Thursday, 16 September 2010

Things That Works – Time Management

Gil has posted two articles (Write down everything, bucket listJuggling multiple tasks) about techinques he uses for time management that works for him. Since i liked his title so much and since this is a problem im struggling with as well I thought to add.

So first lets describe my context (a solution is not relevant without the context in which it works/failed). being an agile coach means that a large chunk of my time I’m dealing with a few regular clients, some small gigs that pops up and of course the staff related to marketing sales and logistics. I’m also doing some academicals research and have a couple of pet projects I try to advance.

Attempt 1

I started out by using old plain memory power , and to say the truth most of the times that worked for me. However, in time the amount of things i juggle between, caused me to miss things which should have not been forgotten. So I understood i needed to back up my memory.

Attempt 2

Next step was to write everything down, I started out by using physical notes, however since most of the time I’m not in the same place I found the need to carry the notes with me to be too cumbersome.

Attempt 3

next I rearrange everything into a big list (using excel), I’ve tried applying the “product Backlog” technique taken from Agile methodologies (well that’s a surprise). And to many extends that improved things a lot. Using a backlog allowed me to write down big things I wanted to accomplish (“stories”) and to break them into specific things I need to do (“Tasks”). It also improve prioritization, making sure that the important things got done first.

Lately however I recognized that a simple unified backlog is, well, too simple. when examining my work week i discovered that in most days, my work was dedicated to a single main thing (with some small interruptions to other things). I also noticed that if I group the backlog along the lines of my work days i can treat many of the things has there own separate project and I don’t really needs to prioritize between them. I just need to decide how much effort to allocate to that project i.e. decide on which day I’m where.

Attempt 4

So finally my current scheme for handling things has molded into this:

For each “project” I do, which currently are:

  1. One per client.
  2. One per pet project.
  3. Research
  4. Personal
  5. Marketing
  6. Logistics.

I have a separate to do list contained in a one page plain text file. In all cases (and I think this is crucial) I keep the list less than a page long. Each list is sorted by priority and every new thing gets inserted into its proper place according to project and priority. When I finish tasks i just delete them.

I no longer distinguish between ’stories’ and ‘tasks’, since I found that after splitting the list into various files one page is enough to hold all the tasks.

At the start of each Month I do an initial plan of how to split my days, which get revisited at the end of each week (and any other time I feel the need to do it).

at the start of every day, when i get to the place where that days project is being done ( a client, home,…) i can just focus on one specific from which i decide the goals for that day.

and the rest is still left for “Memory Power”.


so far my last attempt is working ok for me. on the good side I managed to order my week into complete days and to some extend decrease the amount of context switching. I’m consciously limiting myself and when I can I don’t split a day between two projects or more. inside a day I’m keeping my focus and so far i managed to minimize the misses.

on the down side I think that overall my task list has grown and I’m starting to feel the pressure. I know that that’s probably because I’m taking on too much and I think that happens since I’ve lost to some extend the overall view. I need to find a way to improve on that (or find a way to to add more hours per day).


tenax_technologies said...
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