in Productivity

Getting Things Done provides an excellent framework for managing all aspects of your life. What could easily happen in a professional work environment though, is that there is already an existing tool in place to keep track of tasks for the entire team, be it Trello, Pivotal Tracker or some other collaboration tool. While it is certainly possible to keep track of some tasks in separate systems, there will usually be an uncertainty in what goes where and if everything has been captured and taken care of appropriately. The worst thing that could happen, and usually does, is that you lose trust in the system and things fall through the cracks because you missed to check one system.

I have been struggling with these issues for the past two years, trying different methods of keeping track of external tasks, but I have for a while now been using a workflow that fits me quite well. It lets me keep track of everything assigned to me in Pivotal Tracker, while still keeping the details in the respective system to avoid having to duplicate every little task.

Before diving into the details of the workflow, we need to talk about context fundamentals. I follow the “A fresh take on contexts” approach and have previously written a short post about my specific implementation. The references I will be using in this method will use the “full focus” context as part of that approach.

When being assigned a user story1 or other type of task, I use the OmniFocus web clipper in Safari to import it into my GTD list. Before pressing the clipping shortcut ( ctrl+alt+cmd+space) however, I make sure to select the title, which makes it become the task title within OmniFocus as well. In the quick entry popup, I select the relevant project and usually the “full focus” context. What will happen now is that each morning when I go through my contexts to flag the important tasks for the day, I know that “full focus” tasks for certain projects will be user stories or similar and that they contain tasks within an external system. Since the URL is automatically added to the note field during the clipping process, it becomes a non-issue to open up the user story and see the relevant tasks.

When finishing a task within a user story, I highlight the task (similar to the main user story), clip it and select the relevant project and context. The next step however is to directly mark that tasks as done. This whole process literally takes a second or two, but provides great value as there is a record of tasks that have been completed throughout the day. When my responsibility with the user story comes to an end, I simply check the task in OmniFocus as completed, and move on to the next.

While the workflow is simple to follow, it makes it very easy to have all tasks reside within OmniFocus and not having to wonder if anything has been forgotten in another system. The primary value for me is that it provides a record of work done, which makes stand-up meetings2 laughingly easy, since I no longer need to waste time pondering what I in fact did the previous day. I can simply pull up my done perspective and see everything neatly in a list.

  1. A user story is a term within Scrum, an agile development method, and is basically a feature, which contains one or more tasks to complete the user story. 

  2. A stand-up meeting is a quick status meeting where everyone in the team swiftly describes what they did yesterday, what they will be doing today and if there is something standing in their way.