My partner works for a tech company as a “Scrum Master”, which basically means she helps other people to organise their schedules and get stuff done.
A couple of weeks ago she showed me the framework she uses and I’ve started using it to organise my personal tasks.
Needless to say, it’s been a personal game-changer (hence the email), so I here I’m going to share the key elements in the hope it may help some of you.
📋 The Kanban Board
This is a common way to visualise tasks. I somehow didn’t come across this until recently, but it seems to really gel with how I like to mentally visualise and structure things.
Fundamentally, it is just columns of cards, which you can drag around. You can name the columns anything you like, but it seems popular to name them in terms of ‘completeness’ of the task, as in the image above.
Platforms that enable it include Trello and Notion, although I’m sure there are others.
👟The weekly “sprint”
To my knowledge, most tech companies organise their work in one or two week “sprints”. The idea is that every team within the company outlines what they’re going to achieve in the next one/two weeks, and then reviews whether or not they achieved it.
The rationale behind this is, as I understand it, is to:
Increase ‘agility’: If you’re only planning two weeks in advance, it’s much easier to course correct
Overcome the planning fallacy: Things always take longer than you think they will. Making a plan of what you will do in 6 months is likely to be way more out than a 12x 2-week plans.
Synchronise teams: Everybody can know what everyone else is working on
Accountability: It’s much easier to concretely track what everyone has done.
🙋♂️Making it personal
So those are all the reasons why this may be helpful for teams and companies. But what about on a personal level?
For the last few weeks, I’ve been using this approach to organise all my personal tasks, and I can report that it’s been really effective.
I think it’s easier to show you than explain the structure I’ve used, so here it is. (I’ve removed a few things for privacy / confidentiality)
On the far left, I have the ‘higher-level’ strategic stuff:
Regular tasks are prompts of what to do each week
The ‘backlog’ are tasks that I need to do, but am not planning to do this week. The ‘back-burner’ are my ‘someday maybe’-type tasks which I will do when I get round to them. The ‘active’ tasks are ones I want to add to sprints in the near future
Then, to the right, I have the ‘in progress’ elements:
The columns are mostly self-explanatory. I aim to clear my ‘key tasks’ each week, and will do the ‘if time’ if... well, if I have time.
Note: Add the 'party popper’ emoji to the ‘Done’ column title, and you will automatically get a little treat when you drag things across 😉
I’ve been doing a weekly review for quite some time now, but this has made it way more efficient. I like knowing I have all my tasks in one place, and that I can clearly see what needs to be done next. It works well with my input-output approach to productivity.
So yeah, that’s it. I found it super helpful, and maybe you will too?
This week’s links:
(1) A podcast
I found this discussion between author Ryan Holiday and the MD of Thiel Capital Eric Weinstein really thought-provoking. Very much focussed on discussing big ideas, and less about practical day-to-day things. Some interesting comments on the wider implications of coronavirus, and conflicts between generations.
(2) An email newsletter
A few weeks ago I subscribed to this newsletter, written by a fellow London-based medical doctor, and have really enjoyed it. He shares reflections related to productivity and to medicine.
This week’s video:
This week I spoke to Joe Gannon, who used to work for Cambridge University’s social media marketing time. Over the last few years, he’s built up a following on LinkedIn and I probed his motivations and experiences of this - plus asked for some tips for someone like me, who is just starting out with “creating content”.
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Hi! I’m Chris Lovejoy, a Junior Doctor and Data Scientist based in London.
I’m on a mission to improve healthcare through technology (particularly AI / machine learning), but along the way I want to share learnings that are relevant no matter your career choice or background.
In this weekly newsletter, I share my top thoughts and learnings from each week, as well as links to the best things on the internet that I come across.