Getting Things Done the Datascope Way

July 13, 2011

people subheaders with postits

A blog post about productivity? No one’s ever done one of those before!

But seriously, here at Datascope we think we have a pretty good system. And it doesn't involve expensive TeamServerDeluxeCloudTaskMachine fanciness, just our favorite office media: marker on whiteboards or post-its.

It's relatively simple to understand — each post-it represents one task. When you make a new task, you stick it under a project header on the board. Underneath those headers, if there are multiple people working on a project, you can make people subheaders and go to the board together to see what needs to get done and delegate it under the people subheaders. Finally, when you do a task, you can take it off the board and add it to the "done section" with a satisfying smack.

postits, cuz

Here are some reasons we're growing to love this system:

  1. The fact that you have to fit tasks on single post-its ensure that tasks are well defined and not too big.
  2. Our system doesn't follow the productivity nerd mantra that is GTD, but it does incorporate an important aspect of that system — ubiquitous capture. With post-its at everyone's desk, it's easy to jot a task down so you can get it out of your head and keep working.
  3. It's easy to add tasks that need to be done in sequence; just stick post-its on top of each other. You can't see the next task to be done until after you finish the current one.
  4. Keeping tasks on the boards ensures they don't "follow you home". Thinking about work after hours isn't a bad thing, but worrying about everything you have to do tomorrow is.
  5. Post-its make tasks visible. Everyone in the office can get a general idea of how active each project is and easily see if someone might need help, just by glancing at the board. Think of it as a task histogram, of sorts.
  6. While the system makes tasks visible at a glance, the notes are too small to be read from your desk, so you don't get distracted with other people's tasks.
  7. Building on the visibility point, it's very visible when you get something done; it's satisfying to remove a physical object from the board and add it to an ever-growing pile of finished tasks, and everyone sees you do it. You may even earn some nerd-cred for finishing particularly daunting tasks.
  8. Post-its make tasks transparent. Everyone can see what everyone is doing, and it makes it easy for workers to get involved with each projects. Rather than a traditional task list which encourages individual productivity, the post-it note method emphasizes team productivity — everyone's working to get the board clear (which never happens).
The done board

Even though our system doesn't use any sophisticated technologies, we certainly aren't luddites (although it would be satisfying to take a sledge hammer to some task management systems). We're always looking for ways to improve our system, whether there's tech involved or not. Recently, we've talked about how time lapse cameras focused on the boards could help show what's getting done, and what tasks people are avoiding.

What do you think? Is there a way to manage team tasks that you like? Are you thinking of converting to the Sacred Brotherhood of Post-its On Whiteboards? Drop us a line in the comments.

And with that, if you'll excuse me, I have a Post-it to go put on the done board.

contributors to this post

headshot of Brian Lange
headshot of Dean Malmgren
headshot of Mike Stringer