Posts Tagged Productivity

Using Way Of Life App to Build my Routines

I’m working on embedding updated daily and weekly routine.  During 2017 I created a checklist in Excel to remind me of actions I wanted to build into my routine and to track completion.  At the start of the year I tracked completion directly in Excel, but found this inconvenient and my tracking was haphazard.  Then I moved to printing out the template and keeping it by my bed where I would manually check it off before bedtime.  This had the disadvantages of:

  1. not being mobile as I wasn’t carrying the checklist with me so couldn’t use it to prompt action during the day,
  2. reminding me of what I had not done immediately prior to going to sleep which was creating mental traffic when I should have been calming down for sleep, and
  3. slower manual calculation of completion statistics and trend tracking over time.

Manual tracking in bullet journal

When I started using a bullet journal in October I glued a hard copy of the template into the bullet journal.  I also used my bullet journal to list most important daily tasks so carried it with me and referred to it frequently during the day.  This addressed the first two disadvantages of having the printed list standalone, but not the third disadvantage which related to manual tracking versus electronic tracking.

In preparation for my year on the road (which starts in one week from publishing this post) I decided to stop using my bullet journal two weeks ago.  I had previously used an app called Way of Life to help build and track my Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) and Networking routine.

Routine list in Way of Life

It was very quick for me to set up a list of the activities on my routine checklist in the app and I was able to start tracking them immediately on my iPhone.  I track completion progressively during the day using a visual interface.  Every item on the list is marked as done (green), not done (red), or skipped (grey).  The skipped entry is useful for actions with a weekly frequency rather than daily frequency.  Whenever I reach three consecutive days of ‘done’ against an action I get visual and audible feedback – reinforcement of maintaining a good ‘run rate’.  Skipped days are not counted in this run rate tracking.  While I like getting this feedback this feature can be turned off.

I can view completion trends over time in the app.  Time interval for this graphical reporting can be set at  6 weeks, 12 weeks, 6 months, 9 months, 1 year or 2 years.  The trend can be viewed for either all actions on my list or specific actions.  A image of the graph can be sent via email, but I don’t think the data can be exported for further manipulation outside of the app.

Reporting Options

 

One disadvantage of the app is that if I delete an action from my checklist I lose the data associated with it.  Hence there is an element of transience which I’m

While I’m only in my second week of using the app again I notice that I am completing more of the actions in my routine list.  Combined with ease of use and mobility this means the app is working to help me get into regular habits with my routine and fine tune it over time.

,

No Comments

Sort Your Task List by Start Date

Smart Work by Dermot Crowley

Last week I read Demot Crowley’s book Smart Work, which he describes as a practical productivity book.  He uses a systems approach to the challenge of organising yourself in the digital workplace.  His system consists of:

  • centralising your actions
  • organising your inputs and
  • realising your outcomes (i.e. ensuring you are putting energy and effort into the things that are highest value to you).

The structure of the system (and the book) is logical and easy to follow.  It is written clearly and offers practical tips.  I especially appreciated the emphasis on keeping things simple.  A simple system or process is easier to follow and maintain.  I’ve tried following David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’ system, and found it too much effort to maintain.  On the other hand, Dermot’s approach strikes the right balance of practicality and relatively low effort with ensuring that you’ve got all your task inputs and actions captured and under control.

While I already have a reasonable solid, effective system in place for my personal planning and productivity, I’m constantly looking for minor improvements.  I was able to skim Dermot’s book and find a number of useful tweaks, especially in the ‘tech tips’ section at the end of each chapter.

One improvement that I’ve implemented is to organise my task list by start date.  I use 2Do as my electronic task management tool.  The default order for task display is due date.  I was using this default and got out of the habit of entering a start date for each task.  In order to figure out what to work on each day I needed to scan through all tasks due in the coming 1-2 weeks, mentally constructing a Gantt chart in my head.  I would use priority flags to identify the tasks I wanted to work on every day.  The flags would be used for a secondary sort of task display order.  Obviously this process had more steps, effort and time for daily task management than was necessary.  Based on Dermot’s tip I assigned a start date to all open tasks (as well as due date) and I now display tasks in start date order.  It’s much simpler and quicker for me to identify what to work on each day.

Consistent with my goal of a short daily dispatch I’m leaving this post with one key tip today.  I’m sure more productivity posts will appear in dispatches.  If your current approach to managing the flood of incoming tasks, emails, messages and meetings isn’t working well for you, I recommend you read and apply Dermot’s book.

,

No Comments

Personal Kanban Boards

I started using personal kanban boards about 10 days ago.  They are visible on the wall behind me when I videoconference with people, and many people have asked me about them during our calls.  So, here is a post about why and how I’m using kanban boards, and the value I’m getting from them.

Who isn’t busy, right?  I find it hard to resist a good opportunity or idea, so sometimes end up with a lot of projects on the go.  I’ve tried a range of ways to prioritise and manage my time across projects, business development, recurring tasks, administration and other activities.  I like the portability of electronic tools that synchronise across multiple devices, and have been using the 2Do app for a couple of years.  However, it can be time-consuming to enter and maintain all tasks in an electronic tool.  When I get really busy I revert to sticky notes and scraps of paper.  It’s quick to hand-write a new task on a paper note and easy to sort and shuffle them as priorities change – definitely quicker for me than with online tools.  It gets tasks out of my head, so helps me to concentrate on whatever I was working on when the thought of the task popped into my head.

However, there are still a lot of things on the list, which is now less portable.  The long electronic list has been replaced by a growing stack of notes.  Either way, they require regular review to figure out what I should do on any given day. I’m concerned to ensure that at any given time I’m working on my most important activities (I use the Eisenhower matrix to help identify what these are – but that’s not the focus of my post today).

In my search to efficiently managing tasks and be confident that I am focussed on the things that matter most I’m often drawn to online content about productivity.  A couple of weeks ago a post on Snapchat by Helen Blunden about personal kanban caught my attention.  What appealed to me about using personal kanban boards was:

  • the visual nature of it
  • high visibility of a physical board (as opposed to using an online variant)
  • ease of adding and updating tasks, and moving them from one status to another
  • satisfaction of seeing what I’ve done
  • ‘rule’ of not having more than 3 tasks in progress at any one time, to combat the downsides of multitasking

I decided to create a board for each of my top 3 projects (rather than one board with all projects mixed in together).  The 1-minute Snapchat video below outlines how I set the boards up.  I have since added a fourth board for a client project.

I’ve been using the boards for a week.  Every morning before I set down at my desk I check the boards and decide/confirm what I need to work on that day to progress my most important projects.  I add new tasks on a sticky note (1 task per note), and sometimes replace a high-level task with multiple more granular tasks.  I update the boards as I work too.  I’m finding the process very fluid and the boards are definitely assisting me to prioritise and progress my most important projects.  Importantly, using them also decreases my mental chatter about what I should be working on.

A downside of how I’ve set these boards up is that they are not portable.  I get around this in part by writing the 5 things I ‘must’ get done each day in a small notebook that I carry around.  (Actually, I write down up to 5 x Quadrant 1 tasks (Important and Urgent) and 5 x Quadrant 2 tasks (Important and Non-Urgent).  The quadrants are based on the Eisenhower matrix mentioned earlier in the post.)

Another disadvantage is that they cannot be shared with other people so don’t help with collaboration.  Some people in my network use Trello, which uses a board structure for task management.  I downloaded Trello several months ago, looked at it briefly, and deferred figuring out how to use it.  I suspect that the practices I’m using with physical kanban boards would transfer readily to Trello.  This tool is obviously portable and could be used with others.  I think I would miss the immediacy and visibility of the boards on my office wall were I to move from using them to Trello.  Of course, practices evolve so I may well be posting about my use of Trello (or something similar) in the future.

7 Comments