012: Project Management vs. Task Management



Justin finds himself in a task management (and life) crisis, switches up the show format for the short term, and discusses his options for nuke and paving his system.



00:00 Hello and welcome to Process. My name is Justin DiRose, owner of the Productivity Guild and today we’re doing something a little bit different. Over the next couple of weeks. I’m changing up the format of how Process looks. So instead of doing our 15 to 20 minute episodes that tend to be focused on a specific topic. Instead what I’m doing is shortening them to five to seven minute episodes that are giving you an inside baseball picture of the productivity journey that I’m on right now. I’ve had some big things happen in my life in the last couple of weeks which have introduced a lot of complexity and as a result things are starting to break down in my systems. And so I’m trying to sort out exactly how to navigate the ship of these big projects that I need to work on and keep on the big picture and try to keep them all moving forward at the same time with a completely different system because frankly, OmniFocus isn’t working for me right now for that.

00:53 And so I want to dive into what this looks like over the next few weeks. And obviously with these big projects, I have a little bit shorter timeframe to record these episodes and, and so I don’t plan to edit these episodes a lot. I want to do these a little bit more off the cuff so you’re really getting a sense of what’s going on for me and I really hope that you can find some helpful things out of the thought processes that I’m working through in these episodes. With that, I do want to give you a heads up that the Making Sense of Bear course is going to be put on hold for just a couple of weeks until I get a couple of these big projects sorted out. So while last week I was trying to get the videos recorded, these big things kind of got in the way of really getting too far on that.

01:36 And so just to give you a heads up that will be coming down the pipe in, in a month or two. But as of right now, I need to get these big projects in my personal life sorted out. So to give you a little bit of an idea of what this crisis that I’m going through is. It’s a crisis of task management versus project management. I heard Joe Buhlig talk on the Whims That Work podcast, uh, quite some time ago about the mentality of handling task management and teams. He’s a big proponent of managing projects and not tasks, so you have tools like Asana and Nozbe and Todoist where you can assign tasks to people on your team. And I work with Joe a little bit in ProCourse and I’ve seen his approach, which is not that, uh, work actually pretty well where you assign a project to a person or a group of people.

02:27 And from there they manage their tasks inside of that project and then communicate on the project side of things. So when I look at my task management system, one of the struggles that I have is boiling everything down to a checkbox because frankly that’s the way it is in OmniFocus and most every single task manager. Everything on your list is a checkbox. It’s something to be done. But with some of these big projects that I have in play right now, there’s not just tasks that need to happen. There’s questions I need to answer. There’s things that I’m thinking about, but I’m not committing to as far as an action because there’s a lot of moving pieces to this and there’s a lot of factors and pieces of information that I need to keep in play. Having all of that in OmniFocus or another task manager just doesn’t make sense.

03:16 And so my crisis right now is how do I apply this project management mentality to my current systems? And frankly, it’s not working at this moment in time because I don’t do well when I have things broken out. So if I have tasks in OmniFocus and then all my reference materials in Bear, I work better personally when I have my tasks, my reference materials, my questions, the links that I need to have, the resources that I need to have, contacts even that I need to make all in one spot where I can see, I can go back in, I can edit them, I can figure it all out in that one place. That is really helpful for me, especially when trying to manage all of these big picture ideas and frankly these really big tasks. So that’s really the crisis that I’m in right now is how do I tweak my systems in order to develop this project management process.

04:12 The other thing that I have found difficult is that in OmniFocus, I have all of these projects that are there, but I really don’t have a good way to make me feel like these are the ones that I’m actively working on right now. And these are the ones that I’m not actively working on. I’ve tried to do this with the whole challenge of work concept that I pulled from Kourosh Dini and while that concept works, it’s just, it requires a lot more overhead to manage inside of OmniFocus. And I found that friction just wasn’t really working for me. The whole idea that I want to go for is like a Kanban board and if you’re not familiar with Kanban, it was something from Toyota where they basically have like cards that have action items or things to do on them, projects to work on and they’re in three different columns.

04:58 There’s a to-do, a doing, and a done. And the whole point of a Kanban system is to limit the number of active items. So instead of throwing it into your system and you work on it when you work on it and you manage tasks at a priority level based upon those tasks. My hope is to develop some kind of a Kanban type system for projects to say, these are the three projects that I’m working on right now, and then I’ll have single actions of course that need to take place and things that I need to be reminded of. And so I’ll probably have some sort of a list app tool that will help me do manage those because frankly project management type apps don’t handle that type of granular notification and management very well, but there needs to be some sort of crossover and some sort of differentiation between the two if you’re following what I mean here.

05:47 So with that I’ve got a thread over on the Productivity Guild Community that I’ll link to in the show notes here where I’ve spelled out a lot of the challenges that I’ve had from a software perspective and so many of the community members have chimed in with suggestions and thoughts as to here are some approaches and tools that might be helpful for you. And I’ve really appreciated that kind of feedback because I like to be able to get input from people and process it and try to figure out what’s the best approach for me. So the tools that I have narrowed down as being possibles for this approach are Bear, paper using the Bullet Journal method and Discourse, which is kind of funny because I’m a Discourse developer, but I’ve seen discourse work really well in doing work with ProCourse because that’s the process flow that we use for managing our processes.

06:37 We create a topic inside of Discourse, somebody picks it up, it gets assigned to them, those are the active projects that they’re working on. And then within that project topic you can denote all your task information, your resources and an update where you’re at on it, uh, right in the topic there. Now granted I think that might be a little too complex for what I need. And so the really the two big players on the table right now are Bear and paper and specifically with paper, the Bullet Journal method is one that I’ve been drawn to for a long time. And in fact I think I’m going to give this one a go at least for a few months and maybe combine it with something like MindNode to have these big picture of mapping sessions. Because one of the drawbacks for paper for me is the lack of ability to edit and move things around.

07:25 And so when I feel like I have, it’s kind of set in stone in some regards on when I write it on paper, I feel like it’s set in stone, let’s put it that way. So that’s kind of a, in a nutshell, the, the crisis that I’m in right now. Task management is really good approach, but I’m struggling with being able to take that approach with some of these bigger picture things that are going on in my life. And so instead of going from the ground level with all these day to day things and building up from there, I want to start with some of the big picture things and build down from there so that I can focus my life a little bit better in this season where I have a lot of things that are going on.

08:07 Well, that’s all for this time. If you want to join in on the discussion for this episode or if you want to connect with others who are in the process of becoming better on their productivity journey, head on over to the Productivity Guild at productivityguild.com. Or if you want to support this podcast and get access to video modules, productivity courses, and more, consider signing up for a Pro membership at the Productivity Guild for just $10 a month. Get a free month trial using code PROCESS19. Lastly, if you like this show, rate us on iTunes or recommend us on Overcast. My name is Justin DiRose and join me next time on Process.

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That’s what I’ve been juggling with. I use context tags (@Mac, @Home, @Office) to work on a group of context-related tasks. This usually gets rid of my single one-off tasks that don’t necessarily have a project. Then I spend time focus on one project in a time block. Switching between the two (contexts and projects) is something I am trying to equalize and make sure I spent equal times in contexts and projects.

My task manager is great at bundling all the contexts together and I can see all of my computer work in one list and home tasks in another list. I am just starting to get around to making sure that I do spend time in my projects. My contexts lists spreads my efforts in many different single action lists (checklists) and projects. But I noticed I was not making significant progress in single projects. That’s why I chose only two to three Big Rock projects at work and put everything else on the back burner. I wanted to make sure I focused my efforts in these two or three Big Rocks instead of spreading myself thin with way too many current projects.

As always, I’m still experimenting…

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