SharePoint Tasks Basics for site owners

Create a new Task List

Create a new task list web part by going to site content and clicking on “New App”. Choose Task List, give it a name (a short, one-word one first, and then you can change it later under Settings). Once you click OK, your task list will appear on the site contents page.

Like everything else in SharePoint, task lists can be customized to require and display custom metadata (columns). Your task list form will be unique to your settings.

Creating different views on a Task List

One thing I love about SharePoint is that I can view things a multitude of ways. Tasks can be shown as a straight list, as a gantt chart, as a calendar. They can be sorted by the team member or by project, all tasks, completed tasks, only my tasks, etc. I also love that you can get creative by showing a task list more than one way on the same page. For example, a marketing and communication calendar might show an actual calendar with tasks, but then can also show a list view right next to it to show you what the next upcoming tasks are. Play around and see what you can come up with, but definitely, tasks are a great tool in my tool belt.

SharePoint Tasks Basics

SharePoint is very commonly used as a tool for managing tasks. Who is doing what when, and why aren’t they finished?

In my previous job I used the SharePoint task list to manage the 300+ projects our department had going on at any given time. I found it most useful when I connected it to my Outlook.

While not all the fields from SharePoint come across, and nowadays I prefer to work on tasks in SharePoint, I was able to configure my outlook to show me the task list by individual, which made it very easy to discuss projects and tasks with each person during our collective and also our one-on-one meetings. It was especially gratifying to do a walk-through one day and find that every task had an owner, the next owner had been identified and was aware, and it was just so wonderful to know that everyone was on the same page…. Aaaah the memories… But I digress.

A number of your team sites already contain a task list. If they don’t, ask your site owner to add one.

Adding tasks to a task list

Click on “New task” in the Ribbon, or use the “Edit” button to add several new tasks at once. Simply fill in the form and click save. It’s that easy.


If the task list is so enabled, you may be able to assign predecessors to a task. Predecessors are tasks that must be completed before you start another task. If your aim is to create a Gantt chart view, predecessors will be important.
To set a task as a predecessor, create the preceding task first. Then, select that preceding task while creating the next task that succeeds it.

Just a note on predecessors. They really only make sense if you create a task list for a specific project. Sometimes teams work off one task list for all their projects and tasks, and in that case, the predecessor list gets pretty long and unusable.

If you do use a single task list for your team, you use another mechanism to sort your tasks by project, such as using a lookup project list, or a column with project names. If you create a task list for a specific project, then using predecessors make sense. Else, they pretty much can be ignored.


Predecessors are different from subtasks. Subtasks are tasks that are a part of an overall task. Cracking eggs is a subtask of baking a cake. Cracking eggs might also be a predecessor to mixing the batter. It’s your choice as to how to organize these.

Ordering Tasks

To create a subtask, select the subtask by clicking the check to the left of the task, and choosing “Indent” under the task tab. Click on Move Up and Move Down to position the task beneath the main task. Click on the Stop editing this list button when you are finished.
You can then hide or display these subtasks by clicking the triangle to the left of the main task.

I’m personally not a big fan of subtasks – partially because I cannot copy a task with subtasks to another set further down the list. It doesn’t appear to correctly format. Perhaps you will have better luck though, and can teach me a thing or two about using subtasks.

GTD using Outlook and SharePoint

For those who don’t know, GTD is following David Allen’s model for “Getting Things Done.” I have been using his systems for years with varying degrees of success. When I capture everything the GTD way, it makes it easier to figure out where you should spend your time.

Being on Gmail for so long at work I had gotten away from the habit of GTD. I know there are a number of online services and apps out there to manage tasks, but none of them quite got me so far as using Outlook to manage my tasks, because I could move things from emails to tasks, to calendar, etc. One complete system.

When I was due to come back to PC, I must say I sighed a quiet sigh of relief, and I looked forward to getting it. Since I used to use SharePoint for task management at my previous work, I decided to incorporate my task list on my Admin site with my Outlook.

Only thing was, I wanted to have my GTD categories in both systems. How to do that when SharePoint’s custom fields don’t cross over? Modify a field that does.

The two fields that appeared to come over were “Custom Priority” and “Custom Status”. Because SP’s status field is tied into other functions, I couldn’t use it, but Priority was wide open, so I replaced the choices within the Priority list with my GTD categories of Project, Task, Next Actions, etc. It syncs beautifully, and on both systems I can set up a view that groups them by GTD categories. Score!