things to use is a mind mapping program like Mind Manager by Mindjet.  There are free ones out there too.  Mind manager allows you to link different ideas,  projects,  tasks etc.  To a project manager like Smartsheet using hyper links.  I would think you could lay out your entire dept plan in Mindjet and link each project to a smartsheet for that project. That way you have the big picture in one place and the project details managed well in an appropriate format. 

  • J. Craig Williams
    J. Craig Williams ✭✭✭✭✭✭



    For me, there are several different places that my tasks reside:


    1. schedules (often more than one)

    2. task lists (those ad-hoc things you mention - those items that come up and I don't want to lose

    3. action items from project meetings and the like


    Remember that reports can be edited so the edits feed back to the sheets.


    Hope that helps.




    Each project will typically have an action item list and a schedule.


    I use reports to bring them all together where I can figure out where to spend my time and what to prioritze.


    My team members each had a report for their task lists too. I did not force them to use Smartsheet until and unless they missed deadlines or tasks that had been promised - then I stepped in to help manage their time and tasks.



  • Craig,

    Thanks for the reply.  I interpreted item #1 schedules to be what you later called a project (action item list and schedule).  I am curious about item #3, "action items from project meetings";  I would have expected any project related actions would go into the project sheet itself in your item #1, not into a separate sheet.  Can you say more about what you do and why?



  • J. Craig Williams
    J. Craig Williams ✭✭✭✭✭✭



    For a project, I end up with a bunch of sheets. 

    One of those is the schedule - the list of planned tasks to achieve a specific deliverable. Sometimes, the schedule is a high level


    Install Fence (action)

    Fence Installed(milestone or deliverable)


    Sometimes it is broken down farther, usually depending on project length and complexity and experience of team doing it. 


    The schedule is the plan.

    If something comes up that needs to be done that is related to the project but was not in the schedule, Small things like "determine date, time, and location of next meeting" or bigger ones. Bigger ones (that take longer or require more coordination) may end up being put into a update to the schedule. But not all.


    And it also depends on the team, the scope, the complexity of the project.


    Does that clarify things a bit better?






  • Yes, that helps. Thank you Craig.


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