Ask any EHS professional and they’ll tell you: task management is one of the most time-consuming aspects of the job.
You have to remember what’s due, when, and who’s responsible. If there’s more than one person involved, you’ll have to ask for status updates, follow up on progress, and make sure nothing gets lost in the back and forth. Multiply that by hundreds of regulatory tasks and deadlines, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Here at Perillon, we have decades of combined experience in EHS — so we’ve seen what works (and what doesn’t). Below are six task management tips for EHS teams that will make your life easier.
1. Centralize everything
Understandably, it’s difficult to keep track of what needs to get done when things are scattered all over the place. Even the most organized person can easily make a mistake or miss a deadline — which can lead to a serious violation or fine. The first and most important step in managing tasks effectively is to gather all your to-do’s in one centralized location.
Round up all those sticky notes, emails, and scribbled to-do lists. Perform a “brain dump” to get everything out of your head. Think about everything you need to work on across all your projects, including audits and inspections, permit renewals, and reporting obligations. Don’t worry about organizing things yet — just get it all in one place to start. Once you have your list of tasks, be sure to jot down any additional information such as the deadline or due date.
If you’re part of a multi-person EHS team, it’s a good idea to make sure you have a record of what everyone on your team is working on as well. This will help ensure no one person is overloaded and help identify tasks that require input from more than one person.
Many teams utilize Excel to keep track of tasks, but spreadsheets are actually a terrible way to manage EHS tasks — as you’ve probably experienced firsthand. We recommend keeping tasks in your EHS software system. This allows you to see all your compliance tasks in a single, centralized calendar. Tasks are integrated alongside the rest of your EHS documents and data, so you’ll be able to attach supporting documents, locate relevant information quickly, and manage everything in one place.
2. Prioritize the most important tasks
Once you have a list of everything you need to get done, it’ll be much easier to decide which tasks to focus on first. Not everything on your to-do list needs your attention today, so it’s smart to prioritize the most urgent tasks.
That’s another reason using a centralized calendar is so helpful: you’ll be able to see the bigger picture of everything that needs to get done. You’ll also get a sense of who has too much on their plate, so you can redistribute the workload if needed.
3. Break up large tasks
With everything you need to get done staring you in the face, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and not know where to start. That’s where subtasks come in. Instead of trying to tackle a huge task all at once, it can be helpful to break things down into smaller, actionable steps.
For example, some subtasks to prepare for an external audit might include:
- Review the audit standard
- Develop a timeline
- Assign responsibility
- Gather documentation
- Compile the audit report
When tasks are broken down this way, it’s easier to get a sense of how long things will take you which can help you budget your time effectively. You’ll also be able to anticipate potential snags — such as waiting for someone to submit or approve documentation — so they don’t derail the entire project.
Some people also like to set deadlines for these smaller subtasks. That can be helpful in ensuring you’re not racing to get everything done at the last minute. If you’re using a task management tool, you can set up reminders for each step — as we’ll see in a moment.
4. Delegate wisely
Organizing your responsibilities in a centralized location and breaking them down into smaller chunks will also help you determine which tasks or subtasks are good candidates for delegation.
Some of the tasks on your calendar will need to be done by you and only you. However, other tasks can be handed off to someone else so you can focus on the projects that most need your attention. In fact, when you delegate EHS tasks effectively, it can make your entire team less stressed and more productive by allowing each person to do what they’re good at.
5. Set notifications and reminders
Calendars are an incredibly useful tool to help you stay organized and plan for upcoming events. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get caught up in what you’re working on and forget to check your calendar. That’s where notifications and reminders come in.
If you had an important meeting with your company’s CEO at 2PM, for example, you’d probably set an alarm so you don’t forget. In the same way, you can set up notifications and reminders to make sure important deadlines don’t slip through the cracks.
You can set these up in your phone, email, or personal calendar. However, the best way is to set them up directly in your EHS software.
6. Take advantage of automation
No matter how productive we all are, there are only so many hours in the day. And while there’s no substitute for a seasoned EHS professional, automation can help shoulder some of the burden in the event of an unavoidable layoff or reduction-in-force.
EHS automation takes the manual, repetitive tasks humans would normally perform and does them automatically. Think about the tasks you perform on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. This might include keying in data, sending updates to senior management, and assigning tasks and corrective actions based on inspection findings.
Automation can take care of all those tasks for you. For example, EHS software can automatically notify you of inspection findings that need your attention. Or assign tasks and corrective actions based on incident investigations.
Put these tips into action with Perillon
Overall, the key to EHS task management is to work smarter, not harder.
It all comes down to understanding what needs to get done, prioritizing your efforts and resources, and leveraging task management software and automation to manage your workload efficiently.
To learn more, request a demo of Perillon’s EHS management software.