Here’s to the Tools Used for Getting Things Done!

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In a previous article, we discussed the strategy and tactics that can be used for getting things done.  Now, let’s get into the potential tools used for getting things done.
Use the Proper Tools
Now that we know where we are going and how we’re going to get there, we need a “GPS” to help up not get lost.  There are an infinite amount of ways to do this, you could write it down on paper, or on a dry erase board. You could keep it in a note on your phone, or in a daily planner, whatever works for you.  But the most important part is, you have to look at it daily and make progress on it daily.
 
The method that works best for me is called Kanban.  If you watch the show Silicon Valley on HBO you may already know about this, they used it with another process called scrum (for teams mainly).  Kanban means “signboard” and was developed by Toyota in the 1940s to improve their manufacturing process – “To produce only what is needed when it is needed and in the amount needed”.
 
Over the years it has grown, more and more companies use it to manage projects and day to day operations.  It is used by a lot of software companies as part of their Agile development workflow as well.  I adopted it for my personal use after finding out that a normal to-do list had no impact on my goals and objectives.
 
Basically a Kanban board is a to-do list on steroids, but where to-do lists lack in structure Kanban picks up in aces.  The board is set up into columns, and tasks are represented by cards in the columns.  The cards on the board are moved from one column to next based on the status of the task until they are completed.
Set Up Your Columns for Success 
Traditionally, this process uses three columns, To-Do, Doing, and Done, so the task moves from left to right.  Pick a task from the To-Do column, when you start it move it to the Doing column, then when you are done move it to the Done column.  Simple, but I add a couple of columns to further organize the tasks into time-boxed periods like week and day.
 
My Kanban board has these columns – To-Do (Backlog), Next Week, This Week, Today, Doing, Done.  Sometimes I combine Today and the Doing columns together, but this just depends on the project.
 
  • To-Do (Backlog) – Everything that needs to get done is put here
  • Next Week – Items that are up for the next week (gives me a head start on the planning for the week)
  • This Week – These are tasks that should be done this week
  • Today – These are tasks that will be completed today
  • Doing – This is the task you are doing right now
  • Done – This is all the tasks that have been done, when you get discouraged, you can take a look at all that you have accomplished.
This structure allows you to break down all the activities into smaller, less overwhelming pieces.  It also keeps you focused on the tasks at hand and not constantly on the entire list.  
 
I do one planning session a week, usually on Friday afternoon, to decide what should/needs to get done for the next week.  Doing it on Friday allows me to think about these tasks over the weekend and get excited about them, even if they are mundane because I know they are driving me towards my objectives.
 
Every day I do a short (5 minutes or less) planning session, usually at the end of the day, to decide what should get done for tomorrow.  By doing this, I can know exactly what I need to do and get started right away in the morning without wasting time figuring it out.  Choose the most important tasks first that will get you to your objective faster, and move you closer to the goal line.
 
Once you have done the planning you only need to focus on today’s activities, which should be a short manageable list.  
Tips to Bring it All Together
All this activity could be in a book or on a wall with Post-it notes (this is how I started) but the best tool I have found for now is Trello.  It was designed for this type of workflow and can be configured to work however you like, it is web-based and you can use it on your phone.  The best part, it’s free to use most of the functions, and all you really need are these functions anyway.
 
Always ask yourself, Is this activity aligning with my goal, does this move me in the right direction or is it a distraction?  I sometimes stop and think, does scrolling through Facebook get me closer to my goal or objective, no but finding articles to post does.  So I stop and realign constantly.
 
Look at your board daily, several times a day.  My board is the home screen on my web browser, so when I open my computer it is almost the first thing I see.
 
Lastly, give it time to work.  If you dedicate the time and work through the process it will become easy and part of your daily routine.
What tools do you use for getting things done?  Do you have any tips to share that you have found useful?

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