How not to miss all deadlines. Task-tracker in the case
What time management approaches do you currently use? Are you ready to say that you have a clear system for managing your work tasks?
I am ready to say yes and share how it has been working for me for many years.
Head of Core Development, Karuna
Hello everybody. My name is Oleksandr, and I work as the head of the Karuna development department.
Also in the past I am an engineer manager, team lead and java developer. And in each of these roles, I used some kind of task tracker or its analogue. I started with a paper schedule and stickers on the monitor, and now I have laid out a rather complex concept so as not to miss anything important.
In the field of time management and various practices, I myself have read more than a dozen different books and would advise them Max Dorofeev as a necessary minimum.
In the field of tools, all my work is automation of routine and planning. I’m trying not to invent a complicated system (with alphabetical table of contents, cross-references, and pretty separator pictures) right away, as long as everything works like that.
I iteratively change something and see how much it helps me. If I don’t see the result, I throw it away. If I understand that it has become easier to live, I leave it and try to complete it.
I liked Max Dorofeev’s approach to sorting tasks. You can say I took a lot from there, but changed the form of representation. Made it closer to my day job, namely the boards in gira.
As always, I started small and described, first of all, the work with the tracker, then with the browser, chat, and so on.
When my chronicle exceeded 10 pages of text, I divided it into three logical parts:
task tracker (this article);
calendar, messenger, browser;
In this part, I will describe the format of presenting my tasks and the processes of working with them in the task tracker, the rest will be in the second part.
PS Some places I erased in the form of X, Y, N, etc. for reasons of security of personal data. And deleted some tasks so as not to inflate their number on the screen. And otherwise, this is my work board, with all the chips and jambs.
You can say that the task tracker is the foundation for all other time and task management components. I came to this tool 5 years ago, but over the last year I have changed my approach to it a lot.
How does it look on me? For ease of viewing, I divided the picture into two, because a very wide screen is required for ideal viewing:
And for those who want to see the full size format
It can be any Kanban-like board with the possibility of customization and template.
Next, I will tell you how to work in this format.
Backlog – Everything is so remote here that most often I just delete the card due to its irrelevance or the completion of another task.
To Do — what I am ready to plan for the coming month: any non-urgent tasks of the manager, plans to update documentation, etc.
Week – The working week + a small overlap for the next one (especially when Friday approaches). One of the key columns because that’s where I primarily get my tasks for the day.
Today — that’s exactly what I’m going to do today. It is not necessary that I will do it to the end (yes, I have not yet started to miss tasks for 30-minute intervals), but they must not lose focus.
And this is the entry point of all new tasks, the same one inbox in Max Dorofeev’s terms. Why here and not separately? Because one more column won’t fit on my 27-inch screen. Just kidding, just because immediately after creating, I either throw the task into To Do, Week or leave in Today with high urgency of the task. I am so comfortable.
Daily – A spontaneously formed column where I hold:
Checklist for the day – a list of activities that I have to do in the morning before starting work. After completing all the points, I close this card and start the list Today.
Tricks of the week (I will describe in more detail below).
Optionally, some super hot and lasting stuff (like quarterly planning).
Repeat – regular activities that move in Today and back on execution. These are various regular filling of plans and reports, team sprint scope reviews, and other recurring activities.
Status — some strange column, which also formed spontaneously from points that have already been made on my side, but need control or are waiting for someone to take the next step. Most likely, we will create a separate type of template and place it in Week/To Do/Today depending on the date.
Projects – Components of activities that are checklists. Each item should be allocated on a separate card during planning.
I use it when I understand that I cannot complete the task in one or two approaches.
EDP – News. The plan for me and each of my guys on the team for the coming year. Includes info on developing expertise, performance reviews, and some other important details. Inside is a checklist. It partially duplicates a separate Google table for 1-1 (I will talk about it outside of this article), so I am still thinking about the format.
Woke up, smiled, opened the trill board.
I open the check sheet for planning.
I remove the ticks from the completed items (I haven’t found how to automate, I’m tired of calling – I’ll go look for a solution). And I follow the list:
Personal messages in the messenger.
If I am ready to answer right away, I will write an answer. Not ready – I’ll add it to the bookmarks in the messenger.
If I need to do something other than answer, I immediately start a card in Trello for today.
Bookmarks in the messenger: the same as with new messages, but already for bookmarks. As soon as I have processed it, I delete it.
Message in the mail. Simple and without pretensions: I watch new things, create cards in Trello, delete unnecessary ones.
I open the calendar and evaluate the goals for today and tomorrow (and sometimes for the whole week). If preparation is needed, I will enter the card in Today (or transfer from Repeat) and mark the time in the calendar as Focus Time.
I look at the speakers Repeat, Projects, People, Status, and drag to the column Todayif there is something suitable. I make time in the calendar for important and urgent tasks.
Now I look at the calendar and see how much time I have today that is not booked for goals and personal activities, I sigh sadly.
IMPORTANTLY: for each card I have an approximate time to complete, but more on that later.
Actually, everything. Driven to “do things”.
A small offtopic about rallies
The meeting of the meeting is different, but each of us probably wondered, how much more would he have done if not for the meeting? But in the manager’s work, it is a tool with which he does his work. Do not forget about this, but do not overdo it with the amount!
This usually happens regularly on Friday evening or Monday morning.
You need to go through all the columns well and update them Week. If there are clearly few tasks, I pay attention to To Do. If the situation is the other way around, then I’ll push in To Do.
The main answer to the question “why?” — to have an idea of how much I will digest potentially. In case I move the task to To Do or even further, and the task has a date, then I must definitely inform the person who is waiting for the result from me that, most likely, the task is postponed.
Novelty. I started to write tricks of the week for myself in a column Daily. This will affect which tasks I prioritize. For example, specifying the focus “processes of N team“, I will purposefully devote my free time to the questions and problems of this team. I will update the docks, the roadmap, dive deeper into the technical details of the team, and have a 1-1 with employees. Other things (if they do not require an urgent connection) will be added to the queue.
In the moment
Here I was asked to evaluate the task, or after the retro I realized that I need to bet 1-1 with someone… What do I do?
I run and do tasks in the moment.
I start pulling in Today. Next, if I understand that it has no chance of being fulfilled here, I translate it Week/To Do.
Exception: again, an urgent, important and simple matter.
For each task type, I created templates and labeled them, purely for visual reference.
Docs – write documentation, regulations.
Research – study a topic, an article. When it is not clear what the result should be.
Meeting* – it’s trivial to meet with someone.
Action – everything else (create a dashboard with metrics, draw up an employee development plan, prepare for the retro, respond to the letter).
Template for regular actions. Example, [Weekly] – [15min]
Why not put a toll right away, you might think. And not the fact that this myth is important to me now or until a specific date. It can simply be gathering feedback, or 1-1 with colleagues, or presenting some project for which you still need to prepare. Or maybe I’ll change my mind about setting this myth altogether if I get the information I need in another way.
Each card in the prefix has a scheduled time estimate: 15 min by default. I manage when I create or plan the day.
Most of the time, a well-formulated title is enough for me, but sometimes I enrich the description with links and checklists. Examples:
Create an epic in jira to add alerting in service X (nothing is needed inside here, if I know in which project to start it).
Go 1-1 with Vasya to discuss Team Y’s Q1 projects (here inside the roadmap link).
Complete the weekly document sync status (here is a link to the document).
Update the strategy of the N team (there may be a checklist of specific points in here).
If the task cannot be done in 1-2 approaches or 3-4 hours, I start a project and make a checklist. There is no point in pulling some huge pull in Today. Otherwise, everything is the same as in development: you will chase it through sprints and not understand when you finish.
From the important:
I add red labels to important projects.
I attach links to documents in the task description.
It is advisable to add an approximate date of completion (if applicable) to each item on the checklist.
Separately, I create my plan for ER (Evolution review) in the form of projects.
ER – what is it?
Evilution review. The name speaks for itself. An event where you and your manager discuss your achievements, facaps and build a further development plan. It is very helpful if both people at this event realize the importance, prepare well and discuss all issues openly. If you treat this as another annoying rally, you will get a hat from the points “read 3 books and take 2 courses”.
It helps to focus on developing your growth areas. Sometimes I extract some point from there.
Hello to those who do not understand why to fill out some EDP and think that it is all bureaucracy and that’s all.
In this column, I place cards for guys with whom I work as a manager, but in a simplified version. As I wrote above, I recently switched to a different format in Google Sheets, so I will leave it purely for my tasks.
Well, not quite the end, but almost.
This time I tried to make the article a little more concise, so I left only the story about the task tracker.
I hope it will help someone to upgrade their approach, and someone will express their resounding “FI” in the comments. In any case, the matter is already done. Thank you all for your attention!
To be continued…
Here will be the next parts of the epic for time management and tasks.
In the meantime, let us know who else uses the kanban board to manage their personal work tasks: and what chips do you use to not forget anything important?