Blog 2019 Reflections

Tagged: Thoughts Data | Posted: Tue, Dec 31, 2019 approx. 5 min read

I’ve previously written about my method of logging tasks, and notwithstanding the limitations of just focusing on tasks, I’ve found it enlightening to reflect back on what the data is telling me about what I’ve been spending my time on in 2019. I’m sure reflection is good for you, but like dieting and focus, I struggle to do it. I’ve enjoyed othersweeknotes, but have dropped out of the habit - perhaps a more chart based approach might give me a good base to build some narrative on. So here goes.

Raw number for 2019

707 Tasks done in 130 Projects and organised in 21 Contexts.

So what does that even mean? I’ve defining a task as a bit of work, that ideally shouldn’t be more than a day (if it is I can duplicate) or less than about 15 minutes. It’s a workable definition that over time I’m getting better at sticking to, but in the first bit of useful refection it does make me think that a better, more precise definition might be helpful - (i’ll put it on the list todo!)

For Projects I can use a more widely used definition that I learnt this year that does the trick.

A project is a unique, transient endeavour, undertaken to achieve planned objectives, which could be defined in terms of outputs, outcomes or benefits.


Most of my work tasks are pretty easy to define in this way - less so for more personal tasks that are less structured.

And the final aspect of a task is the most esoteric. Based on the GTD principle, and then adapted over the years, I’ve tried to categorise tasks into useful groupings. For example, I’ve defined ‘comms’ as an activity - which is mainly email, but includes more modern methods like messaging and things like chats. However, as I look through the tasks I’ve designated as ‘comms’ then I can see things that on reflection might be in better areas. It’s when faced with failures of categorisatiin that It’s good to remind myself that this is meant to be a method to get things done, and that I mustn’t fall into the trap of ‘fixing’ the data so that I can come up with some kind of data equivalent of a touched up and filtered selfie.

So, to the data

Tasks of 2019 with Meeting tasks highlighted
Tasks of 2019 with Meeting tasks highlighted

Of those 707 tasks this year, 217 are meeting related. That sounds a lot at first, but I’ve been trying to Sounds a lot at first but I’ve been trying to be more structured remind meetings and so every meeting if you do it properly should probably consist of a task to prepare for the meeting a task to go to the meeting and a task to write up the notes from the meeting.Looking at the tasks related to meetings - something I need to get better that is myt choice of verb in the task. So for example, if I look at the task and it starts ‘attend’ I know the task. Prepare is another verb i should be using and Record perhaps would be another task verb useful in this context.

My meeting tasks are fairly evenly spread out throughout the year with no major variation. That contrasts that with the ‘comms’ context that I’m using and I can see an Accessibility project that kicked off in August has lots of Communication tasks which reflects the nature of the work - asking lots and lots of people forward to provide the information on Accessibility.

I’m positive that any more ‘insights’ about my year are only of interest to me, but I think you get the idea.

It’s been a great learning exercise in to create my own tasks dashboard to interact with and reflect upon - which unfortunately I can’t easily share having done it in Power BI - Some way of creating shareable dashboards would a great new feature for Power BI.

The major lesson around my reasonably mature task system is that the collection of you data is crucial in making it useful down the line. I’ve resisted the urge to do a large revisionist reclassification of the tasks, but looking over them does make me reflect on what I’ve done and what I’d like to do next year.

Meet less would be one - but I’m not optimistic about that - so perhaps I can settle for ‘meet better’.

Getting a life

Also with some significant upheavals in work, I’ve been rethinking how I work, and I think that it may be healthier and more sustainable to have more of a life outside work, and switch off my natural tendency to mull and have work things stew. I think I’ll stop short of calling things side-projects, but drawing more personal things will definitely move up the agenda.

In that vein, it’s been tricky to cope with the moving on off my wonderful boss, and as new realities of work structures bite it’ll be a test to see how adaptable this old dog can be. I’m always optimistic.

Looking back through my sketchbooks I can see that I’ve been drawing less, which is daft - since I know that I enjoy it, and it’s good for me.

I took a conscious decision to read more fiction this year - that was a good decision, but I couldn’t help noticing that I’ve become very bad at concentrating on reading, so I’ve decided no more new books until I make headway on the existing pile, and maybe dip my toe into audiobooks.