Capability: 5 Path: Capabilities: Individual: Productivity: Tasks Friday, 08 September 2017
14 Processes For Organizing Your Tasks
How many task management systems have you tried, but ultimately abandoned? I’ve used Trello, Wunderlist, Any.do, Asana, Flow, Clear — and others that I can’t even remember.
The problem with all of these apps is that you have to do all the work. They’re useful in the beginning when you have one or two simple uses for them, but when you start attempting to use them as your digital brain, they break. The overhead becomes unsustainable.
If your biggest task is task management itself, you need Invisible.
Tasks are less important than focus. Your S.I. will protect time on your calendar every day to focus on your priorities. By default, we suggest at least 60% of your work week. During these blocks of time, there should be no distractions — no phone calls, no team members nagging you, no friends, no family. Your S.I. will remind you to turn off notifications. You need silence to be proactive.
Even if you’re in a sales, business development, or management role — you still need silent time. But to do your job, not all of your focus time can be silent. That’s fine: but the principle remains. Focus on proactive communication, driving your agenda forward.
You can dedicate certain focus blocks to different priorities. Because Invisible can organize your Calendar too, it’s easy to, say, dedicate one hour every week for short (sub 15 minute) phone calls. Or to dedicate another hour to quick (sub 15 minute) tasks, requested of you by your colleagues.
If you exceed a block, your S.I. can schedule another one. The more of your focus time is blocked on the calendar, the clearer a picture you achieve of your time economics.
Your S.I. will ask you what your priorities are. By default, we ask you on a weekly basis, because most roles are dynamic. Your role may be so dynamic that your priorities shift daily. Or your role may be more steady, and so your priorities will hold over months or even quarters.
Having priorities is more important than having tasks. The value of having your S.I. ask you what your priorities are is that it becomes a kind of journal; a form of meditation, even. You are being held accountable, you are being asked a question and you are asking yourself a question: “what is most important for you right now; what are you here seeking to accomplish?”
But there is further value. Your S.I. can make your priorities available to your team, so everyone knows what you are focused on. Your S.I. can use these priorities to make decisions for you. For example, on your calendar: invitations to events that don’t match with your priorities can be moved to the margins, or declined.
3. Adding Tasks
Now we get to adding tasks. There will be periods when tasks don’t make sense for you as a unit of measurement. For example, when you’re innovating or doing very dynamic creative work, tasks just don’t make sense; they’re too reductionist. In those periods, your S.I. will default to protecting your focus and helping you clarify your priorities.
But sometimes, tasks can be a very motivating tool. It is fun to add them, see a huge list pile up, and then complete them. There is something primal about it.
Your S.I. will ask you if you have any tasks to add. By default, we remind you weekly. Even without the reminder, whenever a task occurs to you, you can text, email or Slack message your S.I.
Task Update the Business Model
If you want to see your Task List, just say “Show me my task list”. By default, we use a combination of Slack and Trello. If you prefer to keep using your favorite task app, your S.I. can save and organize your tasks in that app.
4. Delegating Tasks
Delegating tasks with an S.I. is easy, because your S.I. works for everyone in your company — everyone is on the same system. You can say “Tell Lao to prepare a budget for next quarter.” Then your S.I. will pass along the delegation to Lao and add the task to his system.
If you want a status check, your S.I. can always give it to you. This makes nagging and chasing tasks much easier. Let your S.I. bug your team members for you, and get you the information you need — so you can stay focused.
5. Organizing Tasks
The advantage of letting your S.I. organizing your tasks for you, is that organization is an endless pursuit. Once you have a decent set of tasks, you can categorize them. Once you have a taxonomy in place, every new task has to be categorized accordingly. As your set of tasks grows, inevitably, the taxonomy breaks, and all of your tasks need to be re-categorized.
With an S.I. working for you, there’s no limit to how many ways you can categorize your tasks. You can categorize them by Manager (“Tasks for Susan,” “Tasks for Ryan”), you can categorize them by Priority (“Priority 1, Priority 2, Priority 3”), you can categorize them by Capability (“Hiring, Sales, Product), you can categorize them by difficulty (Quick, Medium, Long, Project). On most of these categories, your S.I. can use context to guess. If your S.I. guesses incorrectly, you can correct it — and tell us why — then we’ll improve our algorithms.
Set reminders on any Task. Your S.I. will follow up with you to make sure it gets done. Unlike pure softare, your S.I. can handle natural language and very robust paramaters for a reminder.
For example, “Make sure I do this at least before I see Radhika in person again. Otherwise, not a priority.” Your S.I. will remind you one week before your next scheduled meeting.
7. Done Tasks
This is the best part, right?
At the end of every focus session, your S.I. will ask you: “So what did you accomplish?” You can check tasks off your list, or add new ones that you’ve already completed.
8. Postponing Tasks
By default, all tasks that have not been completed — that are not actively being worked on, or that are not up next — get moved to the “Postponed” category. Temporizing in this way is intelligent, and there should be no guilt in doing this. You’re focused on more important things.
This backlog of tasks is useful, and you should keep up your habit of adding every task that’s on your mind. The more tasks you give your S.I. the better, even if there’s no way you can realistically accomplish them all.
For example, even though you may not realize it, your S.I. will point out when you complete a task that you had added a long time ago. This contributes to a sense of progress.
On a yearly basis, your S.I. will set aside time for you to review your Postponed Tasks, archive the ones that don’t make sense anymore, and re-prioritize any that do.
9. Active Task
Your active task is the task that you are working on right now. Sometimes it is useful to single it out. If you have to change your focus, then you can mark another task as active.
If you enjoy seeing how long it takes you to complete each task, this is perfect for you. Your S.I. will track this information for you, based on your status changes.
10. Next Tasks
Your next tasks are the tasks you plan on completing after your active task is done. This is your queue. By default, we limit it to 5. Completing all of your next tasks brings a feeling of accomplishment.
If you complete all of your Next Tasks, your S.I. will ask you if you’d like to review your Postponed Tasks or add new ones to focus on.
At the beginning of every focus session, your S.I. can print your Next Tasks and ask you if this is still what you’d like to focus on. If you’d like to focus on something else, these tasks will get demoted back to Postponed.
11. Assisted Tasks
Taking things off your list is our favorite part! If your S.I. sees you add something to your Task list that we can do, we will offer to do it for you. Everything from customer service requests, to updating account settings, to managing vendors, to booking travel — you name it. Your S.I. will be checking your tasks against all of our other processes to see if there are any we can use to support you.
Sometimes, you’ll have to collaborate with other members of your team on certain projects, and won’t be able to complete tasks in isolation. As far as this involves scheduling meetings, Invisible can help. But we can beyond that. We can organize all project Tasks, give the Project Manager and Team Members updates on the progress of various items, and if dependencies are specified, we can even update time estimates.
For example, if you run out time during one of your focus blocks to accomplish all of the tasks you need to finish for a time-sensitive project, your S.I. can communicate this informationa and push back the timeline automatically.
Your S.I. can even recommend completing gating tasks first, so that you’re not blocking any of your team members. Likewise, if you’re blocked by one of them, your S.I. can chase them on it and help them prioritize that task.
At the end of every week, month and quarter, your S.I. can send a report to your team on your activities. So you don’t have to worry about convincing everyone that while you’ve been focused, you have indeed been productive. These reports tend to be impressive, because we forget just how much we actually accomplish every week.
Over time, these reports not only save you time, they remind everyone, including yourself, what a professional you are — and win you trust. Trust can then be turned into more focus!
If you’d like to perform an analysis on your Tasks data at any time, you can delegate that to your S.I.
For example, if you’d like to know how many hours you’ve spent working on Product this quarter, and what percentage of your time that represents — your S.I. can fetch that data.
As these processes make clear — there is a lot of work that goes into setting you up to do your real work. Give that work to us, so you can focus on that contribution which is, uniquely, yours.