In one of my last posts called Lean task management gets things done, I described a bit how to tackle the overwhelming load of info and tasks in daily life. I presented my take on general structure – high level (HLP), mid level (MLP) and low level plan (LLP) – and also pointed out some tools: paper/PPT for the HLP, Trello for the MLP and Any.do + ActiveInbox for the LLP.
In line with Kaizen (better known as KVP in Germany) and the notion of a continuous process improvement, I did a retrospective resulting in the following key findings (some of which were already flagged as pain points in my last post):
- Two tools for LLP, actually even three if you count haptical approaches (real post-it notes) are just too much to handle effectively
- Long task lists do not get done – probably clear to many but still hard to deal with day by day (even if you use a Kanban based swimline approach where the mid to long term tasks are “parked” in the backlog)
- Long mailboxes get never read/zeroed – I am still challenged with “archiving away” items to not pollute the inbox on the one hand but also not “forget forever” about interesting but not urgent items on the other hand (e.g. a highly interesting blog post)
I came up with the following decisions and an adapted approach and tool usage to further improve effectiveness as well as fun:
- I don’t use ActiveInbox for the LLP anymore but rather plain GMail to reduce the number of tools even further and allow for better integration of the MLP and the LLP – plus post-it notes in exception cases or where eTools are not possible for certain reasons
- Not that ActiveInbox is not a decent tool to do Mail and GTD based task management. It is just about focus and not wasting more time in different tools and overhead tasks like prioritizing in one tool and the others, etc.
Adapted approach & tools:
- HLP: remains free-choice until the next retrospective as it is not the key issue currently and works ok
- MLP: remains Trello and I use 1 board per project / area (e.g. “Personal”, “Project SuperStar”, “Project SunRise”, etc. – works very good: highly visual, very effective, fun and with even more productivity features (e.g. board, card moving and copying, etc.)
- LLP: starts in GMail in the morning (max. 15mins) where I quickly scan all mails in all accounts (currently 2) to identify priority mails with embedded tasks -> get starred, interesting stuff not needed/to be done now –> get added to Trello cards/tasks and fast processable items: either spam -> delete or fast to do (<= 2 mins) -> do immediately.
- Trello is now used for important LLP tasks worth to be captured as part of a user story / key feature / key achievement
- Less important tasks either get done immediately (<2 mins only) or are captured quickly in Any.do (advantage here is that Any.do sits on the smart phone and is very efficient for short-term reminders
- Sample for an important task: e.g. Market-entry strategy is defined for product abc … with tasks #1 Do eResearch, #2 Call three network buddies who are SMEs, #3 Consolidate findings, #4 Write down paragraph with samples, #5 Do one review loop and update doc).
- Sample for a less urgent and important task that still needs to be done in the near future: you need to order a monthly internet flat for your smart phone due in three days. Any.do excels here as the task can’t be easily forgotten as the tool alerts you on the phone – of course you need to use this feature wisely in order to not get counter-productive effects
From a visual perspectice, my updated Trello board template looks like this:
It feels good to have eliminated some more waste and improved the productivity even more. Trello is more and more becoming a key cornerstone in this setup and is really quite “fun” to use.
How do you organize your life, time and tasks? What methods or tools do you use? What works for you? What doesn’t? Any feedback is welcome.
I am planning an update post once I could collect more substantial experience with the adapted setup. Stay tuned and have a happy productive week!