March 20, 2023

14 minute Monday - Work Task Management Systems

I've started using a task management "system" at work and finding it helpful.  It's based on this Cal Newport Podcast  and is an interesting experiment for me.  My current work has a larger barrage of incoming small tasks than I'm used to, and I found I was forgetting/missing things more than usual.  I usually use email as a sort of task management system, but email's big failing is the followup: if I ask someone to do something, I don't really have any reminder set for myself to check they have done it, or replied.  Same with teams - it can all get lost in the ether of chat.

I've started recording all my incoming "tasks" onto a Trello board - in the following categories:

  • Ready to action
  • Scheduled to action
  • Waiting for reply
  • Complete

I don't always need to move everything through the system - sometimes I do just reply to emails - but this morning I added a new column called "Today's Top Priorities" as I noticed some of the less important "ready to action" bits had been sitting there for a while.

Weirdly, the less important bits were all bitty emails that old me would have sorted right away.  Which shows how email really isn't a task management system.

What I'm trying to avoid is reaching the end of the day with my head feeling like a whirling string of email and teams messages.  I don't know how everyone else puts up with it.  I see their screens in constant blips of incoming messages.  How does anyone focus?

I'm reading "drop the ball" and really enjoying it.  Dufu had a great argument on comparative advantage - that you shouldn't do something you're good at just because you're good at it.  You should do whatever brings the highest value to you / your company.  For me, I am really really good at churning out a lot of work.  But that's not what I'm best at, and I don't think that brings the company the most value.

As an parallel, I can type 120 words per minute with 80% accuracy or 90 words per minute with 99% accuracy.  My job is not typing fast. This ratio is probably true for more than just typing - what can I do better than other people?  What's my highest contribution?

Have you read Drop the Ball?  How do you sort your professional tasks?

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