Avoid the Subtasks Hell: Get the Right Granularity Level Without Missing the Bigger Picture

Ever found yourself with a big task, which breaks down into several smaller tasks, and those tasks break down even further?

Suddenly, you’re handling a massive project with multiple layers of subtasks: SUBTASKS HELL.

Have you asked yourself why you would need so much detail? Because I don’t think you need this. It’s totally possible to manage these tasks to keep them clear and visible.

So, how to have the right amount of granularity so that you don’t miss the bigger picture?


Granularity and Relationships

It’s important to keep the bigger picture in mind and avoid missing the forest for the trees. To do this, you need to consider the tasks ‘granularity‘ – the level of detail in a task, and their ‘relationships‘ – how tasks relate to each other. Controlling these two aspects can impact your overall task management and visibility by:

  1. Simplifying the management process
  2. Providing a clear overview of the project progress (and identifying any blockers)
  3. Ensuring no action item gets overlooked

Getting the Right Granularity Level

If you notice that your tasks are layered beyond the limit of your management tool, consider reorganizing your projects.

As a rule of thumb, each individual task or subtask should take around one day. And each larger task, including all its subtasks, should take no longer than a sprint (a set period dedicated to a specific task in agile methodology). In this way, the sum of all subtasks should equal one sprint.

Start with a certain level of task management and adjust as needed. You can try promoting some of your tasks to a higher level or chunking down large projects until you’re satisfied.

You can even set up a project management review process. You can stop and reflect if you’re getting the desired granularity level while also keeping what needs to be done on sight.

The Buts

  • But I will keep track of the overall project progress!: No worries. You can use the power of relationships and other artifacts such as tags or custom fields to organize your tasks.
  1. This trial and error process will take too much time!: If you’re delivering similar types of services, your task and project management process should improve over time. However, if your services are highly varied, consider standardizing at least some aspects of your offerings. This is called ‘productizing’. 

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