A new year is the perfect time to try new things: new hobbies, new foods, and, if 2021 felt like a disorganized blur, a new way to manage your tasks. To kick off 2022, we’ve pulled together some helpful Microsoft Planner tips for beginners.
If you’re new to Planner, study the screenshots below for a minute. The one on the left shows a typical Planner plan in the Board view, where each task is represented as a card and organized into columns, or Buckets. Selecting a card brings up a more detailed view of that task, shown on the right. Depending on the task details you add, Planner does some really cool stuff—stuff that all Planner beginners should know about. We’ll touch on other Planner views, like Charts, in this blog too. But our main focus is working within a plan like the one below.
Tips for managing tasks
Each task in Planner is full of optional details, as you can see above. The key word there is “optional”: the only task detail you must enter is a name, which, if you did that for all your tasks, would turn Planner into a very simple task list. And if that’s all you need, great! But we’d recommend adding a few more details to really get the most out of Planner.
- Due date: Beyond the obvious reason that most tasks have a deadline, the Due date field also informs filtering options, the Charts view, and notifications—all of which we’ll discuss shortly. Of all the optional task details, the Due date is probably the most important.
- Progress: There are three options for Progress—Not started, In progress, and Completed—which means you’ll likely update it twice: once when you start a task (In progress) and again when you finish it (Completed).
- Priority: The Priority field has options for Low, Medium, Important, and Urgent. But unlike Due date and Progress, which rarely fluctuate (ideally), the Priority field can be more fluid. A task priority can go from Medium to Important and then down to Low as plan priorities shift over time.
There’s one more task field that, like the three above, feeds into other Planner functions.
- Labels: The 25 color-coded labels are a great way to organize tasks around information specific to that plan. For example, you might use labels to explain delays (e.g., “Pending review,” “Overbudget”), note the quarter that tasks are due, or define the responsible department. Think of labels as another way to group tasks by similar attributes so team members can quickly identify the to-dos most relevant to them.
All four fields inform different Planner capabilities—more on that in the next section—and, when added, are represented on each task in the Board view. Scroll back to the screenshots at the top of this blog and you’ll see the Due dates, representative icons for Progress and Priority, and labels on various tasks in the Board view. These visual cues give anyone who scans the plan a quick indication of each task’s status.
Tips for finding the right tasks
We asked you to “stay tuned” throughout the last section to see how different task fields inform other Planner functions. Here, we’ll explore the two most important.
- Filter: You can filter on any combination of six attributes in Planner, many of which you’ll recognize from the previous section: Due date, Progress, Priority, Label, Bucket, and Assignment. Since filters work on multiple attributes, you can pinpoint exactly which tasks are due this week (Due date) but at-risk (Label), or which urgent tasks (Priority) are assigned to the HR team (Assignment) but not yet started (Progress).
- Buckets: All Planner tasks are stacked within a Bucket column, and you can add as many Buckets as your plan requires. Think of each Bucket like an uber label for arranging tasks by process step, client name, department—whatever makes the most sense. But those Bucket names are just one way to sort tasks; you can also arrange them under Due date, Progress, Priority, Label, and Assigned to.
Between filters and Buckets, there’s no shortage of ways to organize a plan exactly the way you want for whatever task information you need—just don’t forget those task details! And you can do so without interfering with others: your Planner view is specific to you and does not replicate across your team members’ plans.
Tips for staying on track
Built-in notifications are one way stay on top of tasks assigned to you. But if you’re interested in your tasks and the progress of your entire plan, you’ll want to check out the Charts view.
- Charts view: Like all views in Planner, the Charts view is available at the top of a plan next to the plan’s name. It shows several highly visual yet simple charts that display the status of all the tasks in your plan based on the details mentioned earlier. You can drill into status specifics using the same filtering options as the Board view, but the difference is that the Charts view also shows how many tasks are due tomorrow, marked Urgent, or labeled “Pending review,” in addition to listing the individual tasks with those attributes in the right-hand pane. While you’ll likely spend most of your time in the Board view, the Charts view is a great resource for plan leaders to gauge progress and plan members to understand their tasks in the context of others.
Tips for Microsoft Teams users
Microsoft Teams is a productivity powerhouse with a huge range of built-in and third-party capabilities that can bring most of your work into one app—including task management.
- Tasks app in Teams: Planner integrates with Teams through the the Tasks app, which shows up in the Teams left-hand siderail. To get the app, select Store, search for “Planner,” and choose the app. We’d suggest pinning it to your siderail too (right-click the app to do that). The Tasks app brings all your Planner tasks directly into Teams, so you can manage your team to-dos alongside all your team messages, files, and meetings. The Planner experience in Teams is nearly identical to the one on the web, and any changes made in the Tasks app are replicated in Planner for the web (and vice versa).
- Create tasks from Teams messages: As ad hoc to-dos come up in one-on-one Teams chats, group messages, or meeting conversations, select the ellipses in that conversation bubble and choose “Create task.” The newly created task will automatically appear in the Planner plan you select so you can manage it in the context of your other related work.
We’re all hoping 2022 gives us a fresh start: personally and professionally, locally and globally. And we hope these tips for using Planner, especially if you’re a beginner, give you a fresh start for managing tasks. Head over to tasks.office.com when you’re ready to create your first plan. If you’d like more information about Planner, check out our support page and Tech Community Blog.
Looking for more task management tips? Check out our second blog post in this series, "Tips for task management across Microsoft."