Use task management tools to visualize your work and increase your productivity.

January 11, 2012

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Use task management tools to visualize your work and increase your productivity

Task management tool: The Kanban’s method

Today I’ve come up on an interesting article about personal kanban, basically a way to visualize your actions and work in progress. Interesting as it raises echo to one question I always had and led me to create BeesApps: how do we like to visualize what we have to do ?

Before looking into detail, read this article differently based on your position in the organization, as definitely what you need to visualize is different if you’re at project management, middle management or executive level. Most common way to visualize it the traditional To-Do list, sometimes simplified to piles of sticky notes on a desk.

Despite being a simple way to organize yourself, many people are using this as a ‘productivity tool‘ , mainly not to forget things. This is also one of the main way productivity tools provide you information on what you have to do. These task management method can increase your personal productivity.

Big problem: the list is ever increasing, looking close to your mailbox, with dozens of undone action piling up. The visualization effect is terrible on your motivation, looking like you’re running out of time. This feeling is increased a bit more if your tool enables focus on overdues tasks, the one you should have done yesterday.

Ok, then what else ?

task management tools

Proven Efficient visualization method

Looking for a task management tool, I’ve come up a certain number of way of visualizing your work and actions with the aim to increase productivity:

  • the target / goal view, where actions are dependent from goals and project you’re trying to achieve. Very efficient way to structure your visualization as it limits what you’re seeing to the goal you’re currently interested in. Drawback: it does not emphasize on actions that need to be taken urgently and that might be out of your current focus. Very good for mid-term visualization and goal achievement, priority setting, but not so much for day to day work
  • the urgent / important matrix, where you classify tasks based on Urgent / Non Urgent and Important / Non Important categories, leading to a simple but very effective personal heuristic, as explained below. Only drawbacks is that it leaves you with To-Do list for each category … But big advantage: it helps actually understand what you’re doing good or bad and get better at managing not just your time but your life.

Non Urgent AND Important

That’s where we want to spend most of our time since this is actually tasks where you anticipate and prepare yourself to achieve your goal. mid to long term actions falls here.

Maximize your time here, at least 30%. The good thing is: if you plan it well, the more time you spend there, the less time you spend in the URGENT and IMPORTANT category.

Urgent AND Important

to be done first and dropping almost everything else. Usually a sign of bad personal organization if happening often. Indeed, if you plan and anticipate, you should never have to handle urgency on a regular basis. If you spend most of your time there, start to analyze why you ended up here on the projects you’re handling. It is ok to be there if you had a real ‘surprise’ that led you to have to deal with an urgent action. Some would still say that you could have anticipated surprise, but … Target less than 10% here, otherwise you’ll end in the fireman paradigm. Easy solution: organize yourself.

Non Urgent AND Non important

I can hear you think, very easy one, target = 0% ! well, not really, as here goes everything unplanned, unrelated directly to your goals, or things that you have to do (think of paperwork, etc), as well as social exchange … Remember, the non important relates to your goals, that’s all.
So this category is the one for dealing with opportunities, innovation, opening your mind, refreshing yourself. Too much of this and you’re procrastinating, not enough and you’re heading towards “brain” death by not fueling yourself with different point of views on things. This task management tool, for an executive, is also a good way to get a feeling of what’s going on on the field. A good target would be 20%.
Not so easy lesson to learn: work on your stress to enjoy ‘useless’ moment, one never knows what can come out of it.

Urgent AND non important

actions that people or yourself are assigning to you outside of your own priorities ( thus non important), but to be done in a limited timeframe ( think of a sales guy coming up for a proposal review to be delivered the next day, finance coming up for budget due the next monday etc …). This is the category of things you should say NO to, no as NOT in your priority. Our task management tool allows you to look closely at what you’re doing. You’ll maybe conclude that you spend a great deal of time here. The only good reason you want to spend time here is to help someone, for whatever reason you can think of. When I mean help, I mean because you choose to, not because you feel compelled to say YES. I would try to target less that 20% here. Not so easy solution: work on yourself to say NO.
Tough lesson to learn but for a big value.

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The GTD matrix

Trying to focus on the right time to do things based on the time you have left to accomplish something and to avoid procrastination. Basically the idea, thanks to our task management tool, is to focus on short, easy task that you can easily accomplish while schedule specific timeslots to address the more complex one. The main focus here is to Get Things Done ( hence the GTD) as much as you can. I’ll post a detailed review on this method in a future post, reviewing the famous book by David Allen who actually wrote about it. Anyone using this, I’m interested in your feedback

The personal Kanban

The idea they’re developing in this article is fairly simple, divide things in 3:

  • things you have to do ( the backlog)
  • work in progress ( things you’re curently doing)
  • done

One major focus of the personal kanban is to make sure you visualize the global picture (everything you have to do and did to achieve your goal) but at the same time forces you to focus your work on a realistic part of them (the work in progress).
First time I heard of it, never used it. But I found it interesting because it helps you VISUALIZE the work you have to do right now, in a more global context. And I firmly believe that a good ‘productivity’ process is essentially that: a tool that is a repository for your memory, making sure that you never forget some action point, but also a tool that is capable of providing you with JUST the relevant actions you have to do right now.
Less stress because you cannot forget anything you think is important, less stress because you’re not overwhelmed by the ‘too big of a moutain’ syndrom. Who care that they currently have 247 open action points on their task management tool ?

When we developped Beesy here at BeesApps, we had definitely the Goal /Project view in mind to manage your long term priorities and the Eisenhower matrix to manage your day-to-day activity.
Beesy leverages both tools to help you achieve a greater efficiency in your business activity.

Discover how this works in Beesy

No matter your issue we have answers

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