Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Focus on the outcome for success

One feature frequently requested on Teamness support was to display all the items assigned to a milestone. We also felt the need for an overview of all the tasks and messages that belong to a milestone, therefore the page View milestone was born.

Why was it needed?

First of all, let's think about what a milestone is. It is an objective that must be met during the development cycle. An objective is met by doing work, which is translated into tasks.

In Teamness it was possible to assign tasks and messages to a milestone, but there was no way to aggregate all these together.

How to use this feature?

One of the most powerful concepts of David Allen’s GTD system is outcome-based thinking, as Merlin Mann points out.

Setting the outcome like Merlin describes in terms of "I need to $FOO because I want to $BAR" gives you something you can use. It clearly shows the goal. But in order to avoid procrastination to settle, a listing of the steps to get you to this goal is required.

How about an example?

Christmas is coming soon. Santa Claus didn't reply to my letters, so I have to take care of the presents for my family this year. But doing Santa's job is a piece of cake with the use of the new View milestone page.

First, I'm setting the milestone, Merlin Mann style: I need to buy presents for my family members because I want them to feel the Christmas spirit.

Now that I have my goal set in clear terms, I need to build the list of steps. I create the following tasks and assign them to this milestone:
  • Make the budget for the presents
  • Find a nice blue shirt size 42 for dad, since I heard him saying he needs one
  • Decide if I buy my mother some piece of jewelry or an electronic photo frame
  • Look for websites where I can order that thing my girlfriend was dreaming about for months
Where does other stuff fall in?

While working towards completing the tasks, often you need to store various bits of information to help you in this journey toward the goal. Teamness allows assigning also messages to a milestone.

I used this feature to store various related information, like the followings:
  • I built a list of websites with Christmas gifts ideas.
  • I took some paragraphs from some blog posts about what others are considering buying for their family members.
  • Talking to my friends I asked what they are buying for their parents and then put all the notes down in a message named "Presents my friends are considering".
Here is how it looks like (click on the image for a bigger version):

We hope you'll find this feature useful and that it will considerably improve your workflow.

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