Working Remotely – Efficiently and Effectively: Part III

Posted by Josh Jinks-Chang


For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.” -Benjamin Franklin

5. Organization or Structure

Knowing that Ben Franklin must have had a never-ending list of projects and inventions, he must have also found methods to organize his busy life. Today, most people in the data space are too familiar with the need for careful time management: “I’m working on multiple projects at once”;  “I have back-to-back meetings for the next 6 hours, and I’m the one taking all the notes”; or what about “I was given 60 files of standard operating procedures to review ASAP.”

So many files, so little time

Yet finding ourselves in a time crunch isn’t the only source of disorganization we face. We all have a myriad of files and digital assets to manage across various projects – Word documents, emails, Excel files, PowerPoints, Visio diagrams, Tableau dashboards, CSVs, database tables, Python scripts, Alteryx workflows, JPG screenshots, etc. And unfortunately, it seems like every project timeline and every file we engage with is equally time-sensitive and demanding of our constant attention.

Disorganization can lead to metaphorical disaster

Disorganization can be overwhelming, bad for business, and probably harmful to mental and emotional health. Even though we work in consulting and sit behind a computer for the most part, we sometimes live our lives too close to the edge. What I mean is one delay can cause a domino effect, and soon we’re behind schedule and the potential to miss deadlines altogether is real. While falling behind can be a result of the sheer volume of tasks we are assigned and the number of files we process on a daily basis, it can also be a result of disorganization. Not having a clear and systematic way to organize files would be like if I decided to show up to Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen dinner night. A disaster.

Organization for knowledge

So far, this series has discussed strategies for organizing your company, communication, relationships, and time. But what about filesharing, knowledge share, and prioritizing tasks? At Aimpoint Digital, we use tools like Office 365 SharePoint, MS Teams, OneNote, and ClickUp.

Sharepoint for collaborative content

We leverage SharePoint by creating different sites or folders for different projects, clients, and internal initiatives. This helps us organize everything from Data Dictionary templates and Alteryx training content to secret optimization algorithms (and maybe even an embarrassing photo or two). With tools like SharePoint and ClickUp, we can provision access to specific external partners and project teams. SharePoint even has a way to help us with version control on documents so that team members can refer to older files. This is beyond valuable especially if someone makes a rookie mistake and forgets to save back-up copies.

Furthermore, our team has mapped SharePoint to our laptops, allowing us to interact with SharePoint from Windows Explorer. This allows us to treat the SharePoint folders and files as if they were on our own desktop. Rather than going to SharePoint online to download or view a file on the server, we bypass this and edit files directly on the desktop. Moving, creating, updating, archiving, and organizing files have never been easier.

Teams to curate content

Microsoft Teams contains sections where we post and share certain content. For example, we have a section in Teams called “Today I learned…”. It provides a space where team members can share a snippet of whatever they have learned and opens up communication. While posts typically cover something in the Data Science, Analytics, Visualization, Technology, and Industry space, if a team member shared that they learned how to make banana bread waffles, we’d allow it. Microsoft Teams makes it easy to create various groups and channels to organize our thoughts and discussions. That conversation about banana bread waffles may just offshoot into its own baking channel!

OneNote for communal notebooks

Similarly, OneNote notebooks are created for projects and initiatives to further organize and structure our content. We might partition our OneNote notebook into multiple sections for a multi-phased engagement. Within each phase, pages, subpages, sub-subpages, and so on are created to accommodate different workstreams and activities. Each workstream might contain notes from meetings, attached documents, screenshots, and other content. Often times, if we find we disagree with one another about what Master Data Management style was decided in a meeting, OneNote has proven to be a good source of truth for us.

Clickup is a master tool to keep us all on track

ClickUp is a tool similar to Trello, Jira, and Azure DevOps all rolled into one. There are so many customizable functionalities that lets anyone get creative. ClickUp allows us to create multiple workspaces – usually for a major project, client, or initiative. Within each workspace, folders can be created, where folders can also be major initiatives; and within each folder, lists of important tasks and subtasks can be created to logically organize our activities and provide direction to an end-state. Within each task and subtask, further descriptions, comments, wiki pages, change logs, and other details can be added. These workspaces can be viewed as lists, boards, Gantt charts, and more, giving us visibility across the entire end-to-end scope of a project. Custom fields, along with standard fields, can be added to further customize the view to display status types, due dates, assignees, priorities, and more. This level of structure is not just useful in helping us organize tasks, but also very useful for tracking deadlines and statuses. This allows us to mitigate risks, improve time to output, and to call out team members who are delayed or overdue on a task. Literally, call out on the phone or teams, but in the nicest way possible. At Aimpoint Digital, no one can ever say they missed a due date because we have adopted ClickUp. ClickUp emails you the moment you have been assigned a task, and ClickUp also sends reminders before assigned tasks are due. The only excuse we can use now is that all ClickUp emails have an automatic filter to spam, but excuses are not part of the Aimpoint culture.

Organization makes project management easier

Organization in the long run is the difference between being able to achieve major milestones or falling short of even accomplishing daily activities. Organizing our tasks helps us individually manage our days and weeks into a routine. It also allows us to manage our company’s sales pipeline, project roadmaps, internal initiatives, recruiting, and which team members are taking their much-needed PTO. Organizing our files with digital tools like SharePoint and OneNote is like having real-life searchable file cabinets. This centralized method enables us to always have access to our latest market offerings, project artifacts, leading industry methodologies, reusable templates, and secret algorithm scripts. So don’t chase your day; get ahead of it. Handle business; don’t handle busyness. Like the previous blog post discussed, use some technology to help distribute that cognitive load of yours. We can’t all be John Nash, Marie Curie, or Skynet, but we can get close by leveraging some tools to help us get more organized.

Stay tuned for Part IV of this series!

Missed Part II: Scheduling

Missed Part I: Culture, Communication, and Personal Connection

 

Aimpoint Digital will help you take an idea from thought through execution. This collaborative journey will enable you to get the most out of your data and technology investments. Contact us to begin your acceleration process.

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