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Keeping organized

I bounce between using notebooks, text files and speciality forms for staying on top of my work day by day. Lately I have used some specialty forms created by David Seah. His beautifully intuitive forms caught my attention a while ago and I have used them on and off to track my progress on projects and understand how I spend my time.

The latest tool I have been using is called the Emergent Task Tracker and it is a great example of David’s work. I have found that it is missing a few pieces, therefore with all props to David I have made my own version, it heavily leverages David’s format (I am not nearly as visually capable as he is), but adds a few missing items which will help me think about my goals and approach to work. The specific items I have added are explicitly noting my estimated time vs. actual time for tasks and their classification. The classification angle is probably the largest single addition to the original Emergent Task Planner.

Put simply I think it is crucial to understand the nature of the tasks I undertake. Therefore I categorize my tasks as fitting into several niches: Relational, Objective, Essential or Emergent. The idea being that I need to do a mix of different types of tasks each day and week.

Relational tasks are those which primarily exist to create or support relationships with colleagues, coworkers and folks in my network. This could be a coffee break with a friend at work, attendance at a networking event or a quick note of support to a colleague. Relationships are so important, you have to make sure you intentionally make time to build them.

Objective based tasks are those that further one of my ongoing projects, this could be research and writing about new software or technology, coding a new function to expand some functionality in one of our prototypes, or holding a meeting to inform our organization about one of our goals or findings.

Essential tasks are those that you must do each day or week, these would be things like update emails to my manager or other senior management, system administration like backing up my work, arranging or cleaning my workspace. Often relational tasks are also essential.

Emergent tasks and emergencies. These will always happen and understanding how much of your work is interrupt driven is the first step to managing your time and other’s expectations. Minimize these.

On a daily and weekly basis I review my progress towards my goals and assess if I am spending my time as wisely as possible. Here is the form.

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