Creating your own personal productivity system (iii)

Last week, I wrote about the best ways to deal with a task, an event and a process. Processes are generally more complex and are made up of many tasks being performed by different people. In order to keep processes, running smoothly, you will need to deploy a task management system.

The ideal task management system consists of three things:

  1. A medium for capturing tasks
  2. A calendar for noting events
  3. A system that can handle processes

One of the easiest task management systems is the Kanban board. Kanban boards originated in the 1940s in Japan. They were first deployed by Toyota automotives to control work flow during production. The earliest kanban boards provided a way to easily see which tasks needed to be done, which had been completed and which had stalled. Anyone on the production line could take a look at the board and see if their input was required. They could also move notes around the board as tasks went through various stages (to-do, doing, waiting upon and done).

A kanban board
Simpler might just be better

The Kanban board, even a physical one, captures the three criteria for an ideal task management system (the calendar is by default set to today). If all your team are located in the same office, you can use kanban boards to keep track of processes. Before you say it is too lowtech, many software development teams use kanban during the development cycle. If it’s good enough for the high tech wizards, it might be good enough for you too.

There are also task management software that have been created to help teams manage processes. The three that I have used at various points and would recommend are Freedcamp, Trello and Asana. Each of them comes with their unique bells and whistles but their interface is quite easy to use and you will figure it out if you dedicate two hours to host a training session. Regardless, which software you decide to use, you should host an onboarding session with your team members to ensure everyone understands how you intend to use the software. Agree on the level of access you want to grant team members, what tags or labels to use and who is allowed to mark tasks as completed. You should also assign someone to create a short onboarding tutorial so that new team members can be quickly brought up to speed on how you work.

A board in trello
Trello Board courtesy of Frank Turley

Properly deployed, a task management system can save you from the nightmare of using your email to manage processes. Instead of waiting for people to reply and documents to go through plenty of revisions, you can chat in real time and update documents on the cloud. Do it wrong, however, and the team will end up seeing the task management system as doing double work. First, they do the regular work on their own. Then they have to return to the task management system to cross off done tasks. I have seen it happen once. Don’t let it happen to your team.

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