TaskAlot 3.0 - Context
After two trials to adopt Notion, it's time to do it right - With an expert. I call this new setup TaskAlot 3.0 (a more inspiring name might be welcome). This article contains its specifications + context, written in 2022.09.
Direct cause for TaskAlot 3.0
I've been using Notion for half a year now, for business and private project management, only for myself. However, I now need an online project management tool for collaboration with a subcontractor.
The problem: I don't feel that my Notion setup is ready for this, but I also don't want to go back to Trello. I do use Trello for another subcontractor, and it basically does what I want (see elsewhere for details).
Issues with Notion
This is where I got stuck with TaskAlot 2.0:
- Contingency problem:, e.g., when closing a project, the associated tasks should also be closed
- Collaborate?: How to share certain parts of the setup without using control?
- Ready for real world usage? My Notion setup still feels like a toy that will never be ready for actual usage and that mgiht get completely redone at every new development.
See Questions & Issues (Notion) for details.
A proof-of-concept that Notion could work for me as a Trello replacement with some specific bells & whistles:
- Trello-like boards: Have at least two Trello-like boards
- Collaborate: Be able to share a board with somebody, where that person can read and edit, but not see the other board, or change any other things
- Categories & projects: Associate boards with Categories and Projects
- Overviews: Have tasks from these boards combined in different ways in overviews, e.g., all tasks sorted by Category or Kanban state
- Contingency: When a project is closed, the associated remaining tasks should also be closed (disappear from relevant overviews)
No data needs to be imported from Trello or TaskAlot 2.0.
What I currently use
An impression of project management tools that I use right now:
Next to online project management tools, I use a planning with PostIt papers. I like how visual it as, and how flexible it is in certain ways. Some of the things that it showed me that I care about:
- There are six rather static Categories (Revenue, Overhead, BizDev, R&D, Private and Private-x), but you hardly see that back here. Ideally, that would be the color of the large PostIt papers, but that was too complex
- The large PostIt papers are Projects. There are about 20 projects at a time. They frequently change names and projects are often merged or split. I also often use something like 'project aliases'. E.g., subcontractor John might be active in various projects, but I prefer to have a 'project alias' called John where this comes together. In Notion, one of my favourite things is that I can associate a task to multiple projects
- Directly at the right of the projects, are current tasks or urgent tasks - Simply the tasks that I need to focus on right now
- A bit more to the right: Tasks for this week
- Even more to the right: Backlog. These tasks are often less well-defined
- On the left of the project PostIt papers: Tasks that are done - Not so important
- Top-left: A project that has been concluded. I try to keep stuff that is done on the board, to remind myself that there is progress :)
- Second image: Other people's tasks, visually separated from my own (the small pink papers on project papers)
- Sometimes I also included small papers over the project names to indicate 'recurrent tasks (like weekly calls), but that isn't that important.
Currently, I only use one Trello board, concerning a project with one subcontractor:
- Columns & cards with text in capitals (on the left) contain general (non-task) information. I use capitals for everything that isn't a task. Grote lijnen means Broad lines
- Several columns with Backlog tasks (Werkvoorraad). There is actually a card somewhere with my name on it, that says Clean up backlog
- Column Actual denotes Current tasks
- Several columns that start with OK and a week number: Delivered items
- Colors: Green = finished. Purple: To be included in next site update. Orange: Active. Yellow: Waiting for input
Just an impression:
Access to completed items
What is a practical way to get access to tasks that are completed? In large projects, this would become a very large list, and I usually hide this column.
After giving it some thoughts, I realise this is hardly a problem:
- To start with: I only rarely need access to tasks that are done
- Hiding the column Completed actually works really well: When you hoover over it, the corresponding content appears. That's quite useful
- When the list Completed on a board gets too large, it may be a sign that the board isn't about a project anymore, but appearantly just some operational work. Otherwise, maybe split it into projects? Like ServerMaintenance21 and ServerMaintenance22?
- Maybe extend the Kanban State field to incorporate fields like Completed20 and Completed21? → Probably not a good idea, for it wouldn't be universal anymore (because it wouldn't be relevant for e.g., projects started in 2022) and it couldn't be used in conjunction with the usual column Completed
- Use Local state for this. Just as specified in this document: This provides excellent overview on project boards, but not so in overviews - See next items
- Overviews are maybe just not the right place to dig into finished items, because it will usually get really big over time.
This have been moved to TaskAlot 3.0 - Functional specification.
Stuff that isn't part of the proof-of-concept, but that I do like to include one day
Just simple lists, from server maintenance to getting up in the morning. They don't seem to be connected to other entities.
- I currently use a WhatsApp-group-with-only-myself as brain repository or brain dump
- Sometimes I feel like quickly adding something to Notion without having to properly classify it at that moment
- The reason for using Notion for this, rather than the WhatsApp group: In the end, it should live in Notion, so this is closer by already. On the other hand: It might be confusing to have loose notes at different systems, and I quite like the WhatsApp-group-with-only-myself.
Eventually, I would like to include boards for private projects, like Gardening and Renovation.
Some vague ideas about how Notion could help me with other things:
Agenda - Maybe
- I'm using Google Calendar, which I manually update. It uses the same categories as TaskAlot (up to the same colors) and I find it a bit stupid that I do things double.
- On the other hand: In Notion I mostly manage deliverables and not effort, while in a calendar I usually write down efforts, and not deliverables
- Occasionally, I use GTimeReport when planning my weeks, to make sure I plan enough hours per category.
- I use an LibreOffice spreadsheet for tracking my time (mostly for business, but sometimes also private, when I am occasionally wondering where my life is going). That basically goes ok
- However, it feels a bit redundant to do that here, especially if occasionally, I would like to compaire it with my planning in Google Calendar: My actual hours are never as planned. It would be nice if I could see the difference. By using two Google Calendars? That doesn't sound like a good idea
- It's also too much work to consolidate figures once in a while. Like when I want to know how many hours I made for customer X or project Y over the last year.
For some customers, I work partially on a provision basis. That means that I have to gather a bunch of data every month,:
- Revenue figures from 30+ websites
- Revenue figures from 10 Amazon sites and Bol.com (a Dutch market place)
- Invoices from subcontractors
- Invoices from a hosting provider.
Subsequently, I enter this data manually in a spreadsheet and compile the monthly invoice.
I would be happy to outsource or automate this.
Gant charts - Probably not
I actually rarely have deadlines. I'm also quite bad at them. Notion can do Gant charts. Relevant or not for me? Probably not.
- Grouping (Notion)
- Homepage » Notion
- TaskAlot 1.0 - Of limited relevance
- TaskAlot 2.0 - Of limited relevance
- TaskAlot 3.0 - Functional specification
- TaskAlot 3.1 - Functional specification
- TaskAlot 3.1 - Technical specification
- Task Manager Thomas Frank - Source of inspiration, although I don't really understand his system
- Use cases - An old list of what I want to do with Notion. I should upgrade it, or throw it away.