Next week I am going to give a 8 hours “Introduction to Linux” course at the “Programming for Evolutionary Biology” workshop in Leipzig. In this post, I will describe how I have used a nice planning software called “trello” to make the schedule of the course.
You must know that I am a big fan of using small card papers to organize things. I started using CRC cards from the ExtremeProgramming techniques, and now the way I organize my time is similar to the KanBan technique, although I kind of evolved it independently. In simpler words, I have the habit of cutting A4 papers into 8 smaller A6 papers, the size of a post-it, and use them to take note and to plan my projects. If you visit my office, it is full of collections of “A6″ papers everywhere
One day I may prepare a blog post about how I organize my projects with A6 papers. For now, just consider that trello basically allows me to do on a web page what I usually do on paper. Also, trello allows to share workflows with other people on Internet.. For example, I can show you the schedule of the Linux course that I have made:
So, I used trello to make 5 distinct sets of cards, one for each of the 5 parts that compose the course. In each of this list, I filled some cards to describe the most important topics that I wanted to talk about in that part of the course. I have used some a red color label to highlight which is the most important message to transmit in each of the parts of the course, the “Take-Home” message.
One of the advantages of using cards is that you are forced to be very concise about what you write. Each card must describe a single topic; there is not enough space for more than one or two sentences. This is good, because if forces you to divide everything into the smallest units. If what you are writing doesn’t fit well in a card, it means that you have to split it into two different messages.
Another nice thing about using cards to plan workflows, is that you can easily move cards from one list to another. For example, at a certain point I noticed that I had to dedicate more time to explain the Unix manual and how to get documentation; so I had to move some of the topics to the afternoon, by moving the cards though the list. This is something quite easy to do if you are using cards; but if I was doing the planning on a normal A4 paper, I would have been forced to rewrite everything from the beginning. Cards are a very flexible tool.
So, if you are looking for a tool to organize your workflows, have a look at trello or at the Kanban methodology. Cards are a cool: and there are really a lot of ways to use them, from taking notes during a seminar, to plan your day schedule, to organize your PhD project.