We usually talk about productivity in the first person, how can I be more productive? This question would be sufficient if we worked in isolation, but working in a team, this question acquires a double dimension: how can I work nimbly in a team and individually?
The objective of this article is to transmit how to establish a work methodology that allows you to work in a collaborative way while allowing you to have control of your daily and weekly agenda.
To achieve this methodology I will rely on 3 tools: Trello, Todoist and Google Calendar. I am not going to focus on the specific characteristics of each one of them, so probably the key concepts are easily transferable to similar tools.
Trello: Team project management
The starting point will be Trello, a tool that allows us to have a kanban board shared with the team.
These types of boards are basically composed of cards, which represent tasks, and lists, which tell us the status or progress of each card.
It is within these cards that the magic emerges, as they are an individualized space to detail and develop the different aspects of a task.
A card has the following key components:
- Title: Its purpose is to make the task easily recognizable.
- Description: One of the key elements of the cards. Our objective should be to clearly describe why the card is needed, what value it provides and what it should contain to be considered as done. At BeForGet we usually describe it in the form of Context, Value and Content.
- Checklists: These allow us to develop the task in sub-tasks and assign them to the person responsible for developing each of these sub-tasks.
- Members: Allows one or more managers to be assigned to the card. My recommendation is that only one person is marked as responsible, to avoid diluting the responsibility. This does not mean that that person is the executor of everything (that is why we have the sub-tasks in the checklist) but that he or she must be responsible for the compliance with the deadline marked on the expiration date.
- Comments: It’s a chat that allows you to have a conversation within each task. It is extremely useful, as it avoids losing comments and facilitates future revision of the card.
- Attachments: It allows us to upload files, or connect files from Google Drive or similar. This function allows us to have quick access to all the key files on the card in one place.
- Tags: This function basically allows us to classify each task. This is especially true if we work on several projects at once, or share a board with different departments.
Once we have analyzed the different characteristics of a card, let’s move on to see how the board would be managed on the computer. The methodology I am going to present is a simplification of SCRUM, which does not pretend to be methodologically perfect but simple.
The first and most visible difference is that we define the work cycles in stages and not in sprints. This is basically on a lexical level, since a stage in climbing or cycling represents a part of a larger objective; whereas a sprint is usually a short isolated race.
In a synthesized way, within this methodology we will find 3 key moments:
1. Stage Launch: It starts with a stage launch meeting where the objectives to be achieved during the stage are defined. Ideally, the tasks that represent these objectives should be prepared before the meeting itself. On the board, the launch is represented by the transition of the tasks from the Product Backlog list (stack of pending cards to establish a deadline) to the Stage Backlog or To-Do list (tasks to be performed at this stage).
2. Work in the Stage: During the stage, the different cards are worked on and their respective checklists completed. Once we start working on a card, we pass it to the Doing list and, when we finish it (according to the description of the card itself), we pass it to Done.
3. Stage closure: Each stage is closed with a meeting in which the objectives set for the stage are reviewed.
In summary, this is how we use Trello (or a kanban board) to organize team projects. Although sometimes it is enough to organize ourselves personally, experience working with it indicates that we then need a support/tool to organize our individual tasks on a daily basis. This is where Todoist comes in.
Todoist: When the goal is not to need memory
Todoist is the online and vitaminized version of your notebook/sheet/post-it of tasks. When I talk about vitaminized, I mean the following key features:
- It allows to organize the tasks by projects and sub-projects.
- It allows to filter the tasks through tags. I use them to classify the tasks according to the level of time or mental capacity they require. To go deeper into this, you can consult the article I wrote about the Getting Things Done book.
- It allows us to assign a date to each task. I recommend that this date is the one we intend to accomplish the task, and not the deadline as in Trello. This functionality allows us to have the main view we will use daily: “Today“. In this view we have a summary of all the tasks that we have assigned for today, without having to navigate in each of the projects.
- It allows us to assign a priority level to each task, which makes them order automatically.
- Finally, being a cloud tool, it synchronizes on all our devices (and we can’t lose it).
The working methodology between Trello and Todoist would be that every time we receive any new task (whether in trello or outside it) we write it inside todoist. And when I say any is any. Our goal is not to retain even one task in our brain’s memory (since it is inefficient and ineffective).
If we do not have time to develop the details of the task, todoist offers us the inbox, which will be our pile of tasks to design.
For this to work properly, it works very well for me to have a 5-10 minutes daily review (before the start of the day meeting with the team) of the inbox and tasks assigned for today. After the meeting with the team, it can be altered, but it is not usual.
In addition to this daily review, I spend about 30-40 minutes on Sunday afternoons checking my week on todoist and trello boards, to make sure they are aligned and I haven’t missed anything. During this review, I also check the Calendar, which I will talk about now.
Calendar: Where personal and professional touch
If the magic of Todoist was to dump all our tasks there, the magic of Calendar is to dump all our events there. From a doctor’s appointment to a business meeting. Why is that important? Because until we’re sure that we’ve dumped ALL our events into it, we don’t trust it.
When we start doing this, we realize that doing everything on the same calendar is inefficient (if you share events with other people, it doesn’t make sense for each person to generate the event separately) and chaotic. The key is to have specific calendars for each project, team, activity…
The combination that has worked best for me personally and as a member of BeForGet is the following:
- JP’s Calendar: Everything personal goes here.
- BeForGet ZERO Calendar: Calendar containing the events that affect the entire BeForGet team.
- Project calendars: These calendars contain both concrete events (a mentoring) and the project planning (the phases of the project in weeks). Their aim is to provide us with a quick overview of the project.
- BeForGet JP Calendar: This is the calendar of all professional events. Here they are from individual events to copies of events from project calendars.
The last point I want to make is key, if I had all the project calendars open at once, there would be a lot of noise. This forces me to hide the project calendars, but they contain events that I have to attend. Therefore, the events I have to attend are copied into my BeForGet JP calendar.
This allows me to have two different times of calendar use:
- Regular use: I only see my personal calendar, BeForGet ZERO and BeForGet JP. Only with these calendars I have to see all the events of my day.
- Project review: If I need to see how the next weeks of a project are going to be, I can only see its calendar, to have a clear view of it.
The key is to create systems that we trust and review on a regular basis, which will allow us to be freer, more productive and happier 🙂
In conclusion, I hope that this article will help you to be more productive and to work nimbly both as a team and individually.
Finally, I wanted to ask you some questions that will help me to improve the quality and content of this Learning Diary 🙂
Did you like the structure of the article?
Does this seem applicable to your day-to-day life?
Anything you missed? Any recommendations?