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  • Writer's pictureBrian Davidson, PMP, CSM

Managing Ad Hoc tasks in Project Management

In the realm of project management, ad hoc tasks represent a significant challenge, emerging unexpectedly and demanding immediate attention. Even the most meticulously planned project can encounter these unanticipated tasks, which if not managed properly, can derail timelines and affect the overall project outcome. This blog article explores the strategies for effectively managing ad hoc tasks, using principles from the book The Project Leader: Four Principles to Go From Goal Pursued to Goal Achieved, and aligning them with the four core principles defined earlier.



Ad hoc tasks in project management are often the rule rather than the exception. These tasks can arise from unforeseen circumstances, changes in project scope, or simply from the iterative nature of certain project activities. For instance, an Instructional Designer working on course learning objectives might find themselves needing to choose a course outline template, set up relevant project sub-folders, solicit feedback from Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), or even rush a draft before personal commitments. Managing these tasks effectively not only ensures the smooth progress of the project but also helps maintain team morale and project momentum.

Understanding Ad Hoc Tasks

Ad hoc tasks typically surface during project execution and can vary significantly in complexity and urgency. Unlike planned tasks, which are accounted for in the project's initial scope and timeline, ad hoc tasks require quick integration into the project's workflow without disrupting the existing structure. This calls for a flexible yet systematic approach to task management that can accommodate unexpected demands while keeping the project on track.

Integration of Ad Hoc Tasks into Project Management

Personal Task Tracking

Each team member should be equipped with tools and techniques for personal task management. Digital tools such as Trello, Asana, or even simple spreadsheets can help individuals track their tasks, deadlines, and priorities. For example, an Instructional Designer might use these tools to list down unexpected tasks as they arise, set their own deadlines based on the project's needs, and monitor progress. This personal accountability ensures that even unplanned tasks are not overlooked.

Inclusion in the Activity List

While individual task tracking is crucial, integrating these ad hoc tasks into the overall project management framework is equally important. The project manager should maintain an 'Activity List' within the project workbook that is regularly updated to include new ad hoc tasks. This list should detail each task, assign responsibilities, set deadlines, and track progress. By formalizing ad hoc tasks in the project's documentation, the project manager ensures visibility and accountability, enabling better control over the project's trajectory.

Strategies for Effective Management of Ad Hoc Tasks

  • Prioritization: Not all ad hoc tasks have the same level of urgency or impact on the project. Using a prioritization matrix can help in identifying which tasks need immediate attention and which can be scheduled for later.

  • Delegation: Effective delegation is key in managing ad hoc tasks. Project managers should assess the skills and workloads of team members before assigning tasks, ensuring that the right tasks are assigned to the right people.

  • Communication: Regular updates and communication channels, such as daily stand-ups or weekly meetings, can help keep everyone informed about new tasks and overall project progress. This fosters a collaborative environment where ad hoc tasks are quickly integrated into the team's workflow.

  • Flexibility: Being flexible with project plans and allowing some leeway for unexpected tasks can prevent the project from being derailed by unforeseen activities. This includes having contingency time in the schedule for ad hoc tasks as they arise.


Managing ad hoc tasks effectively is crucial for the success of any project. It requires a balanced approach that combines personal responsibility with systematic project management practices. By empowering individuals to track their tasks and integrating these tasks into the project's formal documentation, project managers can maintain control over the project's direction and ensure timely completion of all tasks, planned or otherwise. Using the principles outlined in The Project Leader and adhering to proven project management strategies, teams can navigate the complexities of ad hoc tasks and steer their projects toward successful outcomes.


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