Tag Archives: productivity

Weeks 9 and 10: what’s really important

Two Tuesday mornings ago. Raining like crazy, I bailed out of our Tuesday morning walk. Took some time to look realistically at my goals, deadlines, aspirations, and interests, versus the number of hours in a day and my energy levels. And I made some decisions.

May 1 is a deadline for a writing award I want to enter. I am on a couple of volunteer committees. I have a demanding job. I am determined to get back running again and regain most of the former activity level after knee surgery a year ago.

The only way I can get this all accomplished is if I get out my inner laser pointer and focus, focus, focus.

So, two weeks ago I managed to get Chapter One of my novel re-jigged while getting my homework done in prep for the Blue Ribbon panel for judging IABC Gold Quill Award entries. Then, a group of us, all Accredited Business Communicators, met last Saturday to team up and complete the judging process. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and a lot of learning.

This past Tuesday: woke up near Whistler in a retreat facility. with a tension headache, but also a thirst for learning. I took the intensive three-day Prosci Change Management Certification course last week in the midst of back problems. This (trying something new, then the back problems) is a natural progression for me.

Change Management–

Communications and marketing is all about persuading people to change their minds about something, and take action. Increasingly, professional communicators are asked to help out with organizational transformations: changes in technology, processes, leadership, etc.

We’re sometimes told: “If we could only communicate this better to staff, they wouldn’t be so resistant. We need you, communications people, to deliver us some results in this area!” My answer to this has always been: “I can’t create change on behalf of leadership unless the leadership is seen to be behind this change 100%. Leadership has to walk the talk.”

Now I have the data and training to back that up. Change management, I had intuitively known, is more than communications. It is a systematic process that has to be supported from the top and reinforced all the way through an organization. Change is supported through communications, but it is done by individuals.

Regarding the back problems – the more stressed I get, the more a hunch up my back and get headaches. I’ve come to learn that doesn’t mean the stress I’m under is bad, it means I’m under some kind of transformation myself. It means I’m learning; it’s a signal I need to pay attention to the change I’m experiencing at that moment. The best way to deal with change (and the stress that comes with it) is to find ways to relax into it, stretch often, keep hydrated, and rest when necessary.

And find a good physiotherapist.

In the Park

Kanban, Trello and productivity: first impressions and comparisons

My friend Mike Vardy suggested to me, when I was supervising a group of graphic designers, that I might want to look at the Kanban productivity system. I didn’t do it then, because I wasn’t directly supervising their projects (I was supervising their supervisor), and because I did not need another new thing to learn at that time.

What attracted me to try Kanban was a combination of things: it was something new to learn (I’m always open to that!), Mike had described it as a system for visually-inclined people, and it is minimalist.  After being forced to set up a fairly complicated set of filters and tags in Todoist to keep track of my demanding job as a communications director, I was hungry to simplify.

(The ToDoist system of tags and filters totally worked to make my life easier by the way, and I may go back to it if I’m ever again in charge of a large department like that.)

After reading about the Kanban system, I looked for an application to support it. All my research led me to Trello. I had tried Trello before, but without the knowledge of Kanban, it wasn’t intuitive to me now to get the most out of it, so I abandoned it.

Screenshot of Klassen Jeffery Household Trello board

However, after using Trello with Kanban for the past two weeks, I’m a convert. Plus, it works great as an editorial calendar. I may even suggest it to the client I’ll be working with next month.

Keeping it simple

Kanban has only two simple rules, visualize your work and limit your work in progress.

Here’s how it works, in three simple steps:

  1. Divide up a board into columns. Start with three: “Backlog,” “Doing” (or “Work In Progress”), and “Complete.”
  2. Put each of your tasks onto a card or Post-it Note. As you work on a task, move it to the “Doing” column. As you finish it, move it to the “Completed” column.
  3. Limit your “Doing” (or Work In Progress) items to a few at a time (I have only 3, but some people have 5). To start on a new task, either move another one to “Complete” or back to “Backlog.” I have added a few other columns to my various boards on Trello: one is “DFO” – Due from Others; where I park tasks I can’t complete because I’m waiting for action by someone else.

Using visuals

In the ParkI love using graphics in my boards. On my Personal board I have a column called “Inspiration,” where I collect all those funky memes I come across. I keep them there for a while to inspire me. Our shared Household board has pictures of tasks we need to complete, like a clean BBQ – to remind us we need to clean ours – or the bags of clothes we need to donate. I have collected a couple dozen generic CC-licensed graphics to use for my Professional and Editorial Calendar boards.

In short: my Trello boards look pretty and motivate me to get stuff done. I eagerly open my Kanban boards each day to see what’s up next. I work on the three most important tasks, one at a time, and as the “Completed” column fills up, I can see my accomplishments.

Comparing Trello to ToDoist and Basecamp

I have used Basecamp and ToDoist before, for editorial calendars, project collaboration, and personal task management. Trello has a great calendar view almost as good as Basecamp’s, which makes it attractive for editorial calendars.

Tori's Trello Editorial Calendar board - calendar viewLike Basecamp, you can discuss each project/task with a team in Trello. Unlike Basecamp, you can’t just reply to an email and have it show up in the Trello conversation thread, you have to be in the app. This will probably keep me from using Trello with clients.

Update: Twitter user @MichaelPryor pointed out to me that you can indeed reply by email to a thread in Trello:

“just FYI, you can hit the reply link in notification emails and comment and it will go back on the card without going to trello.” -Thanks Michael!

The beauty of Basecamp was that I could have a project shared by a committee of people from different organizations. As long as I could get them signed in to the Basecamp project once, I could control which team members would get an update via email of each comment I posted. They could then simply hit “reply” with their feedback; no need to sign in again to post within the app.

Unlike ToDoist, I can’t see all my upcoming tasks in one go in Trello and the filtering mechanism isn’t that robust. I used filters a lot in ToDoist. For instance, if I had a meeting starting in 15 minutes, I would filter by those tasks I had marked as “less than 5 minutes to complete,” pick one, and knock it off before heading out to my meeting.

However, I think that is a feature of Trello and Kanban, not a bug. After all, you’re supposed to be more productive by limiting your Work In Progress, right?

Like the example above, I still have some aspects of Personal Kanban and Trello to figure out. Another example: what do you do with recurring tasks? Keep moving them back into the Backlog column? I’ve downloaded Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life to read up some more. The jury’s still out on whether I’ll use Kanban when my life gets busier, or perhaps I’ll drop those items I didn’t need to focus on in the first place, leaving more room for what’s ultimately more important.  

Further reading: