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Task management

Minnesota Cadet Advisory Council generally uses a free task management tool called ClickUp to organize tasks and responsibilities.  This page will explain how we use that software, but many of the principles apply even if you aren't using this tool specifically.  ClickUp isn't a Civil Air Patrol product; it's just a tool we sometimes find helpful. 

As a council, it's important to have some way of organizing tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities so that it's clear to CAC staff how tasks are progressing, and it's clear to CAC representatives what needs to be done.  However, it's not a set-and-forget solution!  It takes a lot of work from CAC staff to ensure that each task very clearly outlines what needs to be done, as well as both how and when.  Same with any solution, it only works when CAC staff is willing to put in the work on the front end!


CAC tasks are usually split into two different lists: one for administrative work (for CAC staff, for things like filling in task descriptions), and one for actual CAC planning (where all the actual CAC work items will go).  CAC representatives will spend most of their time in the CAC Planning list, and CAC staff will use the administrative list to manage responsibilities, update each other on admin tasks, and split tasks between staff. 

Administrative tasks

Usually the Administrative list is shorter, and each task has less description because it's for a CAC staff member that doesn't need too much task hand-holding to complete their task.  Example tasks that might be in the Administrative list could include:

  • Create and publish the November meeting agenda

  • Update the attendance tracking document with November attendance

  • Complete the task description for [task from the CAC Planning list]

  • Make sure [squadron rep] doesn't need more assistance on [task]

CAC Planning tasks

Conversely, the CAC Planning list is generally longer (it has tasks in progress assigned to each squadron, plus upcoming tasks on the radar), and each task has a lot more task description.  On the CAC Planning list, CAC staff should put enough work into each task description that it needs only a basic understanding of Civil Air Patrol to complete.  This will usually include breaking each task into subtasks that can be completed in a week or less so that staff can regularly check in on progress.  Additionally, for each type of task a link should be provided to general information on how to complete that type of task.  For example, if the task is to write a proposal for something, a link would be provided to our How to Write a Proposal page that explains the basics of writing a proposal for CAC.

Example tasks that might be in the CAC Planning list could include:

  • Plan a STEM day (activity)

  • Update drill test pamphlet to match the manual more closely (proposal)

  • Plan a Marksmanship Day (activity)

  • Document recruiting and retention best practices and ideas from successful squadrons (document)

  • Document how to get your Volunteer Service Ribbon (document)

Task status

There's also a concept of task status built in to the app.  For the list above, we have Future Work, In Progress, Review, and Complete.  To update a task's status, just click on the colored square to the left of the task title.  These task statuses are used to track progress on each individual task (and sub-task).  If the task is In Progress, CAC staff know that work has been started.  If a task is in the Review state, CAC staff know that they need to look at it so they can give feedback or mark it complete.  Here's a quick run down of each status and what it means.  This description is tailored for the CAC Planning list, but the same principles apply for the Administrative list too.

  • To Do is for tasks that we'd like to do, but haven't been started yet.  It's a sort of staging ground for new ideas, and when CAC reps complete their tasks, we can draw from our To Do backlog to assign them new work immediately without having to plan a new task in real time.  It's very important that CAC staff plan out a task well while it's in this state, otherwise CAC reps will end up getting stuck once they try to start working on the task, which lowers productivity and can be frustrating.

  • In Progress is for tasks that are actively being worked on.  For the CAC Planning list, that'll be tasks that are assigned to CAC reps.  For the Administrative (CAC Exec) list, that'll be tasks that are assigned to us, the CAC exec staff (which, to be clear, does not usually include any actual public-facing work; just the work of keeping the rest of the CAC running smoothly).

  • Review is where CAC reps put their task when they think they're done.  If a task is in review, that tells CAC staff that they need to look at the task and figure out whether it needs more work or whether it's done.  If it needs more work, we'll update the task description to be more clear if need be, create more subtasks if need be, and provide feedback in the Comments section of the task.  Then we'll set it back to In Progress, which is the cue for the CAC reps that this task is assigned to to take another look and update the task.  If the task doesn't need any more work, we'll mark it Complete!  The only exception to this process is proposals.  If it's a proposal, once the document content has been approved we'll leave the main task (not any subtasks) in the Review status until the rest of the CAC has had a chance to vote on it at the next meeting, and it's been sent to our Region CAC reps.  At that time, we'll mark proposals Complete.

  • Complete status is for CAC tasks that have been completed and reviewed.  The only people that move tasks to Complete are CAC staff, after reviewing the task.  CAC representatives just move their completed task to Review.

Assigning tasks

Tasks can be assigned to individual or multiple users on our ClickUp team.  As soon as a new user is invited (even before they create a ClickUp account) we can assign individual tasks to the rep(s) that are taking on each task.  This will help us keep track of who's responsible for which task, right from the start of the CAC season, and it'll also help our reps track which tasks they should be working on.  While initial task assignment is often done by CAC staff when the CAC reps are still learning the system, CAC reps should feel free to assign themselves to individual tasks as well.  This comes in especially handy for subtasks, since usually both the squadron primary representative and the squadron secondary representative are assigned to work together on the main task.  Each rep can assign themselves to the subtasks that they're working on, both to claim credit for the work and also to help divide responsibility between the reps.

To assign a task, look in the main task list and click the circle under the Assignee column.  Then, just pick the person you'd like to assign the task to.  They'll get a notification through ClickUp, and you'll be good to go!  Multiple people can be assigned to a single task if need be, which makes assigning tasks to squadrons very easy.

Task details

You can also click each task for more details about it.  This is where CAC staff fill in details on each individual task, as well as creating subtasks, assigning due dates

Task description

Good descriptions include a lot of information, and are a decent amount of work to write up.  In general, a task description should be enough information that an outsider could start with no background information, and just general CAP knowledge, and complete the task based on the task description.  If CAC staff are lazy on the task planning, it's hard to expect good results from the completed tasks.  You'll find that good descriptions include a couple key items:

  • Why it's important.  The description explains the background information behind the task.  This is super important because it allows CAC reps to understand the thought process behind the task and take ownership for the problem instead of just drudging away at a list of to-do items.  Every task should have a paragraph that explains details about why we chose this task and what the impact will be.  No exceptions.  For example, for a volleyball competition planning task might have the following couple sentences at the beginning of the task description. "The Volleyball Competition is an annual tradition run by previous Cadet Advisory Councils in conjunction with St Cloud squadron.  It's a fun, competitive outlet for MN cadets, allowing squadrons to come together and compete in a (mostly!) friendly competition while getting together and meeting people from around the state."

  • What a completed task looks like.  The description should be very clear about what the deliverable is for this task.  The task should never be to "think about xyz" but instead to "draft a report on xyz including a, b, and c pieces of information."  And especially since we're working with new CAC reps that haven't had experience with these tasks before, CAC staff will also need to break that task down into specific step-by-step to-do items within the task.  Remember that each subtask should be reasonable to do in about a week, also realizing that CAC is not the only thing in each rep's life (and not even the only CAP thing on their plate most likely either).  Note that the more detailed the task description is, the easier it is for the rep to complete more work in a shorter period of time.  Here are a couple tips to break tasks down into subtasks more easily:

    • Activity planning:  depending on the size of the activity, a subtask could be anywhere from one subsection (for a larger activity) of the operations plan template document to two to three sections (for a smaller/simpler activity).

    • Proposals: these depend heavily on what the proposal is about.  Usually a proposal can be broken down into at least one or two research subtasks, plus a subtask to draft the actual proposal once all the content is collected that they'll need for that proposal.

    • Documents: these also depend heavily on what the document will be covering.  Normally a document task can be broken down into each item the CAC rep will be researching.  Sometimes a separate subtask might be worth creating if the CAC rep will need to communicate with other squadrons.  And depending on the task, a subtask might be needed for distribution of the finalized document after a draft is approved.

CAC reps are also welcome to create additional subtasks if they feel it's helpful for their task, although the hope is that CAC staff plan well enough that this isn't required very often.

Task deadlines

ClickUp also has Due Dates for tasks that we can set.  Just click the calendar icon on the task in the list view, and select a due date.  Select the date the entire task should be completed, including all sub-tasks.  This will automatically email the reps if their task becomes overdue, and makes it easy for us to see if something should be getting close to done.  We'll normally set due dates after a task has been assigned based on how long each subtask should take, and how many people the task is assigned to.








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