lördag 24 augusti 2019

My two take-aways from the book Getting Things Done

Getting things done
I'm a book reader. It's seldom I quit a book before having read it front to back. But this book bored me so much I couldn't cope finish it. To its defence, I tried to read it on the summer 2018, during my vacation, and maybe I felt a bit too distant from work to think about email organizing and all other organizing tricks the book's about.

But two things stuck and proved useful for my vacation projects and also later at work:

  • Write a list with the things you have to do
  • For each item on the list, find the next action required to move the item closer to completion
Write a list
Offload your mind with the things you are thinking about that needs to be done by writing them down somewhere. At that time, for me it was at least the things in the list below that popped up in my mind like an endless, tiresome loop.
  • Fix the snow fences on the roof (you'll see the problem in the image at the top)
  • Fix the hole in the rain water downpipe
  • Defrost the small freezer
  • Buy an extra battery for the lawn mower
Find the next action
Every item on the list looks deviously simple, it is first when you break one down into all the actions that's needed to finish it that you get a feeling for how much effort you will have to put in to be able to check it off.

I first focused on the snow fences. Last winter's snowfall had been greater than usual and when the snow started to melt and slowly move down the roof of the garage it took all three snow fences with it. They had to be replaced before next winter to avoid getting our cars "locked" in or out because of snow blocking the garage doors.
  • How much can be reused of the existing snow fences?
    • Check which parts are fine
    • Check with dad if he got tools to bend back the bent ones
    • Where can I find replacement parts?
      • Google for spare parts
      • Visit the local hardware store
Well, I won't tell you the whole story, the list with actions grew for sure, but those were my first actions to take for that single list item. And it felt like a great help having been forced to analyze it and see it written on paper. So simple and effective, but undervalued and underused?

At work
So, what use did I have for this at work?
I found the question "What is the next action for this?" very useful when cleaning up a cluttered kanban board. Going through the items on the board, one by one, clarifying the purpose of the item, it's status and what action to do with it next.

Although the technique is so simple, I guess there often exists a small resistance to do it. It's probably easier to start with a new item, and that that's a reason work items on a board gets stuck and lump together. I wonder if the kanban rule of setting an upper limit on the number of "Work in progress" just is a help to get over that small resistance.

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