With any large operation, there are likely to be some challenges and interruptions to deal with. You draw up a detailed Gantt chart at the start of the project, or have clear goals for your next production run, but nobody can foresee every eventuality. Responding to unexpected events and taking care of day-to-day interruptions involves taking on ad hoc tasks. Many job descriptions cover this with the line “and other duties as required”, and being able to handle ad hoc tasks efficiently is the mark of a good employee.
The very nature of ad hoc tasks means they can’t be planned, but it’s possible to allocate some time for unspecified ad hoc tasks in your project plans. In this guide, we’ll look at some examples of ad hoc tasks, and consider how you can account for them as part of your projects.
What are ad hoc tasks?
Ad hoc tasks are tasks that arise due to unexpected issues, customer requests, or impromptu projects. They can vary in scope from small tasks, such as fixing a broken piece of machinery or restoring backups after a computer system failure, to bigger tasks such as completing a special last-minute request for a large and important customer.
Because ad hoc tasks are unexpected, they won’t appear as specific, scheduled items on a project plan. Some ad hoc tasks are small enough that your employees can simply perform them as part of their day-to-day work. Others are larger and do need to be assigned and logged. Since these tasks aren’t predefined, they won’t have their own task template, so they’ll need to be created manually.
“Ad hoc tasks” is a part of our Project Management Glossary — check out the full list of terms and definitions!
Creating ad hoc tasks
If you need to log or assign an ad hoc task, you should be able to do this in your time tracking, ticketing, or process management system. Most systems will have an option for ad hoc task entry, allowing you to log details such as:
- Who the task is for (i.e., which client)
- Which department or employee the task is assigned to
- The start time of the task
- The end time of the task
- Any resources used
- A description of the task
Factoring in the time taken up by ad hoc tasks is an important part of your project management. By tracking the task correctly, you can ensure the right person or department is billed for any resources used. You’ll also have a more accurate understanding of how the project is progressing, and if there are any delays to the project, you’ll be in a better position to identify what your team members have been spending time on. One challenge many project managers face is keeping their projects on track and stopping ad hoc requests from derailing the project.
Ad hoc tasks in project management
When you draw up a project plan, you’re describing the jobs that need to be done and the ideal timeline for getting those jobs done. A good project plan will have some buffer built in, so if one or two milestones are missed, the project can still be completed on time. That buffer allows for some ad hoc tasks to be completed as a part of your main project, and also gives you the option to respond to ad hoc requests from clients if you feel doing so would be worth your organization’s time.
Ad hoc tasks aren’t always a bad thing, but they can sometimes interfere with previously defined timescales and inventory management. Factoring the possibility of a need to perform ad hoc tasks into your existing project plan, and tracking them when they do arise, helps keep current projects on track and makes it easier to plan future projects accurately.
Benefits to tracking ad hoc tasks
Project managers have many tools at their disposal to help with planning projects and monitoring their progress. Metrics such as earned value and planned value can give insights into how far along a project is and whether it’s progressing according to schedule. Time trackers and issue trackers are helpful for monitoring who is assigned tasks and how much work each person is getting done. However, it’s common for people to log only scheduled tasks into those apps.
While some ad hoc tasks are inevitable, they should not be taking up so much time it causes employees to need to work overtime on a regular basis.
By monitoring ad hoc tasks as well as predefined ones, it becomes far easier to understand what is really taking up your team’s time. If your construction project is behind because employees are constantly having to fix machinery, or your manufacturing jobs are over budget because of frequent supply chain issues, having the ad hoc tasks associated with those issues logged properly helps you identify the root cause of the extra costs or delays.
Examples of why ad hoc tasks may be necessary
Ad hoc tasks are things that arise in the course of day-to-day work, either due to something unexpected happening, or because a client has made an additional request and you’ve decided to fulfill it. Examples of ad hoc tasks include:
- You’re working on a social media advertising campaign for a client, and they make a last-minute request for a Twitter banner to match their Facebook banners. This could be classified as an ad hoc request.
- You’re manufacturing a batch of products and one of your production lines becomes clogged. Your team needs to stop that line, fix it, and repurpose another line to keep production of this (more urgent) batch going. These jobs would be classified as ad hoc tasks.
- You’re working on a Software-as-a-Service product, and your legal team alerts you that there’s a potential compliance issue with the way you’re storing customer data on a cloud server in a different country. You need to contact your cloud hosting provider and confirm where and how they’re storing data on your behalf. While you do this, your internal IT team works on a short-term fix that involves storing data somewhere else you’re sure is compliant.
Ad hoc tasks can vary from small things that don’t take a long time to fix and may get logged as “miscellaneous duties,” to bigger jobs that require their own entry in a time-tracking sheet. Whether they’re large or small, they’re worth keeping track of, because the more information you have about how your team spends its time on each project, the more accurate your future estimates will be.
In some cases, tasks that are being logged under “ad hoc” may be occurring so frequently that they deserve to be scheduled. If your team is frequently working overtime for jobs that weren’t factored into your project, you may need a clearer plan and allocate more resources to future projects of a similar nature.
Tracking ad hoc tasks with monday.com
Using monday.com’s Work OS to monitor your projects and track ad hoc tasks helps you streamline your workflows. If you’re already making use of project management software or issue trackers, you may find monday.com’s integrations with your existing software helpful when it comes to generating reports or processing data from your other platforms.
Ad hoc tasks can vary from small things that require only a small entry on a time log to large-scale ad hoc projects. monday.com’s library of templates may come in handy for creating task logs that your team members can use. The platform also offers automation features which may save you time if you want to enter recurring tasks. For example, you may wish to set aside one hour every evening for cleanup and equipment inspection. The automation features in monday.com can be used to set an entry for that task, assigned to the right team or person, each day. Should the person assigned that task encounter a problem requiring more than the allocated hour to complete, they can use a task template to log extra time for that issue.
Frequently asked questions
What are ad hoc tasks?
Ad hoc tasks are tasks that arise or are assigned on the fly and that address a specific need. Someone working in a factory may perform many ad hoc tasks during their working day as they keep the production line moving. Many job descriptions require employees to be capable of performing ad hoc duties as a part of their day-to-day workflow.
What are ad hoc projects?
An ad hoc project is a project that is started unexpectedly in response to a problem. Ad hoc projects are unplanned and typically short-term projects with a rapid turnaround.
What does ad hoc stand for?
“Ad hoc” is not an abbreviation; it means “for this” in Latin. When the term is used today, it’s used to express the meaning “for this specific purpose.” In the context of project planning, ad hoc often refers to temporary or short-term issues that arise in the course of the project’s life cycle.
Manage ad hoc tasks with monday.com
Ad hoc tasks are something almost every business will encounter, and they’re particularly common in more complex projects. Tracking ad hoc tasks properly using the tools provided by monday.com makes it easier to understand how much time ad hoc tasks are taking up, and whether some of those tasks could be specifically factored into future projects to make your time and budget estimates more accurate.