An overview of my planning and productivity system in 2021

Google Calendar, Microsoft OneNote, Trello and Todoist

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post called An overview of my planning and productivity system in 2019. I was discussing it with a couple of people last week and thought it was probably about time that I updated it to reflect how things have evolved during that time.

During the last few years, my basic tools have not changed. As I said in my last post, for a long time I tried to limit myself to using only one task management application. I would periodically switch between Trello and something else (Outlook tasks, Wunderlist, Todoist). Eventually, I realised that I could use different tools for different jobs. For me, a good organisation system should enable you to do the following, and this is what I use:

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Tracking my food in Trello

There is a business analyst saying that “If you don’t measure it, you can’t control it”.

With it looking ever more likely that the UK would soon lock down, on Sunday afternoon, I removed all the food from my cupboards, my fridge and freezer and have recorded it in Trello.

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The importance of small user stories

Battleship beneath a grey cloudy sky
“Grey and black boat under grey clouds” by Will Esayenko on Unsplash

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the size of user stories in agile projects. The idea that I’ve been reflecting on is what if teams only worked with small, similarly-sized pieces of work, rather than exponentially larger blocks of work?

In theory, small user stories should be more predictable, should include less risk, less uncertainty and less complexity. They should, therefore, take less time to complete than larger user stories… you would think! Or as Mike Cohn put it in Agile Estimating and Planning (Prentice Hall, 2006), “small stories keep work flowing”.

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Agile planning poker

For a few months we’ve been starting to use Agile, and specifically Scrum, methods in planning and managing our Web projects at work.

This week we adopted a new practice: planning poker.

Agile / Scrum iteration planning board
Agile / Scrum iteration planning board

Like many teams starting out with Agile practices we didn’t just jump in feet first and adopt every Agile method going; that would have been too much to take in. So we began with a few methods:

The photograph above, taken a couple of months ago, shows the planning board in our office — an information radiator — that shows us at a glance how many tasks are left to do, what’s currently being worked on, what’s in testing, what’s done and (unlike, I would guess, most other Agile boards) what we’re waiting for.

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