Last week was very productive, and I think I’ve got a better handle on how to manage my time. I took a step back and did some research and I’d like to elaborate on my current technique.
My system is taken from Agile (more specifically Scrum) and is applied using Trello. I won’t go into depth on Agile here because it’s a pretty big topic. Trello is a tool where you create boards with lists. It sounds pretty basic; however, it’s how you use these boards and lists that make all the difference.
I have a board for every project that I’m working on. For the purposes of this discussion I’ll be focusing on just the Numerly board. The board contains several lists with cards inside them. Below is an explanation of each of my lists and I hope you might be able to use these as a guide for your own projects.
This board contains cards that are just ideas or high-level features that I haven’t given much thought to yet. Trello has a feature where you can send an email and a new card is created; this is a great landing area for these types of cards.
Each Monday, I grab some cards from the New Ideas list and bring them into this list. Then I start to break up these cards into clearly defined tasks. These tasks become new cards themselves and are pointed. For my purposes, 1 point represents a single day’s worth of work. Keep in mind that I spend about an hour on Numerly each day. So, if a task will only take 30 minutes, then I’ll give it around 0.5 points.
After splitting up the ideas into task cards (also called Stories) they’re moved to the Backlog. This list is merely a holding area for cards that are ready to be worked on. It’s important to keep plenty of cards in this list so that there’s always something ready to do. Also, I try to keep this list sorted in the order in which they’ll be done.
A sprint is a block of time where I work on cards. Since I take Monday to blog and plan the week, then a sprint consists of 6 days of work. This list consists of cards that I’m going to do next week. The points on these cards need to total up to 6 points (since a day equals one point).
As you can imagine, this list is very similar to the Next Sprint list except for the cards here are going to be worked this week.
I try to only keep a single card in this list at a time. This keeps me focused on a single task to completion. This eliminates getting off-track to work on other things that aren’t ready. That’s what all this planning is trying to avoid in the first place.
When the work is done for a card, then it’s moved to the end of this list. I’ll use the title of the card as the commit message to my source code repository. This list is a great way to reflect on the work done in the sprint. I hope to be able to use this list to compile release notes. Currently, Trello doesn’t have the ability to nicely export these cards so I’ll have to research this further. Lastly, I archive and clear all the cards in this list to start fresh for the next sprint.