The Unwanted Journey

My last month was so chaotic.

It all started with being unsatisfied with the task management tools I had (I used a Word document, that is very flexible, but is badly integrated with any management tool I have).

I’ve started an exploration that went out of control. I’ve spent dozens of hours to find efficient tools, in stead of doing my tasks. By searching a way to become more efficient I’ve been totally inefficient. You can start your personal chaos here http://simplespark.com/, or here http://www.listio.com/web20.

The real problem was I didn’t spend any time in planning (isn’t that always the problem?). I thought I’d check 3-5 tools and after test-driving the trial version, I will find my holy grail…

I was so wrong. My exploration exploded from 5 tools to dozens, maybe even more than a hundred! The picture I got was so big, so fuzzy…

The worst thing was that I felt no tools gave me the integration I wanted between my missions, my time, my work products, etc.

I was confused already, but than came another headache – I found that MS Outlook had add-ins that have some great features, that can transform this big application into something really useful (I use Outlook at work). I found that some tools I’ve checked integrate with Outlook too. This, of course, swept me into another painful round of exploration: I’ve checked dozens of add-ins. God…

Finally, I took a grip. I started by writing my model of mission-oriented management. I know there are theories; I also couldn’t miss the buzz about GTD (Getting Things Done). Some people referring to this model even scared me – they were so fanatic about doing things "by the book", I thought another religion was born and I wasn’t informed about it.

I’m not very excited about the GTD. I’m pretty happy with my model, and I always learn more methods to improve it. I really don’t want to become a part of the GTD fanatics.

I used my model to map the gaps – the places I’m not satisfied with the solution I have.

Only than, armed with clear requirements, I went back to check the tools and applications.

I decided to advance slowly and document the tools I check. To make sense in all of it, I prepared a feature table and mapped them all… well most of them.

Sure, it took more time, but I felt in control of the process.

The great thing is that after mapping the tools I could find patterns, resemblances between some of the tools. I found distinct categories. So from a chaotic exploration it became rather organized research.

Never the less, at the end of the process I was pretty tired of checking applications. As a UX designer this is not a good thing… The main reason I decided to write a post about it, was my desire to finish what I started, to document the knowledge for myself, and share it with other people who search for software solutions to manage themselves and others better. Otherwise, all the hours I spent in the exploration would be a big waste of time.

Later I will post my mission-oriented management model, and the things I’ve learnt about the applications in this area. Finally, I will describe my own tool setting.

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