Thursday, November 11, 2010

A simple productivity tool

A lot of vectors converged this week:
  • Got back from vacation with the usual back-from-vacation-what-is-it-I-do-that-these-folks-pay-me-for fog
  • Recently got a new boss (former boss from earlier position)
  • Some projects slowing down, some simmering under the radar, some seemingly waiting for...oops, waiting for me!
On and off I have used an Excel spreadsheet to track my time against projects, and that has been a useful tool--psychologically, it keeps my nose to the grindstone. But it has some limitiations:
  • I don't share it with anyone--hey some things just need to stay private.
  • It is "time spent" focused, not achievement focused.
So I created a new tool to use: A Google spreadsheet to track project status and to log activities against their respective projects--not time, more of "Held meeting with SME to determine how single sign on works" and the date. Each project has its own tab with the following:
  • Project name
  • Description
  • Status (green, yellow, red)
  • Status description (where the project is currently or why it is yellow or red)
  • A log to record activity and date
I also have a main summary tab that pulls all of the above information except the log and that shades the status cell with the appropriate color (use the "change with rules" option for the background color).

Tip: To pull data from a another sheet in the same file:
  1. Click the cell on the summary page where you want the data to show.
  2. Type an equal sign.
  3. Navigate to the sheet that has the data you want to display.
  4. Click the cell that has the data.
  5. Press Enter.

And since it is a Google doc, I have shared it with my boss.

My new routine is to look over the status summary and the individual tabs each morning.

Here is what I have noticed:
  • I am motivated to do something so I can log an activity. And since neither my boss nor I are stupid, I look for a meaningful activity.
  • When my status indicates I am in a holding pattern waiting for someone/something, I send an email to the party I am dependent on, or I schedule a meeting with them--and log that activity!
  • My focus is on making progress and not on clocking in and out.
I find this particularly helpful in my current environment, which is an Agile shop. I am on several scrum teams and I have some strategic project work I am involved in. My daily scrum reports do not adequately let me reflect on my total contribution. This status spreadsheet does. BTW, the log is great for when I call into my daily scrum meetings, I can see exactly what I have accomplished the previous day for that project.

1 comment:

Michael Hughes said...

One more thing. Make your log reverse chronology so you and your boss do not have to scroll to see most current entries.