Increase your productivity: Getting Things Done GTD with Trello or Asana and zapier or IFTTT automation

I read the book Getting things done and I found some interesting suggestions.
The main problem of the book is that it mainly considers paper based documents.

First of all I suggest reading the book, I’ve already reviewed it here.

Here you can find it summarized with some suggestion in order dial with GTD using Trello or Asana if you prefer.

I’ve already written about Trello vs Asana, so before starting this metodology I suggest reading the post and trying them if you don’t know both.

I usually work on many projects so my main target is to deal with them in order to getting things done without losing some steps.
I started using this method in my private life as well.

My Working Trello Board

First of all in this board I write down all activities I’ve got to do and all activities I’m waiting for someone. All my activities are single (not subtask) while someone elses’s activities are grouped using checklist: I’m interest in remembering that someone is working on thet project and I will probably check it but I’m not interested in all user stories processed because they are probably tracked in jira.
I use 2 main columns: Projects and Large Projects (complex project with a related Jira’s project)
Here I define the prefix of each project in this form:
[CUSTOMER’S ABBREVIATION]_[PROJECT’S ABBREVIATION] – [Full Name project]

In the remaining columns I’ll use the first part for all actvities related to the project (for some interesting project I even use label/tag)
[CUSTOMER’S ABBREVIATION]_[PROJECT’S ABBREVIATION] – [activity description/title]

I use 2 more annotations:
“[SOMEONE’S NAME]” usually in “Waiting for” or “In progress (Internal)” columns to remember who I’m waiting for or who is doing the task. It’s a sort of assigned to.
“[HOLDER]” this means that the this activity blocks something on the column “Hold On”

Holder

Holded

Every time I move a holder card to done I check the comments to find out the blocked card and dial with it moving it to the right column.

Here an explanation of my columns

  • Inbox: Unprocessed activities
  • Next Actions: a priority ordered stack of what I have to do
  • In Progress: what I’m working on (in case of interruption)
  • In Progress (Internal): what someone else is doing and I’m interest to
  • Scheduled: All activities that I’ve to do on that day at that time
  • Hold on: all blocked activities
  • Waiting for: I’m waiting for info, I’m waiting for supplier’s work
  • Done
  • Someday: usually articles to read when I want to take a break
  • Presale: I use it for the projects that are not confirmed but requires many analysys activities
  • Projects: small sequential project that I manage using the trello’s checklist
  • Large Projects: projects with a related jira’s project
  • Canoni/Consuntivi: Closed Project with annual maintenance fees
  • References: Interesting articles or mail
  • Projects Done: Completed projects

The “Due Date” has many meanings depending on the card’s column:

  • in scheduled column is something that can’t be put off
  • in holder is something that is blocked until the due date (I can’t do anything before that date)
  • in Next actions is the recommended date
  • in Inbox I’ve an automation that set creation date +1 day
  • in waiting for is a ping reminder. I still haven’t received any update that date, so I’ve to send an email, make a call and so on

Trello Automation

Here some interesting add-ons or applications or services that I’m using as facilitators:

Send link to trello

Do you find an interesting article but you don’t have enough time to read it? send it to trello’s inbox list in order to decide what to do when you process the card.

Add to Trello Chrome’s Add On

Add some automation among many apps like calendar

In order to automate Trello I suggest trying both zapier and IFTTT

Zapier and IFTTT

I found zapier better than IFTTT for lots of reasons:

  1. The search is better, you can choose what services are you interested in and it will show only available zaps
  2. The configuration level of each zap is better than IFTTT applet

Zapier supports both gmail (personal use) and Office 365 (outlook calendar).
With Zapier I created these automations:

As you can see, with zapier you can use the same application as source and destination. Remember that you can even use both IFTTT and zapier.

An interesting automation is that when you add an appointment to your calendar a card i automatically created to scheduled column.
In addition I automated the creation of a complex and full detailed card everytime a google form is submitted (pe).

I also found Butler powe-up for Trello, but I don’t use it.

Your email to inbox list

There are many ways to send your emails to trello inbox list.
You can do it with zapier and IFTTT, there are actions that creates a card every received email or only starred email.
These solutions work very well if you want to automate all the process.

Another interesting way to send emails to your inbox Trello list without automatically send all your emails is to forward them directly to trello. Here the Trello istructions:
http://help.trello.com/article/809-creating-cards-by-email
It supports also email with attachment, attaching them to the card.
The main problem of this, is that Trello supports markdown and not HTML so you see only text in the card.

There is a Chrome extension for Gmail but I don’t like Gmail-to-Trello give it a try if you want.

Conclusion

This method adds management time overhead but it prevent you forgetting activities’s steps, I’ve been using it for 4 months in my working and private life and ater tailoring, it works like a charm

Improvement

It would be great if Trello and Asana implemented a security trimming for user: view only allowed card without seeing all cards in board. If this feature was available I would open my board to all my stakeholders so they can check if I’m waiting something from them or what are we doing.

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List of Management and Leadership Books part 2

Here I am to list some other books I’ve read since my previous post: List of Management and Leadership Book part 1


Getting Things Done by David Allen

(readed 2017-12)
I read this book because I found some references to GTD methodology in some blog posts.
The basic idea is to use a board with the columns you need (in the book you can find examples) and write down what ever you have to do in right column/state in order to avoid bothering you about your tasks and reminds.
The only drawback I found is that the book shows a paper based documents world while nowadays everything is digital. I’ll write a post about how I tailored it and the software I’m using.
I suggest reading it and give him a chance applying this method to you daily work and life.
My suggestion is to try it in a period when you have enough time to make many attempts for tailoring it to your work/life style before give it up.
I’ve been using it since the end of 2017 and after many attempts I found my way.

 


Exactly What to Say by Phil M Jones

(readed 2018-01)
It’s easy and fast to read so look through this book!
There’s nothing that can dramatically change your life but some food for thought.

 

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

(readed 2018-02)
This book talk about comunication and how to improve it. There are many aspects useful to everyone who has to deal with people.
Here a list of the main treated topics:

  • Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain
  • Give honest and sincere appreciation
  • Arouse in the other person an eager want
  • Become genuinely interested in other people
  • Smile: Happiness does not depend on outside circumstances, but rather on inward attitudes
  • Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language
  • Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves
  • Talk in terms of the other person’s interest
  • Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely

If you are interested in, take a look at this wiki page where you can find a quick recap.

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Trello vs Asana: what is the best?

Before writing this post I tried both for a while and here my review about free features.

There is no winner and no loser even though Asana has some interesting features…

Project Types / Prject Views

In Trello every project is a Kanban board and are called board. On the other hand Asana call them projects and supports two different views:

  • List
  • Card/Kanban

Here a List Project 

Here a Card/Kanban Project

This Asana feature is very interesting but unfortunately it is not possible to switch between the 2 views.

Calendar

Asana supports the Calendar feature out of the box, while Trello neeeds the Calendar powe up  to be installed in the board and unfortunately in the free version only one power up could be installed.

Conversations / Chat

Asana has another great feature: Conversation.
This allows your team to share your ideas so it is not necessary using slack to let your team talking about the project

Task  Done

While in Trello there is no way to say that a task is completed like in jira (task completion) if not only moving a card from one list to another.
Asana supports it like a check box and using the task completion timestamp to create some charts.

Subtasks

Both support subtasks as a checklist but Asana has something more.
In Trello a line inside a checklist is only text and could only be completed.
In Asana instead, every line in the checklist is a Task; clicking it, it is possible to specify a description and attach files for each item.
This would be great if only it was possible to see each subtask as a card, but unfortunately it’s not available therefore there is not so much difference between them.

Image Copy & Paste

Trello allows you to copy an image and paste it inside a card without saving it as a file before.
Even though it’s a minor feature I use it frequently.

Board Background

This is a stupid feature but you know, not only technical features are important 🙂
Trello allows to set a background from an image set and even though it is useless it is very pleasant.

Automations

Both of them are supported by zapier and IFTTT.

Power Ups / Extensions

Trello supports many power ups that can extend Trello features like calendar, card aging or something more. The only drawback is that only one power up is allowed in free plan. This limit can be extended to 5 if you invite new customers to the board.
On the other hand asana allows integration with some applications that can load data from it. Instagantt is an example of that.

 

Creation Tasks/Cards from emails

Both support the creation of tasks/cards by sending an email to a predefined address.

Conclusion

As I said at the beginning I think that both worth as free tasks manager, I suggest trying both and take your decision basing on your preferences.
Asana has by far more tech features than Trello, while Trello is more user friendly.

I use Trello in my private life, and Jira in my working life in order to manage projects because I think that jira is the best one to work on dev projects.
If  I wouldn’t have used Jira at work I would probably have used Asana thanks to his tech features.
I also use Trello in my daily working life in order to manage all my activities with Getting Things Done GTD methodology.

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The best result comes from everyone in the group doing what’s best for himself AND the group

Some days ago I watched (again) “A Beautiful Mind”.
Even thought I’ve already seen it in the past this movie’s scene made me think a lot

The movie is based on a true story.

Adam Smith said:
“Individual Ambition Serves the Common Good.”
“The best result comes from everyone in the group doing what’s best for himself”

John Nash instead added an importat part:
“The best result comes from everyone in the group doing what’s best for himself AND THE GROUP”

Now move this concept to your company…

In many companies usually it’s more important find who is guilty or worse shift the blame onto someone else. The only thing that cares is to use the stick (carrot and stick Approach).
Even thought many companies are matrix organization or functional organization (silos) they can apply Agile or Deming Cycle concepts… but unfortunately most of them don’t…

RETROSPECTIVE – CHECK ACT

Keep always in mind this list:

  1. Everyone makes mistakes, the problem is not making mistakes but repeating them
  2. Figure out why the there was a problem, do a route couse analysis in order to determine every problem. Doing it you’ll find who did something wrong not shifting blame to him/her.
  3. Define how to avoid it next time
  4. Is it the first time? Talk the person/people that made mistakes and teach them… DO NOT USE THE STICK.
  5. Is this the second time? try to understand why this happend again and take actions (change organization flow)
  6. Is this happened more thant twice? Probably the person that made it is not the most appropriate doing this kind of work
  7. Comunication and Sharing: Talk Talk and Talk with everyone was involved and share what you discovered in the previous steps to all your peers and interested colleagues.
  8. Do not lose what you learned: Write it in your Knowledge Base or Lessons Learned and be sure that everyone knows how to reach this infomation

In addition some more suggestions:

  • Feedback: talk to your team and tell them what you think about their work.
  • Recognize the value of the people when they do great job
  • Say Thank You but not by email…
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Design Thinking

If you’re here, probably, you’ve already read something about Design Thinking.

Design Thinking is a topic where you can find many definitions and books that share the same concept but that explain it in very different ways.

I think that we can summarize it with:

try… catch –> try again catch –> try again and again till you reach your goal

But what is the goal?

The Goal is to find out the best way to interact with something in order to avoid reading instruction in order to use it (easier) and to improve your productivity (faster).
Think about you current smartphone and compare it to a 10-year-old one.
You can apply design thinkin to everything: software, buildings, studios, rooms, working flows ecc

Prototyping is the best way to reach it…

What Design Thinking includes:

  1. It needs a vision, without it nothing worths
  2. The target must be analyzed moving from top (the goal / desired improvement) through down (details, implementation)
  3. Anxiety: It’s generated by being afraid of wasting time and money doing test risking to not reach the target
  4. Accept the risk of failure
  5. Route couse analysis (fishbones diagram, ishikawa diagram)
  6. Creating prototypes redoucing the complexity experiment by experiment
  7. Everything that limits the innovation must be changed
  8. Try try try try and try again… never give up

The best explanation I found about design thinking is in this video (movie: The Founder (2016))

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How to add icons in a word or power point doc using font awesome or material design icons

The most famous font icons used in the web are font awesome and material design. You can find many other icon fonts on the Internet.

In this post I don’t want to talk about wich one is the best but how to use them in word o power point, for simplicity I’ll show only Microsoft Word interface but it’s pretty the same.

Download font Icons

Go to the font icon pack you have decided to use and download it.
These are the links for  font awesome and material design.

Install it to you PC/Mac

Usually what you probably have downloaded is a zip file. Unzip it and look up for .otf or .ttf files.

Install the .otf file if you found it or .ttf
In Windows double click the file and click to install button:

Use it in Microsoft Word

  1. Open Word
  2. Click To “Insert” Tab
  3. On right corner look up for “Symbol”
  4. Click “Other Symbols”
  5. Select the right font and the Symbol you want to add in dialog that will appear

Search for a symbol

Before I have shown how to insert a symbol using some font icons but the problem now is how to look for a specific symbol without blowing up your mind.
With font awesome it’s very easy:

  1. Go to the site
  2. Click to Icon
  3. Insert what you are lookin for
  4. Select the icon you like
  5. You will see the detail page where I have got to select the UNICODE string
  6. Go back to the word symbol dialog and insert that code to search box

Easy way to get unicode with other sites like material design

  1. Look up the .css file
  2. Open it with notepad
  3. look for what you want. For ex. “star” and select the appropriate one
  4. Grab the code

If you have some other interesting tip & tricks share it 🙂

PS:
I found many great icons in flaticon site.
Select the icons you want adding theme in your collection.
Then selection your collection and download it as “iconfont”

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Jira date diff or calculate a range in query

Today I’ve tried to set up a Jira query in my board.
My target was to change the card color evaluating how many days are left before the configured due date.
Here the solution:

What does it mean duedate >= 5d?
DueDate – Now() >= 5d

Note that currently Jira doesn’t allow to do this evaluation with 2 date fields

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