Week 6: Reading Week

27 October, 2021

It had been six weeks into the course, and I struggled to find the time and the right rhythm. This week gave me much-needed time to catch up and reflect on improving my project and time management.

Last week, I set one of my goals to spend an additional hour every day studying. I sort of had done that – not yet an hour per day, but I managed to do it for most of the week. I believe that I am on the right track to organizing my time and project.

One of the first things I wanted to do this week was to reflect on how things were going and what I needed to keep doing, stop doing, and think of new things to try. At my work, we have retrospectives[1] at the end of each sprint. It gives the team time to pause, reflect, and listen to everyone. The retrospective goal was to identify realistic next steps to help the team move forward. I wanted to do the same for myself.

Keep doing Stop doing New things to try
Motivate myself and adjust my schedule to archive as much as possible. Stress out myself because of all the works around and lose track. Set up a plan which I could follow to maintain a work-life balance and avoid burning out.
Use the kanban to keep things on track. Read some of the journals of other coursemates to get inspired.
Read at least one article referenced by others in this course.

 

One of the goals I set for myself this week was to finish the book Getting Things Done shared by my manager. This book is about the GTD task management system created by productivity consultant David Allen.

Anyone with the need to be accountable to deal with more than what they can complete at the moment has the opportunities to do so more easily and elegantly than in mind.[2]

David Allen developed the core methodology based on a simple truth –  The more ideas you have in your head, the harder it is to get any things done or prioritized. As a result, you spend more time thinking about getting the ideas out rather than getting the things done. And when things get piled up in your head, you get overwhelmed and stressed out. And when stress builds up, anxiety triggers.

The book Getting Things Done is not simply about getting things done. It’s about being appropriately engaged with your work and life.

The main takeaway for me from this book is the five practices to systematize the clutter in my brain. I wanted to adopt the concept and see how I could improve my time and project management by using the template from todoist.com[3].

Steps Definition Previous process The problem Improved process
1 – Capture Capture anything that crosses your mind, regardless it’s too big or too small. Using multiple apps to bookmark, save, capture, or message myself. There are many channels where information comes from, wherever an article from a website, data shared from a colleague via Slack messages, an MVP specification about a project you are working on, or some helpful study material I came across in the online learning platform. It’s not easy to find them in one place. Using the Trello kanban board to create an “idea” card that could consolidate all the links, ideas, and content in one place.
2 – Clarify Process what I’ve captured into clear and concrete action steps. Mostly memory-based with the help of the Reminder app. When more information is captured, the Reminder app cannot store more data. It was often a one-liner and solely relied on my memory to determine where the related info was stored. As information is being captured, I would add them to the “idea” card as soon as possible. When creating the “idea” card, I would consider the information as either “reference or resource” or “something actionable”.
3 – Organize Put everything in the right place, mark the calendar, sort the tasks. As part of my previous attempt, I had started to use Trello as the app to help organize by creating a kanban board. Starting something from scratch was always to most challenging. It was time-consuming and relied on my self-autonomous. The basic kanban methodology has five columns which are “Backlog”, “To-Do”, “Doing,” and “Done”. I added in “Resources” and “Waiting”. “Resources” are meant for information for references only, which don’t lead to any immediate actions. “Waiting” is intended for tasks that depend on others and reminds me to check in with them to get unblock.
4 – Review Do smaller daily reviews and bigger weekly ones. Everything was in my head, occasionally with a Reminder app notification. As the book described, without an “external brain” to help store information, I was overwhelmed easily. It has become my habit to review the cards daily. The Trello app is now always running in the background and I could add things to my board as soon as I receive them.
5 – Engage Get to work on the important stuff. Didn’t really have that. Relying on weekly meetings to check progress and reset priorities. More on a passive side to get things to move forward. With daily and weekly reviews with much-organized information, I could keep track of things before issues arise. As this is only the beginning of adopting this methodology, I will report back in my future reflections.

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References:

[1] Atlassian. 2021. Agile retrospectives: Use the past to define the future. [online] Available at: <https://www.atlassian.com/agile/scrum/retrospectives> [Accessed 25 October 2021].

[2] Allen, D., 2015. Getting Things Done. 6th ed. New York: Penguin Group US.

[3] todoist.com. n.d. Getting Things Done: Your Step-By-Step Guide. [online] Available at: <https://todoist.com/productivity-methods/getting-things-done> [Accessed 25 October 2021].

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