I sometimes find myself feeling disorganized in terms of the tasks I want to do and whether I’m moving towards where I want to be. This feeling has driven me to try out a lot of different project management tools, apps and techniques, all of which didn’t solve the problem to satisfaction. Whenever I change tool or technique, it’s good for a while, but eventually the disorganized feeling returned and the cycle repeats. In short, a lot of time wasted on the process instead of doing the actual work.
Once again I’m feeling disorganized and instead of blindly moving on to the next tool or process, I’ve decided to try and actually write down what my process is to help evolve it instead of starting from scratch with a new tool. I’m putting the thoughts into this blog post to better understand the problems and possibly create some value for someone else.
My Current System
My current system is a combination of tasks in Trello and notes on paper and .txt files (synced via Dropbox). I currently have 6 boards in Trello, each encapsulating an area in my life;
Translated the boards are: Inbox, Company, Leads, Personal improvement, Side-projects and Learning. I will now briefly describe the purpose of each.
This is where I put most general tasks that do not fall into the other categories. It currently holds cards around pension, investing and insurance.
This board is used for managing my software consultancy company. It includes everything from development to management and ideas. As my company is quite young the cards mostly revolve around marketing and networking.
This is where I manage leads for my company. The funnel is
sources -> vetted -> contacted -> success -> done.
Personal Improvement board
This board is for all personal improvement related things like running, loosing weight, reading and skills I want to acquire.
I like working on side-projects to try out ideas and discover new technologies. This board is for managing those ideas and projects. My current side-project is around tracking lean body mass, the MVP being a spreadsheet. I plan to write about this process in more details soon.
This board is for keeping a list of what I want to learn and what I’m currently studying. The cards are mostly related to software development as that is both my hobby and professional interest. I’m currently learning AngularJS and designing mock-ups in Sketch.
Applying Kanban Principles
Besides enjoying the quick process overview that Trello provides, I also apply a few Kanban principles to keep it all in check. The most important rule in my system is to reduce the amount of work in progress, and I’ve therefore set a limit on the amount of cards that can be in-progress on each board. All limits are currently below 5, but I’m always striving to simplify and reduce it even further.
Another technique I apply is using Trello’s color labels to easier being able to identify trends and notice if I’m investing too much into a specific area or there is something I’m not taking care of.
Notes and Todo lists
The last part of my system consists of notes and todos written down in text files and put in Dropbox. I used to use Evernote, but got fed up with their formatting, slow mobile apps and lack of markdown support. Smaller tasks like chores and shopping lists go into these text files.
Life is of course more than a Trello board, but without a good system in place I find myself stumbling around without aim or purpose. Taking this time to write down my process has quenched my urge to go look for a new tool or fad, and I highly recommend you try the same.