I love To Do boards. Trello, Dotstorming, Post-It Notes and whiteboards.
Completing tasks makes my heart sing! I also know that it is personal and that not everyone shares my enthusiasm.
I’ve been working with some friends on To Do boards for their respective businesses. They are structured as 1-2 week “sprints”.
The key question I ask – what do you NEED to get done this week?
- Is there a deadline where someone else is expecting a deliverable soon?
- Is there something that needs to happen that particular week in preparation for a future deliverable or high-priority activity?
From here, I ask – how much space do you have in your schedule (and your BRAIN!) for other activities?
- We need to keep cognitive load in mind. An activity that requires a lot of learning, thinking and processing requires a lot more “time” (even if it is time staring at the walls) than, say, calling a client.
- Also – how similar are the activities? Is there a way we can multi-purpose?
- Take all of these non-deadline needs – how much do you realistically expect to get done? We all over-estimate what we can get done in any period of time. Time tracking against activities helps.
The boards can be organized like Kanban boards:
- Stuff to do (this week – stick all of your other tasks elsewhere so you can find them)
I’ve also organized Agile Scrum boards – which helps to make the Backlog more visible.
When I did this, I separated the to do items into programs. In practice, this turned out to be overwhelming.
In the future, I may color code the to dos so we can still see what program we are working on and separate the backlog itself into programs.
The problem I see with separate boards for each project / program (beyond real-estate) is that it becomes difficult to see resource load. I haven’t run into an organization where a person is only working on one project or program.
(Thanks Aaron and Megan for the feedback)
Things to watch out for:
- Overwhelm. For me, this happens when I have a lot of little, unrelated, activities.
- I call this “whack-a-mole” and set aside one “whack-a-mole” day per week to take care of all the niggly stuff. This frees up headspace (for me) to do more focused work the rest of the week vs trying to do whack-a-mole all of the time.
- “Emergencies.” Particularly other people’s emergencies.
- “The Pause” really helps me here. When I remember to use it 🙂
- Within The Pause – I like using Eisenhower’s Urgent / Important matrix.
- If it is someone else’s emergency, and it is urgent / not important, next step is figuring out ways to get them what they need (or getting them to conclude it really isn’t that important) without taking up a ton of my time and energy. Still working on mastering this one 🙂
- Cognitive Load Miscalculation. Sometimes, I get into something that I think will be low effort and it winds up taking longer and requires more energy / cognitive load than I initially estimated.
- Is there something else on your list that can be moved to next week?
- If you have to delay something – don’t beat yourself up. Life happens.
- Effort Miscalculation. Sometimes stuff just takes more time to physically do.
- See above
- Might help to track (for a little while) how much time it takes to actually do something. This helps immensely with time calculations later.