Squeezing the tube of toothpaste. But for knowledge work.

Capturing information is a skill. Capturing the right information in the right way; a way that is actionable, is a higher-level mastery of such.

Yet, capturing information can become laborious, and if not properly filtered and focused, become a form of debt in itself. I know. I've struggled with this for a long time. Porting, basically the same information, from system to system over time. Files to websites. Websites to web services. Web service to web service. Every once in a while, back to a compelling desktop app.

I observed a pattern that repeated itself. The encoding and re-encoding of information. Sometimes new information. Often, existing information.

Capturing information

Information triggers come in the following forms:

  • face-to-face (receiving a message; eg: being assigned to task while having a conversation)
  • email (reading a message)
  • social media (reading a message)
  • experience (taking a picture)

Now, the capture is complete.


Processing

Trello is my currently my tool-of-choice for personal task management. I like Personal Kanban, and Trello is a natural fit there. I don't adhere to Kanban rules absolutely, but left-to-right flow works.

I also have an Icebox board, where I can dump ideas and track them, without the burden of committing to them. Icebox board has 2 lists: Incoming and Someday Maybe. Incoming Icebox cards are groomed regularly.

During grooming, I review each card and either move it to my Personal board, or move it to the Someday Maybe list. When Incoming is empty. I move on to the next phase.

The next phase is Review. Starting to review, I look at the right-hand column of my Personal board for the task at hand.

Can I do this right now? Does it need to be broken down in more detail?

So, a task goes into my Trello board. If its related to another Trello board, I'll move it to those Trello boards. But now, I've touched the same piece of meta-information at least twice already. This is the cost I'm talking about.

What I've done, is essentially squeezed the toothpaste (the work to be done) from the very end of tube (or edges of my personal intake systems) nearer to the nozzle (focus of actual work time and resources). Its action, but a weird kind of supporting action. A delayed, but necessary action.

So, from Personal Trello board to Project Trello board (which I have 4 of) or Work Trello board (for work related ideas and tasks). And then, some of the information goes into a Reference Trello board, which is like research and inspirational images (cool graphics basically) or an external hard-drive. And, other information is headed to the Blog.

When too many tasks

I've found one Trello board to overflow quickly, and once it hits a certain size, I tend to use it less - which translates to less value for me. I resort to other hacky workarounds, like paper, gists, and .sketch visuals - which are decent mediums to just get an idea out - but it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of accessibility, findabilty, and ultimately, integrability. The ability to integrate information into something larger is a function I feel has not yet been fully realized, nor materialized, obviously.

Output

The Inputs of knowledge work are outlined above. Here are some of my common outlets.

  • Paper/Post-its/Sketchpad
  • Blog
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Foursquare
  • GitHub
  • Civic Studio
  • Afomi
  • Paintings

One thing I found interesting while writing this post was realizing that Paper is both an Output and an Input for me, during work and during creative personal time. I've struggled with whether to go fully-digital and abandon paper. It took me years to trust the Kindle, and they final won me over with digital annotation. But, I still choose paper when I need to get an idea down quickly. Putting my fingers on a keyboard somehow puts my mind in a different mode. As I type the things into Trello, or whatever app, the additional cycle of throughput - from eye through hand to digitized computer text, the content of the card takes on a new perspective.

I struggle to determine and articulate the value of going from paper to digital so often. It feels like scribing often. Until the digitized work comes together in something greater than the individual writings and sketches.


Comments

A figment of

Afomi is the digital sandbox of Ryan Wold. This site, like myself, is a work in progress. I am always evolving it to better share my inspirations and aspirations.

About

Ryan is a systems-thinking Product Developer and Designer who practices agile, test-driven, and lean software delivery, while solving problems with people.