I’ve been using the various Task Order Up! variations for the past week, and in general I like the idea and the card format. I’m particularly liking the 4×6 card version 5: they’re small enough to keep handy and fit in my back pocket, yet big enough to be noticed on my desk; the 3×5 cards tend to get a little lost.
What’s interesting: a different kind of job tracking methodology is starting to fall out of this, which is great because I’ve hit a wall with intermittent projects. I have about 5 or 6 client projects of constantly shifting priorities. Sometimes these projects go dormant for a week or two; one has actually entered deep hibernation due to an internal reorganization.
As I’m not particularly adept at juggling, I’ve adapted the Task Order Up into something that retains the check-rail compatible qualities, but is more suitable for tasks that are spread over a longer period of time.
Enter the Intermittent Task Tracker.
The Basic Idea
The basic idea behind all the card-based things I’ve been doing (other than I love cards) is the maintaining of continuity. Compared to tools like the Task Progress Tracker, the Intermittent Task Tracker focuses on maintaining a collection of cards instead of an overall project list. If you like coming at your projects from a top down perspective, you’ll probably like the Task Progress Tracker format. If you like thinking more on the details of a task level, then the Intermittent Task Tracker (and the various forms of Task Order Up!) may appeal to you more.
Another way of looking at it: The Task Progress Tracker is great if you like one piece of paper, and maintain a folder of your projects as your continuity-maintaining device. The Intermittent Task Tracker is great if you like multiple cards, and have a recipe box, thumbtack, or check rail system. That’s my theory, anyway.
Compared to the Task Order Up: The ITT is designed for use over a period spanning more than a week, when you have projects that don’t have hard deadlines. Another project category would be hourly-rate type jobs like maintenance contracts, retained hours, and other “open billed” projects.
Of course, you can use the Intermittent Task Tracker as a regular Task Order Up card…nothing’s stopping ya!
Changes from the Task Order Up!
I’ve dropped the “total hours used” area though because it’s not as necessary; while this is useful if you’re in a timecard environment and need to sum up your project hours on a weekly basis, that’s not the use I need for these.
On the right you can see a scan of an example card; this is pretty much how I’m expecting to use it this week:
- There are triangles on the left side of the 15-min bubbles. These mark a new dated entry, so you can separate what hours go with what day with a bit of counting.
Each card can handle up to 20 hours. If you run out of bubbles, just grab a new card and assign a new CARD# at the bottom. This allows you to keep the cards in sequence, and maintain the history of the project in an index card box.
You’ll note the use of | marks between bubbles. They’re unfortunately a little too close together to easily use (a different color pen would be useful here). These correspond to the / marks in the descriptions; for example, the 5/9 entry shows a “kickoff meeting” and a “first draft”. The | mark in the bubbles for the first entry show the split of time: 1hr 15min for the kickoff, and another 30 min for the design draft.
Each description has a dated entry. This is new; the Task Order Up, by comparison, doesn’t need these because the tasks are supposed to be short and doable within the span of a week. For intermittent tasks spread over weeks, the date is necessary.
The very last entry shows an example of estimated time. I traced empty circles indicating how much time I thought this task might take to complete, and filled them in as I went. As it so happened, it took less time, and noted this.
Since the job is complete, I wrote closed job at the bottom of the card, just so it’s clear it’s terminated. This is also indicated by the “1 / 1” at the bottom of the card; you would add the “/ 1” when you know the job is complete. If you run out of space on the card, file it away and make new cards with an incremented card number.
The jobcode is a system I use internally; I assign every incoming prospect a jobcode number, and create a corresponding folder on my production computer’s
_local_projectsfolder. This folder is periodically backed up to my main fileserver, or whenever I feel nervous. That number is also used for invoicing, naming BaseCamp projects, and for my SVN repository. One of these days I’ll have to automate the whole thing, but I’ve been too lazy to do it.
As others have noted, you can always write notes on the back of the card!
p>So that’s it! I’ll be using this format this week as I close out some lingering projects.
Download the Intermittent Task Tracker
» Download the Intermittent Task Tracker 4×6
I feel I must apologize for the sheer number of Task Order Up variations that are cropping up. I have no idea which ones are the most popular…if you have a favorite format or size, let me know so I can keep it alive.
» This article is part of The Printable CEO Series