Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Task Management with Gordon Wyllie

I’m going to discuss how I manage my near term tasks, essentially how I survive and get through the day. I will not be discussing project management, but instead how you effectively deal on a daily basis with the wide range of disparate tasks we all face in this multitasking modern world that we live in.

There are many methodologies promoted on the internet, such as Get Things Done and Time Management. The challenge is to find an approach that will work for you. Whatever the approach you adopt, I believe MindGenius will help you implement it more effectively as the application provides you with the essential building blocks for a task management system.

I keep things simple. I don’t plan such tasks to the nth degree as the end deliverable is to complete the tasks not plan them. Also things have a habit of changing over the day so I have to remain flexible. If you are not careful you can spend more time planning than doing. It’s a matter of balance. The purpose is to manage your time and be more productive.

Firstly I list down everything that needs my attention. I quickly decide, and record, what actions/activities I need to perform to complete these tasks. If appropriate I will delegate tasks, but there will still be an action for me to follow-up on these.

Having got a list of tasks and actions, I collate these into groups, usually by the nature of the activity. I find this reduces the inefficiencies associated with chopping and changing when performing these tasks.
Next I prioritise the tasks. What needs to be done first? What must be done today, or what could be deferred till tomorrow if I have too many tasks to perform today? I simply class them as High, Medium or Low priority. I use MindGenius categories to do this as they give a visual indicator as well as a means of filtering my task map so I only view the important tasks that I should be focussing on.

Having created my task map, it is important that I review it. Have I missed anything? Have duplicate tasks been included, or are there opportunities to combine tasks as they could more effectively be done together?

Now I know what I have to do, the important thing is to go do it. You’d be surprised how often people create task plans, and then don’t look at them again once the day’s business begins. So it’s no surprise that they are shocked at the end of the day to discover they hadn’t achieved what they had set out to achieve in the day, in fact the task mountain has probably grown.

You need to work with your task map. As additional tasks and challenges appear during the day you need to add these to your map and rearrange your priorities to accommodate the change.

You won’t always have electronic access to your map, nor is it always appropriate to be accessing it in certain conditions, e.g. during a discussion with your manager. I usually carry a printed copy of the task map with me when I am away from my desk. It’s simple to refer to and to jot down notes on it.

As you complete tasks, update your task map to reflect the progress made. It’s great to get a feeling of making progress and it also allows you to focus on the remaining tasks.
Here are some of the things that I do to make my task management activities that bit easier.
  • Save my task map to my PC Desktop so that it is always visible and accessible to me.
  • I make the branch titles for the tasks self-explanatory. If you make them too cryptic, you won’t readily understand them when you filter the map.
  • Mark the completed tasks as a completed action. This assigns a completion date to the task which you can refer to in the future if you hover over the action icon.
  • If I am working on something electronic, I attach the file to the task branch. That way I can quickly get back to the file if I am jumping in and out of different tasks.
  • I use the Timer in MindGenius when I am working on a task so that I avoid spending longer on the task than I should. It helps me avoids the temptation to go into too much detail and forces me to focus on content rather than format.
  • If I have to see specific people, I assign them as a resource in my task map and use the Resource Map feature so that I can see who I have to talk to and what about. Other people’s time is just as precious to them as yours is to you. So if you get a chance to speak to someone, it is important that you discuss all of the areas you need to. You never know when you might get another chance to speak to them.
  • I save my filter settings so that I can re-use them. This saves time and I know that they work the way they are meant to.

  • When my task map is quite large, more often than not, I print it out on multiple pages – usually each separate grouping of tasks on an individual page. It lets you focus on a specific group whilst keeping your other tasks to hand but not in the way.
  • Prior to the start of the next day I save the map under a new name (e.g. ToDoDDMMYY) and then remove the completed task from the original map and use what is left as the basis for the task map for the forthcoming day. The ‘history’ maps can be used when discussing progress with people. Alternatively, you may wish to do this weekly.
These are just some of the ways that I use MindGenius to help me manage my near term tasks and get me through the day. Such approaches can be applied to personal tasks as well as business tasks.
Download Gordon's Task Management Tips Map

I hope this article will encourage you to use MindGenius to help you manage your tasks, and if you are already using it for this, I would be interested in hearing any tips you might have.

Any queries, ask Gordon


Anonymous said...

Dear Gordon

A few months ago I read an article about "Personal Kanban" - an interesting approach. There are software programms available but I created my own Mind Map:
"Open Action" for a first list or new tasks coming in
"Work in process" for those tasks I have to trace on this day
"Pending" for tasks I started but I have to wait for an answer or any kind of an update
"Completed" - I actually do not use, I just delete the entries to keep the map simple.
Originally, you work with post-it papers on a wall in case a complete group needs the overview. However, I think it is a good solution for Mind Maps, too.

Best regards from Germany
Torsten Kurz

Gordon Wyllie said...

Hi Torsten.

Thanks for your comment. It's always interesting to learn how other people tackle similar challenges to yourself.

In "Personal Kanban" you appear to have found an approach that works for you. As I said, the challenge is to find an approach that will work for you and then let MindGenius help you implement it effectively.

For personal use I can see why you might not use the "Completed" section however it could help to remind you just how much progress you've actually made and obviate the impression that you never get anything done. It can also give you a quick way of coming back up to speed should an action or task that seemed to have been completed become active again.

Have you thought of using the categories feature in MindGenius to assign tasks to these different sections? By setting these categories as mutually exclusive you can automatically ensure that a task can only be in one particular state at a given time.



Anonymous said...

Hi Gordan

Very useful tips, I really find the blog useful.

I create daily task maps. I also track tasks I delegate to my PA on my daily task map - I give her a print out of it and review a couple of times a day with her. Keeps everything moving.

Tandberg Mxp said...

Blogs are good for every one where we get lots of information for any topics nice job keep it up !!!

swastik said...

Good tips. I am pleased with all of those. By the way what I do basically in my day to day life is I depend on task management software that is cloud based to better manage my tasks.

By profession I am a stock broker and its very important for me to keep track of the tasks going on with my sub ordinates, thus tool is a must for me.

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