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Author Topic: [concept feedback] Workload management software  (Read 3768 times)

justice

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[concept feedback] Workload management software
« on: January 09, 2014, 07:39:40 AM »
As expressed in the NANY 2014 project I unfortunately had to time for, I expressed my unhappiness with traditional todo / task list software. After reviewing my process I have come to the conclusion that I might have to write software to accurately capture / manage my workload. This would be desktop software for Windows.

Initially it seems most work (I'm working in web development) is best captured into 4 stages. I'm looking for your feedback to see if this is just how I work or if there is demand for something like this.

Code: Text [Select]
  1. Stage 0: Inbox: capture informal requests, ideas and suggestions. Most important is quick input
  2. Stage 1: Todo: 'next-up' where work gets specified and planned. Most important is completness of process
  3. Stage 2: Active Work Items: communication and capture progress on work as we are actively advancing the task. Most important is measuring progress
  4. Stage 3: Work Review: after work completes we want to report / review on it. Most important is high level review of work
  5.  
  6. S0: descriptions
  7. S1: project, title, files, communications, planned due date, priority ordering
  8. S2: Multiple progress updates, files, communications, actual due date
  9. S3: Export to zip, sort by date, filter by project

The software would be a combination of Evernote + a todo list + related file explorer where work advances through the stages.

Any feedback?


wraith808

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Re: [concept feedback] Workload management software
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2014, 08:14:51 AM »
None on your actual process... mine is different.  But I think that brings me to the point- I don't think that *anyone's* process is exactly the same, unless they're following someone else's.  That's the reason for the prevalence of GTD, Pomodoro, etc.  It's probably better to refine a process for you (especially since this is a personal need) and get people to help refine that in the software.  At least personally, I tend to do better with software when I can test it from a personal perspective.

Just my  :two:

tomos

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Re: [concept feedback] Workload management software
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2014, 08:45:34 AM »
[queries numbered in brackets]

Not sure how you imagine it but "The software would be a combination of Evernote + a todo list + related file explorer" sounds promising :up: Tagging and filtering to show the relevant info sounds good.
[1] With hierarchical tagging? (I've never used Evernote online, dont know what it has/does).

I tend to be a bit of a chaotic worker, but this seems like it would cover all the things I need to do. I work with many files, get a lot of feedback with requests for modifications. Working with information from other people, I have many queries too. So the communication aspect would be very important to me. Priority ordering of queries in both directions. Ability to sort according to ones I have to answer, & ones they have to answer (that should be easy with tags).
So, for me, the inbox -- as in "capture informal requests, ideas and suggestions" -- would be ongoing throughout a project.
ToDo would also therefore be an evolving process as project continues.
In a bigger project, reviews would be done at different times/phases.

I'm sure you've thought of this, but above was just to point out that 0, 1, 2 & 3 could all be happening at around the same time on an ongoing basis (or e.g. within the same day).
[2] Which shouldnt be a problem (?)

[3] Re the file explorer - do you mean you would create your own file explorer within the app? (Easy access to same file or folder in default file manager would be important.)
Tom

TaoPhoenix

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Re: [concept feedback] Workload management software
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2014, 08:50:13 AM »
Hi Justice.

Although your exact work flows and styles are likely different from mine, I have thought off an on about this stuff.

Some conceptual thoughts:

This area falls into the category of "Get Things Done" to use the now famous phrase. The subtle trick to watch for is that "the solution isn't worse than the problem". So if you don't need to-the-suggestion level reporting, consider a little bit of "low level" paper/manual support around the edges to keep the "power software" in this concept thread leaner. A couple of the tricks I have used at various points:

1. Paper Pre-Filters:

A. (Paper) 4x4 inch lined Stickies. I just took a certification test to prepare for an upcoming new job as a tax preparer this season. For the test I had to do a bunch of medical expense calculations. They're not exactly hard, but there's no way anyone but an arithmetic savant could do them in his head. So I used a lined 4x4 inch sticky for each problem, five in all.

But those test examples were based on 2012 tax law! It so happens that for tax return year 2013 / Winter 2014, the IRS changed the rule that had been there for 20 some years! (Now less favorable to the taxpayer!) So I'll never need those practice test problems ever again, and except for Amended returns, I won't really need to have examples of the older way to do the calculation. (Tax law is an example where knowledge "becomes dead".)

Finally the other use for the stickies is for quick tasks that no one really cares about that are short term and volatile. For example I had to feed my brother's cats for a week while he was on vacation. Sure. 3 min to set up a quick 1 week 3 column chart on that lined sticky. Cats Fed. After that week, no one cares about the now "decaying" factoid of the cat feeding details.

B. Paper Spreadsheet", I found that sometimes if I already have too much work/"tasks" going on with my comp in front of me, and someone wants a recurring but irrelevant factoid, to have a (carefully curated) piece of paper just on my desk with the "greatest hits". That way I don't have to stop what I am doing, open up yet another thing on my screen, and waste mine and maybe someone else's phone-call time. Examples are my parents' three addresses, the number for the AT&T phone plan refill customer line, my Boss's cell phone number, and the two sets of trains it takes to get to the new job (because they are different in each direction.) (FYI I now live in Queens NYC, after having lived in small towns all my life, this stuff isn't natural for me.)

All that stuff is random, but keeps being useful. So the trick I found is a simple Staples desk calendar "magically" has 30+ blocks of lined boxes, almost like 30 "permanent stickies". Just take a big black marker and wipe out the dates.

That calendar then keeps those pages organized, so then you make a couple of the sheets the "factoids". Then you just flip the page and make the next three "quick ideas and suggestions". That's room for some 100 suggestions and ideas! These pages are removable, so you just keep the "factoid" pages safe, but slowly work on and chop at the ideas and suggestions.

After about a month, 50 of those suggestions migrate their way into some existing big project, and 30 more just die off either being solved or not useful. You just take a pencil and cross off the boxes of the done/useless ideas. The last final 20 actually go into your "Suggestions" area of the power program as being long term, but not able to be done for a chunk of time but too important to forget.

2. So what filters through and goes into the note program is any big, evolving study project. A main section simply has ever evolving accumulating knowledge. Your ideas/received suggestions go into the big note program *at the next level of processing*! So your quick idea was captured on the desk paper spreadsheet. Then you do something at it, with some chunk of processing, and then the *result* goes into your note program!

Whew! That's a lot of words. But the overall idea is it keeps the big note system focused on durable, important work. If "Stickies" are too "scattered" and "look bad" then do it as a box of flash cards that can all stay nice on the box. It's not perfect, but I've been bitten a couple times to "manage everything in note software" only for it to spiral out of control when I stopped knowing where to look! Do you organize it by topic? By priority? Both? Then you waste time tagging stuff "to do" and "done"! I have a hobby of collecting fortune cookie messages. So the paper slips themselves ARE the task. I just line them up in a corner of my desk. When I get about 20 of them, I type them all up, then throw them away. I don't need "20 to-do's" to create "tasks" to type them up!

Does all of that help at all?

Cheers,

--Tao


justice

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Re: [concept feedback] Workload management software
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2014, 09:26:20 AM »
Thanks for the great feedback and personal stories and advice!  I realised I just described a 4 stage kanban board (aka Trello).  ;D Trello as a desktop app would be nice but that's going to be far too bug for one person, plus I found out Trello has one:

http://apps.microsof...aa-b0e1-04eec135667b
(which after trying is inferior to the web interface in both easy of use and clarity)
« Last Edit: January 09, 2014, 10:52:22 AM by justice »

wraith808

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Re: [concept feedback] Workload management software
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2014, 09:59:59 AM »
Yes, I'm using Trello right now... great app!  Yet another mini-review I need to do...  ;D

dr_andus

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Re: [concept feedback] Workload management software
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2014, 06:41:59 PM »
This description of productivity issues and solutions might be relevant here:

The Long and Winding Road to WorkFlowy

mouser

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Re: [concept feedback] Workload management software
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2014, 08:02:38 PM »
Quote
But I think that brings me to the point- I don't think that *anyone's* process is exactly the same,


i think this is true -- but that's why i think the idea of writing software to capture one particular style of working (as opposed to trying to make one organizational tool for everyone) is appealing.  The more idiosyncratic the method it captures, the more interesting it is as a software program and experiment.

wraith808

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Re: [concept feedback] Workload management software
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2014, 09:43:52 PM »
^ Right!  That's the point that I was making, i.e. "the idea of writing software to capture one particular style of working (as opposed to trying to make one organizational tool for everyone)".  It seems that Justice is going for the latter part- at least it seems so with the OP and soliciting feedback on whether his list is a good list.

justice

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Re: [concept feedback] Workload management software
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2014, 03:27:39 AM »
Whilst it's one thing to write software to capture a particular style of working, there is no point if is this software is already available (Trello, which I was already using lol).

This all dances around the discussion of opinionated software (eg Apple stuff), which tries to work very well for a specific use case versus 'unopinionated' software, which supports any workflow even if it's ineffective or damaging to the software (eg Linux distributions).

My software tends to be opinionated and therefore appeals to a smaller group but this workflow management software would have to be so opinionated only I could use it therfore defeating the purpose of having a community discussion around it ;-)

TaoPhoenix

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Re: [concept feedback] Workload management software
« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2014, 07:49:54 AM »
Whilst it's one thing to write software to capture a particular style of working, there is no point if is this software is already available (Trello, which I was already using lol).

This all dances around the discussion of opinionated software (eg Apple stuff), which tries to work very well for a specific use case versus 'unopinionated' software, which supports any workflow even if it's ineffective or damaging to the software (eg Linux distributions).

My software tends to be opinionated and therefore appeals to a smaller group but this workflow management software would have to be so opinionated only I could use it therefore defeating the purpose of having a community discussion around it ;-)

Well, there's a "middle ground" where not unlike I, and Mouser who did it better than I, wrote a lot of core tech to be used by anyone, and the figurative Last Mile is almost a "plugin" for you alone. Not unlike how Firefox works. I think as a conceptual model that idea is up near the top ten I've ever heard of in the world of software.

So for example maybe only 6 other people in the world use my trick of taking a staples lined desk calendar and using it as a desk mat with the answers to the 30 most annoying questions ever, but then all the rest can use the basic note software he's looking at.


cranioscopical

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Re: [concept feedback] Workload management software
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2014, 12:40:37 PM »
taking a staples lined desk calendar and using it as a desk mat with the answers to the 30 most annoying questions ever, but then all the rest can use the basic note software he's looking at.
Good trick, I have one of those!
 
Answers.jpg[concept feedback] Workload management software
 

wraith808

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Re: [concept feedback] Workload management software
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2014, 01:51:05 PM »
nope.gif