I frequently hear that there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that I do on a daily basis. I love those. It’s all about organization. It’s so much about organization that I spend roughly 30 minutes each day thinking about how to improve my already organized life. It doesn’t take much, but with small increments, it adds up.
Start with Jira
You may think that Jira, or any other project management tool, should be used only at work. I’m here to tell you that you can project manage anything that you’d like, including your life. If this sounds stressful to you, I encourage you to bail now, because it will get much more intense from here. If having an organized life fills you with joy, do I have an article for you.
Before we get into the details, I wanted to briefly touch upon things that I’ve tried:
- Sticky Notes
- Digital Sticky Notes
- Digital Sticky Notes added to Dropbox to sync across various computers
- Binders for each “project”
- ToDo Lists in Apple Notes
- Google Chrome Checklist extensions
- Google ecosystem
- Rocketbook into Email
- Rocketbook Beacons for whiteboard
- Rocketbook into Dropbox
- iPad for everything
- Custom program that launches a Word file each day that I can update. Yes, really. I created a program to just launch a Word document so that I can see my priorities. It launched at the same time each day.
Each of these solutions gets you to a point, and then it breaks. The more you attempt to do, the more it clutters your organization, and the more likely it’ll fail.
I finally realized that everything that I listed above was a tool and that I needed to project manage everything in my life. I needed Jira.
Work Projects Jira/Confluence
I started with work. Work was easy. I’m in the IT sector and am used to organizing tasks in “pick your favorite methodology.” The problem is that most organizations are pretty relaxed when it comes to documentation and task management. I’ve always pushed Atlassian products due to the seamless integration of Confluence (for documentation) and Jira (for tasks). Once you understand that this is going to be your Central Knowledge Repository, that’s when the real fun starts.
There needs to be structure to your tasks that the team agrees upon. This should be carried across all projects.
- What do titles look like? For example, [Home] Gallery Feature. Simple and concise. It tells you that this task is related to the Gallery Feature on the Home page.
- What are the required attributes that need to be filled out? This is the time that you need to add custom attributes and flows to each type of issue. For example, when a bug is reported, the fields should be different than when a story is created.
- Is your team going to stick to 2-week sprints? Schedule meetings ahead of time for sprint-planning, backlog grooming and sprint retrospectives. These always come around and the meeting time should be 10–15 minutes each. That will force you to get everything done in that timeframe, which is plenty.
Stick to the sprint schedule. Create new sprints and move the unfinished tasks into the next sprint. During sprint-planning sessions, assign both story points and hour estimates. This will help your team become optimized in their estimation. The idea is to understand capacity. The more optimized your team is, the less time you’ll have to devote to explaining to the client why the project is over a certain amount of hours. Don’t have clients? You still have someone that you report the progress to.
Documentation is next. Tasks should be concise. The real meat should be in the documentation. How do you achieve this? Again, with a structure. Each project in my Confluence page looks like this:
- Project Overview
- Functional Requirements
The project overview states what the project is about. It gives information about team members, project length, a few statistics, and a general introduction into the project itself. The Functional Requirement Documents section (FRDs) is where the meat of the project lives. Each Functional Requirement Document contains all of the information so that the developer does not need to go anywhere else. They don’t have to hunt down information from anywhere else other than that page.
For example, if we were looking at the About page, this would include Header and Footer information as well. It’s a fully functional document. It would also contain links to other FRDs if they’re discussed. Links to tasks are added so that the developer can see all of the tasks associated with that FRD. When each task is added to the Confluence page, the Confluence page is also added to each of the tagged tasks automatically.
There are UI/UX designs when applicable and screenshots once completed. It gives project managers great visibility into the project without going through tasks. Once all of the tasks are completed, the FRD is to be signed by the client. There’s no ambiguity. The stress level is down for you and the client since they know what the status of the feature is at all times.
Anytime a meeting occurs, a meeting is created and notes are written about the meeting. The meeting pages look something like this:
- Date and Time of Meeting
- What’s the purpose of the meeting?
- Action Items
Once the meeting is complete, action items should be transferred over to tasks. The meeting notes can be exported and sent to all participants.
Off to a good start, but still not good enough.
The Main Work Jira Board
It’s great that you have all of the projects listed in individual Jira boards, but there are other tasks that don’t fall under each project. Sometimes they do, especially if you’re billing hours, but most of the time you have other tasks that are outside of the project. Examples include:
- Organizing Emails
- Expense Reports
- Purchase Request Tracking
- Reviewing Each Project Board
I have a Jira Board called Work that contains a ToDo list that needs to be done daily. The first one on that list is to Organize Email. I have a ridiculous email folder structure at this point and each email falls under its own category. If the category doesn’t exist, a new folder is created and organized. If there are action items within the email, a task is created in Jira under the project that it pertains to. The goal is to have 0 emails in the inbox. If you’re behind on this, this can take some time to catch up, but it’ll be worth it.
Expense Reports are next. I open up my credit card and expense report management app. If a transaction exists on my credit card and doesn’t exist on my expense management app, I get the invoice and add it. Simple few minutes each day.
Purchase Request Tracking can be a pain. I have to approve PRs, followed by Finance in order to have Purchasing create a PO. This can get out of hand quickly, especially if you have multiple PRs sent to you each day. My Billing board contains the following columns:
- Quote Received
- PR Sent for Approval to Dino
- Approved by Dino
- Approved by Finance
- Sent to Purchasing
It’s one thing to have Projects listed in Jira; it’s another keeping up with them. I have a task for each project that tells me to check on that project. I spend 10–15 minutes each day going through the projects and checking on the status. There’s something satisfactory when it comes to moving the projects to the Daily Done column.
If you’re working for multiple companies, this becomes essential.
What else do you classify as work? Do you write each day? Are you working on that book? Do you post YouTube tutorials? I do. That’s why I’ve created my Dino Programming board. The columns on this Kanban board are as follows:
- Medium Daily Done
- YouTube Daily Done
- Instagram Daily Done
- TikTok Daily Done
- Website Daily Done
- Twitter Daily Done
My Work Jira board reminds me to check my Dino Programming board. Under each column are a ton of tasks. There are some tasks that need to be done daily. They go into the Daily Done column when they’re complete. The Done column is for tasks that are not Daily. For example, I have a task called [Article] How to be Aggressively Organized? That task is for this article and is listed under the Medium column. Once it’s finished, it’ll get moved to the Done column.
Moral of the story: you can make anything work. 🙂 Fun.
This is still not good enough. We need one more layer up. You still have your non-work related items, like not forgetting to take your vitamins and changing your oil.
The Main Jira Board
This is the final abstraction level: the Main board. Mine looks like this:
- Things to Buy
- Daily Done
- June 2022 (changes each month)
- June 2022 Done (changes each month)
- Quarterly Done
- Yearly Done
It’s beautiful, I know. It took me a long time to get to this level.
The Daily tasks include things like 1 Hour of Reading. One of the tasks is even telling me to complete the tasks in Work Todos, which means that in order for me to move it over, I have to move over all of my Daily Tasks in the Work Todos board to the Daily Done column. There are also things that should be done monthly, like detail cleaning. I broke it down by room so that we don’t get overwhelmed with the size of the house. I went through each room and figured out exactly what needs to be done. Let’s take a look at one example.
I know, I know. I could have made them subtasks, and I did! However, that cluttered my Jira board too much. Having those subtasks in the description was good enough.
What about Oil Changes? I have those listed under the Quarterly column. As a a matter of fact, each time that I do anything to the vehicles, I record it as a comment there.
This is also the timeframe that I do pretty detailed indoor and outdoor inspections.
Finally, there are a few tasks that fall under Yearly, such as pressure washing the house and driveway.
That’s really all there is to it, or is it?
When you have a kid, you might as well just throw that entire project management board out the window. Just kidding. This is exactly why you need it more than ever. If you’re anything like me, you want to spend as much time with your child or children as is humanly possible. There’s also your spouse :). During breaks and gaps in your day, you need to figure out when can you work on everything that’s on the list. Work is simple: it must be done. Everything else requires some thinking.
Here are some ways that I’ve optimized my day.
Wake up at 5:00am. I need to go to the gym and this is the optimal time. The machines are free for the most part and I can get my workout done in an hour, way before anyone wakes up. I also listen to daily stock market news during this time.
Daily Walk Optimization. This is my daily cardio. I’ll walk anywhere from an hour to three hours, depending on the day of the week. Saturday and Sunday mornings get a much longer walk. I felt like I was wasting time during these walks. Then it finally hit me: I could be going through the more simpler Jira tasks, such as social media. I hate it that I’ve become that person that stares at their phone while walking through nature, but I can’t change it now. It’s not the entire time; other times, I’m listening to investment podcasts and enjoying the walk.
Commute. When I must commute on my own, this is podcast time. You can’t really do much more than that.
I didn’t cover Miro, which is a visual tool that I use for everything (and link to Jira). I felt like this article was already going overboard in organization, so you can research that one on your own.
If you ever feel stressed or like your family is suffering, it’s time to back off and reorganize yourself. See where you can be flexible, which is most places. Now go get organized. You can then start adding additional activities to your schedule, like the 100 day coding challenge.