A Whiteboard Task Management System for Working From Home
“The TaskManager helps me visually organize myself in a really effective way while cutting down on paper. Once I get back in the office and I sort of have a bigger whiteboard and a desk, I think I might start using them in other ways than I do today. I think it’s going to evolve.” — Wenda Huseman
Wenda Huseman doesn't need to get back to her office. She's VP of Revenue Maximization & Research for The Pursuit Collection, a company specializing in adventure and travel experiences. Like the rest of us at the start of the pandemic, she had to reinvent her methods of collaboration, learning, and productivity. And she has. Instead of an all-screens-all-the-time approach, she has now incorporated a personal whiteboarding system to counterbalance the digital exhaustion of online project management and video calls.
The American workforce is going through a historic upheaval. There are monthly shocks and swings in employment. People have been told to work from home, then invited back to the office, then sent home again or asked to find some workable hybrid version. At the same time, people have to find and incorporate solutions for childcare and remote learning. It's not just that the problem is enormous; it's that every single one of us has a different work/life puzzle to solve. But the thing is, we are solving it.
So is Wenda. Finding herself working from home, she had to figure out how to collaborate remotely while maintaining a personal productivity system that she could customize and tweak to meet her needs.
The foundation of her system is a combo kit we call the TaskManager. It consists of two large, personal whiteboarding Tiles, eight smaller Tiles with customizable color bands, and a set of dry-erase markers.
Throughout her day, she adds notes, ideas, and tasks into her system by recording them onto the included Large Tiles she takes with her to meetings. After using them for 4 months, she explains her approach:
"Depending on the time of year and projects, a lot of times, I'll be in meetings from 8 am to 5 pm, so I'll take a couple of the bigger squares, and in every meeting, I just take down action steps. So in this meeting, on this day, here's the action item takeaways. And then I go back at the end of the week and really consolidate what had and hadn't been done. I just wiped through the action items."
It's this non-digital physicality that sets the TaskManager apart from digital organizing and project management systems. Most people don't feel very connected to those apps. It can be challenging for digitally abstract interfaces to elicit physical responses. Most folks don't find sitting in an office chair, pushing around a mouse, and clicking on pixels very engaging. Pulling out a phone and stabbing at little boxes is at least a bit more physical, but those small screens can be fussy and tedious.Buy a TaskManager Now!
Whether we like it not, all the work we do has a physical component. We might feel anxious, relieved, or frustrated at different times of the day. Even if working entirely online or in front of a screen, a lot of people will feel exhausted at the end of a long day. Your productivity and focus are both subject to those physical factors. For instance, many professionals will admit that there's a little dopamine hit that fires every time they get to cross something off a task list, regardless of how important it is. Wenda explains how important that sense is to staying productive:
"There's a little bit of satisfaction in taking a different color pen and crossing off the stuff you actually got done in that particular week. Then you grab a new whiteboard, and you say, "I still have to do this, this, and this." And you wipe off the old one, so you're ready to hit the ground running on Monday. It's a great feeling."
A sense of completion and dopamine rewards aren't the only advantages to using a personal whiteboarding system like the TaskManager. Another factor is customizability.
There are a ton of productivity apps that pride themselves on being customizable. But we are blinded by the dominant metaphor of tasks organized around due dates. We think that customizing the system means choosing between looking at the tasks on a timeline, in groups, or on a calendar. That's like saying you drive a "custom" Toyota Camry because you chose the blue one.
A Truly Custom System
You can use any single whiteboarding tool in the mcSquares family of products in many different ways. We already mentioned above that Wenda uses a Large Tile to record notes and action items for meetings. You might end up using them in an entirely different way. Maybe you'll use the Large Tiles for diagrams or charts or to quickly sketch out a concept. Real customization means being able to choose an entirely different metaphor or set of metaphors.
We've designed the combination of tools in the TaskManager kit (Large Tiles, Mini Tiles, Colorbands, and Tackies Markers) to be configured into a visual, physical productivity system precisely fitting to your specific needs.
Wenda takes full advantage of the TaskManager’s customizability. For instance, she uses the available flat surfaces around her workspace to layout notes and tasks according to projects:
"I have a whiteboard in my regular office, but I don't have one in my home office, so I sort of have them spread out on the right-hand side of my desk. I have a lot more room. So all I have to do is look over on my desk when I'm in a meeting and say, "Oh, we're supposed to be doing this, this, and this. I've checked off these two things. I'm still working on these three things. And where are you, as far as your project and your action items?" So it makes it super easy to scan vs. trying to figure out where you wrote that damn thing down."
Wenda is one of the top professionals in her industry. She knows how essential it is to build a productivity and project management system that exactly fits her needs. She's incorporated the TaskManager into the heart of her workflow to respond to the challenges and limitations of digital systems. She can survey the scope of her responsibilities and review her projects' action items at a glance. And it's a system portable and responsive enough for her to take back to her office when things get closer to normal.
Note: The image at the top of the page is a professional model posing with a TaskManager, not Wenda Huseman.