Balancing a day job, a startup, and a family

Every so often, a friend, a colleague, or someone who I’ve recently met becomes interested in learning about how I manage to keep things moving along while running Mantis Digital Arts, working as a UX/UI designer at EV Technologies, keeping up with my family, and homeschooling my daughter. The answer is always Trello and agile project management.

Other Apps, Systems, and Software

Throughout my 20 year career in software, I’ve tried many methods of keeping track of my life. It’s necessary that I use something as I’m extremely forgetful. I’ve gone from pen and paper to software and back to pen and paper many times. In addition to the tools required for my work at SAP and EV Technologies, I’ve tried almost every app or software listed in this article from Zapier. I’ve tried using the GTD method, the methods described in this book from Julie Morgenstern, and read every article I could find on effective time management. Nothing seemed to fit my needs of having something simple to use, familiar, and easy to manage.

Learning Agile

During my 13 year career with SAP, I had the opportunity to help introduce agile development using scrum to our large team of developers. At the time, I was a Senior Product Manager and, ultimately, became a certified scrum master. Learning to not only manage agile teams, but to implement large scale agile, was one of the best things that I’ve learned during my career. I use for every work related endeavor to ensure that I’m managing projects, teams, and companies efficiently.

Trello

I happened upon Trello after searching for a new platform that we could use at Mantis Digital Arts to implement agile, but wouldn’t be time consuming to learn. We first tried JIRA. This was overkill for our small team. I then tried Redbooth. This worked for a few months, but when I stumbled across Trello I realized it was the perfect fit and it was much more cost effective for our startup.

The Basic Process

Staying true to agile, I have a series of backlogs that relate to my work for Mantis Digital Arts, EV Technologies, and at home.

Three Trello Backlogs

These three backlogs help me keep track of every game idea, every contact that I need to make, every UX/UI design that I need to do for EV Technologies, and all of the big and little things that need to be taken care of at home. The lists are prioritized based upon the position of each task in their respective lists.

Task Estimations

Then, I ensure that every task for every list has an estimate for how much time it might take. This is useful for two reasons: it gives me the ability to figure out how much of an impact that task will make on my day and it lets me track and improve my estimating capabilities.

See the purple label that says “Personal?” Every task for home gets a “Personal” label. The ones for EV Technologies get an orange “EVT” label and the ones for Mantis Digital arts get a green “Mantis” label. This is useful later.

My Active, Blocked, and Done Tasks

I start my day, by spending 15 minutes populating my “Today” list. These are the 6 to 10 tasks that I want to complete today. They are pulled from the Mantis Digital Arts, EV Technologies, and home backlogs. They are also given priority relevant to each other within the “Today” list so that I know which one(s) are the most critical to get done for that day.

Everything I complete gets moved to the “Done” list which gets pruned at the end of each week. Everything where I’m waiting on someone else or that I can’t complete right now goes into the “Blocked” list and the few recurring tasks that happen each week or every two weeks go into the “Recurring” list.

If you want to read more about the details behind this process, then head on over to my blog on the Mantis Digital Arts site.

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to chat about this process, learn how you can use it, or if you have any comments just let me know.

Coy

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