31 August, 2017

Keeping my plates in the air

I have several different jobs and a couple of them mean dealing with a lot of sub-tasks which all have deadlines and various people I need to interact with. Some would say I'm the fortunate one, being able to set most of those deadlines, but it is a lot to keep a track of and a lot of responsibility and attention to detail. Juggling all of this can be a nightmare and and easily results in "dropped plates", especially if you tend towards being easily distracted and only fairly organised, rather than truly well organised.

People who know me might not believe it, but I'm only a fairly organised person (I like a lot of variety, my attention span can be short, and I get bored easily). I get organised when I'm overwhelmed, otherwise I approach life a bit more randomly—it's more interesting that way. 

It's ironic that I'm working on this post today. Actually I tried to do it yesterday but got overwhelmed by various other things like a storm that changed when I got home on my bike; a new, frustrating computer keyboard; and a boy who neglected to check his school email till nearly bedtime and insisted that he could only use my computer to do so.

Then today I'd planned to have the whole day at home working on getting on top of several jobs that were looming, but especially the OMF Japan blog. This morning I awoke to the news that I couldn't touch the OMF blog posts I'd been planning to work on most of the day because international headquarters are upgrading the web server. Yes, I'm being tested in patience and flexibility this week.

So, I had to face up to other things, like getting organised! It probably was a blessing as it forced me to face up to some other more difficult tasks on my plate. But it has been a somewhat overwhelming day, made worse by doing it while using my new Japanese keyboard and trackpad so that I can figure out if I can adjust to them (I'm thinking not).

However, my plan for this post was not to tell you about my day, but rather let you in on a secret weapon that I use to prevent dropped plates in my editing work. It's a website that one of my editing team introduced me to a couple of years ago: asana.com

It allows you to set up tasks and sub-tasks with due dates and, if you have a team using it, assign tasks or subtasks to people (or yourself).

Putting the magazine together gets very complicated, as I wrote about last year here. It's too complicated to just use a calendar, or a list on my phone, or even post-it notes. (Yes, I also use all of these things. To-do lists on post-it notes is one of my specialities. My boys know it too, I think I have several-years worth of post-it notes because they keep giving them too me. Actually, maybe not that many, but still a few!)

I have found Asana.com extremely useful and just this week have put it to use for the OMF Japan blog that I'm also managing. 

I know most of you aren't writers or editors, but you could use Asana for anything you're doing that has deadlines, especially if it is a longer term thing that needs you to do several steps over time to achieve it. For example, preparing for a trip or a presentation. Dates of your school-aged kids excursions or a reminder to do something a few weeks away that you're sure to forget. It really is an easy website to use, though like most things takes a bit of getting used to.

The trick is, of course, to look at the website often (or the phone app, I don't like it personally, but one of our Japan Harvest editors only uses it on that interface). Because I'm working with deadlines regularly I usually have it open in one of my tabs. I love the function "My tasks", which automatically shows you all that you have to do, and by when. I can keep tabs on my team (and writers) also, by typing their name into a box and finding out what they have due when...and following up when necessary.

Well, now I've had my fun in finishing off this blog post (started on my phone while I waited for my husband outside an electrical store yesterday), I need to get back to whatever else it was that needed doing...oh yes, the toilets needed cleaning and there was that email about our home assignment that I was writing and I've got to proofread our prayer letter. Hmmm. Back into the fray.


Deb L said...

Just popping back in time to say thanks very much for recommending asana. I gave it a go based on your post and it's been wonderful! I've tried digital "to-do" lists before but had never found an app or program that meshed with my natural work flow. Asana has been great! So thanks, Wendy!

Wendy said...

That's great Deb! I'm really glad you've found it useful.