Posts Tagged ‘project management’

Getting organized with Trello

Posted in Time management on January 25th, 2012 by Jenny – 7 Comments

Feeling overwhelmed? To Do lists out of control? Want to be get organized? Try Trello!

When I stumbled across Trello, I knew right away it was the tool for me. It’s much more visual than most To Do list applications, and it makes sharing and collaborating on tasks easy.

When you visit the Trello website and sign up for a free account, the first thing you’ll see is the Welcome Board, with some simple tips to help you get started. Take a quick look and you’ll see what I mean by simple. It’s intuitive and doesn’t require learning a complicated productivity system.

Trello Welcome Board

Boards are much like the corkboard you have on your wall, but they’re online. You can pin cards to the board in columns, called lists, and then the fun really begins. You can add colored labels to your cards so that you can sort or filter them, give cards a due date, attach other files and checklists to them, and, if you’ve shared the board, you can assign them to other board members. It’s also easy to search for a card by keyword, filter cards by labels, or choose to display cards for one or more board members.

You can create as many Trello boards as you like, but I decided to create a single board for all my work projects, so that I could see at a glance all the projects I’ve committed to. I use the colored labels for clients, which lets me view just the tasks I need to do for a single client if that’s what I need to see.

Trello comes with three lists built in – To Do, Doing, and Done – but you can customize these by adding or removing lists, or renaming them. This gives you the freedom to use whichever productivity system you like. For now, I’m happy with the existing lists, although I add a date to the title of my Done list, and archive the list each week so that things don’t get too cluttered. Archiving hides the list, but it’s still there if I want to reopen it later.

As each new project arrives, I add a card to the bottom of the To Do list. Each morning, I look at my tasks and reorder them based on their priority. Reordering is as simple as dragging and dropping cards up and down the list. Once I’ve decided on the priority, I choose which card I’m going to work on next. I drag that card to my Doing list, and that’s the task I concentrate on. When I’ve completed a card, I drag it into the Done list and give myself a pat on the back. By the end of the week my Done list contains all the things I’ve accomplished.

What else do I like about Trello? It works on my iPad, which is handy in the weekend when we’re working on projects around the house, and there’s an app for the iPhone/iPod Touch, so you can take your Trello boards with you.

Using Trello, I can:

  • Prioritize my tasks.
  • See the big picture of everything that needs to be done.
  • Choose to work on a single task at a time, which frees me from worrying about all the other things on my To Do list.
  • See a growing list of tasks I’ve completed, which is surprisingly satisfying.

What about you? Have you tried Trello? Or do you prefer another tool for keeping organized?


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Tracking technical writing deliverables

Posted in For new technical writers on February 9th, 2011 by Jenny – Be the first to comment

Kauri Forest, New ZealandImagine you’ve accepted a technical writer position in a company that creates enterprise software. You’re used to working with a team of writers, maybe even a documentation manager and editor.

Now it’s just you. Project manager, writer, and editor. And 50 documents to keep up to date. How will you manage?

The nature of enterprise applications, is that they address the needs of organizations, managing resources, customer relationships, automated invoicing and billing, and business intelligence, to name a few. Large applications = lots of documentation. If you’re a sole technical writer handling this many deliverables, you must be organized and focused. Here’s five tips to get you started.

1. Create a list.

Compile a list of all the documents you’re responsible for, including release notes, setup guides, reference guides, templates, web pages, and proposals.

2. Sort the list according to priorities.

Talk to your department manager. Depending on the number of patches and releases during the year, you might not have time to keep all these documents current, so it’s important to know which ones are critical. Next, find out which documents are used most often. Those are the ones you want to make a priority.

3. Keep your list in a spreadsheet.

List all your documents in the left column. Then create columns for each release. That way you can check off each document as you complete it for a patch. This keeps you focused. You know at all times where you’re up to, so if you get pulled away to another project, when you come back, you can pick up where you left off. An added bonus, is that if your manager asks about the status of a particular document, you can quickly refer to your spreadsheet.

4. Keep some perspective.

Take satisfaction in what you have accomplished, rather than focusing on how much is still left to do. It’s like a marathon. Sometimes it’s better not to look at the entirety – that can be overwhelming – but to look at the next thing on your list. Set yourself a goal for finishing that one document, then move onto the next one.

5. Use the Pomodoro Technique.

Set your timer and give yourself permission to work on one thing at a time. Working on several documents at once can lead to confusion and disorganization. Work on one document, complete it, and check it off your list.

Do you write documentation for an enterprise application? How do you manage all those deliverables?

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Photo via Flickr user Heike Quosdorf


Top 5 ways to manage multiple deadlines

Posted in Time management on December 14th, 2010 by Jenny – 2 Comments

When I was a kid, I took dance lessons. One thing my dance teacher liked to say was “if you want something done, ask a busy person.”

As a contract technical writer, I’m often working on more than one project at a time. Sometimes things get a little crazy. But if you work alone like I do, you need to learn to manage multiple deadlines. Here are some of the things that work for me.

1. Make a list.

Sounds obvious I know, but when my mind is filled with the hundreds of things I need to do and I’m starting to panic, writing it all down on paper helps. Pen and paper. Yes, you read that right. Writing my list down on paper clears a little mental space. I don’t have to remember everything, because it’s there in front of me.

2. Prioritize.

What’s my next deadline? Usually that’s the thing I start with. From there I look at when things are due and how long they’ll take to complete. Is it something I can do quickly and cross off my list? I like to do those things first so I can cross off many things, quickly. Breaking things into small chunks helps too.

3. Focus.

Sometimes I have so much to do, I can’t think straight. I start something, and then get distracted thinking about another project. I know I need to focus, but how? I use the Pomodoro technique. I set a kitchen timer for 25 minutes and I work on one task. If my mind wanders, I make a note to myself, and then get back to the task at hand. At the end of 25 minutes I take a 5 minute break. And then I set my timer and do another 25 minutes. The critical thing is the tick tick tick of the timer. The ticking keeps me focused and gives me permission to do just one thing.

4. Done Done.

In Agile development, there’s the concept of Done Done. When something is Done Done, it’s ready for production. I find this is particularly effective for writing Online Help. When I’m documenting a new feature, I write the topic, and I proofread it. When I’m finished the topic, it’s as ready for production as I can make it. If I had to generate the help file tomorrow I could, knowing I haven’t left any notes to myself or half-finished topics in the project. It’s Done Done.

5. Deliver.

When I’m finished a project, I deliver it, usually with an email saying “this is the final file for the project”. Once it’s delivered, the only reason to edit it, would be if the client requested a change. And then I cross it off the list.

What strategies do you use for managing multiple deadlines?

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