The board

Running a household is an exercise in project management.

At least, that’s how we see it. I (Sam) am a software engineer and my wife (Sarah) is a nurse, so both our professional lives are all about getting shit done — and finding good ways to get said shit done.

Shortly after moving in together, we installed a large dry-wipe noticeboard in our kitchen. We figured it would be useful, and that if nothing else we could write cutesy messages to each other on it. It has become the one source of truth for our household. We hold a board meeting each Sunday to plan our week, ensure that we both know what’s going on, and that everything is up-to-date and in-sync, much akin to a scrum sprint planning meeting. On a daily basis we spend a few minutes reviewing the board and adding new items. It just works.

As time has gone by we have evolved a selection of things-we-use-the-board-for, each occupying different areas of the surface. Apps for the board, if you will.

We already had messaging but moved on swiftly to a to-do list app. I wanted to use a Kanban approach of three columns (to-do, in-progress, done) and to move tasks on post-it notes across them — but the board sadly isn’t a terribly good surface for sticking post-it notes to. We had a brief go at sticking a sheet of paper to the board and the post-its to that but stuff kept falling off. Pretty buggy. In the end we took the paper down and just wrote a list of stuff we should do in one column. While we seemed to get through things quite slowly, at least it no-longer had the problem of tasks getting lost on the floor.

The next app was similar; a shopping list app. Yep. Bread, milk, bog roll, degreaser, etc. Pretty self-explanatory.

Shopping List app

The killer app though was calendaring. Sarah got some black insulating tape and marked out a 4x8 grid. We started with one week to view, with columns for each of us, but after a few weeks decided to re-purpose the columns to give us a longer horizon of three weeks. There’s an additional space below for things in the far future. This has been seriously good. At a glance we can see what is happening — from shift patterns for Sarah and work meetings for me, to social engagements and (now) baby-related events. We each have a different coloured pen, plus black for general stuff, so it’s easy to synchronise our commitments and identify free time.

Calendar app v1

This is all wonderful but it’s a physical object. It’s in one place. If I’m in the shop I probably don’t actually know what’s on the shopping list right now. If only I could see the board on my phone…

So we started taking photographs of the board and texting them to each other. That has got extended into the social space so when our friends ask “when is a good day to visit” we send them a snapshot of the calendar and let them figure it out.

However this is still a bit prone to synchronisation errors and completely useless if we’ve not got an up-to-date snapshot and nobody is in the house. Clearly we need some kind of BoardCam. The components are on-order.

To-Do app