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It’s Getting Better All The Time - Getting ALL THE THINGS under control: Step 1

by Angela 19. December 2017 23:37

Remember that time I admitted that I had lost control of my backlogs

Admitting you have a problem is always the first step to getting back on the right path. It’s been a few weeks since I hit rock bottom on the commitment roller coaster. I have been making some great progress, which included a weekly “accountability” session (sprint reviews anyone?) with my coach, delegating things that will stagnate on my backlog (lowering WIP), and devoting some regular time to planning out and refining my weekly commitments (sprint planning and backlog refinement!).  It’ was all so obvious in hindsight, it almost hurt.

If you recall from my last post, my 3 major To-Dos were:

  1. Identify all of the roles I fulfill on a daily basis, both at Polaris and in my personal life.
  2. Start categorizing the things on my backlogs under my identified roles and prioritize them.
  3. Invest in a planning cadence to cut through the noise and focus on what is important

Turned out there were a couple of important steps that I had failed to mention. In this blog post I’ll focus on my ramp-up to my 3 step strategy. I’ve already added backlog items to write separate posts on those 3 steps, and how I tackled them. There’s a chance I may change those 3 steps by then, but that’s the beautiful thing about continuous improvement Smile

First thing I did was make sure that all of my accountabilities were visible in a single place. As much as I love OneNote, VSTS, Pipedrive, Nozbe, and my little yellow notebook, having pieces of all of my stuff live in multiple places at the same time was NOT working, no matter how well I color coded and organized everything. After some trial and error I landed on Nozbe as my one version of the truth. Things still live in those other places too, my Nozbe list isn’t something I want to expose to all of the people I collaborate with as it contains all of my personal backlog items too (ex: my boss doesn’t care about when I take all those bags of clothing to the donation shop). But for my own benefit, anything I am ultimately responsible for delivering on ends up in Nozbe no matter what. If it isn’t in Nozbe, it doesn’t exist, and it probably won’t get done.  FULL STOP.

OK, so I did make an exception with Outlook, I try to immediately deal with stuff there if I can. Something from Outlook only goes into my Nozbe backlog if it needs more thought or follow-up than a quick email response, and you can forward emails to Nozbe to add them to your list – HURRAY! It means a little duplication of effort when things need to be copied to Nozbe, but that has proven to be far less overhead than checking all of those places every day and mentally stack ranking things across multiple backlogs. And let’s be honest, that was a lot of waste.

Second part of prep was documenting my goals and keeping them visible.  It’s easier to prioritize all of your To-dos when you understand what you’re trying to accomplish, much like the team having sprint goals! I didn’t want them in yet another tool, I wanted them in my face as much as possible. One of George’s many great pieces of advice was that every week, you should do at least one thing that contributes towards hitting your goals. Ideally everything you do contributes to the goal but sometimes you just have to drop packages off at the Post Office before Tuesday so people get their gifts on time Smile In Nozbe, it just meant creating them as To-dos in a Goals bucket, marking them high priority, and making sure they appear at the top of my daily task list. Here’s a preview of what that looks like:

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I marked my goals as a high priority (note the star at far right), so when I am looking at the current week’s commitments (also starred), my goals are always included:

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Next step, To-do #1 is categorizing all my stuff into “buckets” and prioritizing. We’ll tackle that in another blog post, which will appear on that list above this coming Sunday during my weekly planning “meeting” – and we’ll talk more about my cadence for planning in yet another blog post.

I hope this has given you some ideas if you too are struggling to keep what’s most important in focus, or if you are a serial over-committer like I have been for so long.

And here’s my schill for Nozbe (complete with an affiliate link), because it really is a pretty great tool if you’re looking for something digital to manage all of your To-dos.

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Tags:

personal growth | Agile | Collaboration | Continuous improvement | Productivity

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