Mesomorphic have produced a series of guides on home working, we’re reproduced in full here with permission, but urge you to visit their site for the most up to date information
Part of the Remote Working series:
Part 1: The Mesomorphic Guide to Working From Home
Part 2: Communication When Working Remotely
Part 3: You Can With a Kanban
Part 4: Looking Back Over Our First Week of Having a Fully Remote Team
Part 5: The Mesomorphic Guide to Holding Your Own Retrospective
I’ve been hearing from quite a few people this week who are adapting to working from home, and task management has been frequently mentioned. I understand this challenge very well! My role is incredibly varied, and as such I need to make sure that each part of my role receives attention. As a result I have a very healthy looking To do list which has many different areas which require focus. This is where we see the benefits of company stand ups. I often end up adding tasks to my list which hadn’t sprung to mind during my initial plan for the day.
To keep on top of this, I’ll walk you through a technique which I find works for me. Before we explore that though, the key thing here is to find a process that works for you. Think about how you learn. Are you someone who finds colours a useful way to highlight important tasks? Or perhaps you prefer list writing? I’ve even met some people who record their To do list and then listen back to it to help them stay on track. Your To do list needs to fit in with your way of thinking, so now is a good time to grab a cuppa and think about what works for you.
My tick box and stars list
You’d think, working in a software development company I’d use software to help me out with this, right? Wrong. After some trial and error, I have found that my diary, highlighters and my growing collection of paperclips works for me.
Before I start my working day, I start off with writing my To do list in my diary with a tick box for each. As a general rule, I initially limit myself to 10 tasks, as chances are that as my day progresses more items will be added to it. At this point, I’m quite mindful about priorities and if a task comes to mind which can be done at a later time, then I’ll add it onto a different page in my diary. When the task is completed, I tick it off.
The stars represent activities which happen outside of the To do list, for example key emails, phone calls, key points made in conversations which need revisiting and anything that really falls into the category of “other”. More often than not, these starred points are converted into tick boxes in a new list.
At the end of the day, if there is a task box which has remained unticked then it is highlighted in yellow (Our Mesomorphic pens have a yellow highlighter at the end, which is incredibly handy!)
The following day, I’ll review the highlighted boxes first and see if any of those need to be done before my current list. If it’s something important it gets done straight away. If not, then I’ll complete the new To do list for the day and focus on the yellow boxes later. I also have Friday mornings blocked off as “Yellow Box time” where I complete any outstanding tasks.
On a side note – I find the stars a particularly helpful tool, as I sometimes have one of those days where I have my To do list and I just don’t get round To do-ing them for one reason or another. By capturing the activities that happen outside of my To do list, it allows me to focus on the things I have achieved rather than those I haven’t.
The Kanban board
In our [communications blog](https://www.mesomorphic.co.uk/blog/2020/03/17/working-from-home-02 /), we mentioned Trello as a good tool for visibility. The reason for this is because it uses a Kanban board.
A Kanban board shows a list of tasks in the various stages of a workflow. This workflow could be as simple as three columns titled To do, In Progress and Done, or it can include more steps depending on your processes.
There are numerous benefits to using the Kanban board, and here are a few:
- Increase team efficiency – When a task is assigned to a team member, they are then responsible for moving the tickets through the workflow.
- Task focus – It helps reduce the number of tasks being worked on at one time, meaning that tasks can be completed quicker.
- Identify problem tasks – When a task has been sitting on the Kanban board for a while, it could indicate that the task has become stuck or it may be more complicated than originally assumed. These tasks are worth revisiting as they may need to be discussed more and broken down into smaller tasks.
- Delegation – Having the whole team’s workload visible helps with task delegation, or swapping if possible. If someone can see that there is a stacked pile of tasks against one person, these can be delegated to other team members to help keep the work flowing through.
- Prioritisation – Kanban boards need to be included in the stand up process. Priorities change each day and so, having the board in front of you will help you address and prioritise as necessary.
- Continuous improvement – As you adjust to using the Kanban board, it enables you to identify areas of your workflow that could be improved. Some teams set Work In Progress (WIP) limits on the number of tasks that are being worked on at one time. Kanban boards also help identify bottlenecks; for example, if a ticket is stuck in a particular stage of your workflow it’s important to find out why and what improvements could be made.
So whether your Kanban board is physical, using post-it notes or virtual, using one of the many tools online there are many benefits that it will bring to teams no matter what their size and location. If you are keen to implement this idea, or want to know where to start, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to offer some advice.