Longer races usually use "bins" to group runners, like classes of service.

Longer races usually use “bins” to group runners, like classes of service.

Without some sort of structure, projects, daily to-dos, ideas and just flat stuff can quickly overwhelm anyone. Many, if not most, of us have spent time taking time management classes of all types in an attempt to find the secret sauce for managing the chaos that is the 21st century. My wife is a sort of adherent of GTD®. Once upon a time I took classes for the Franklin Covey Planner, and I dutifully carried it everywhere. In recent years I have used Scrum and Kanban to manage projects. Many of the lessons in Agile and lean project management coupled with time management concepts are a useful synthesis: a personal Scrumban (Kanban-y Scrumban) approach. The approach begins with deciding on a set of classes of service and then developing an initial backlog.

In a typical implementation of Kanban, classes of service allow teams to break backlog items into different groups either based on risk or the cost of delay. In our personal Scrumban, we combine the concept of cost of delay with different focus areas. Unlike a typical work environment where a person and team would focus on one thing at a time, a personal process for handling the overwhelming list of projects and tasks that occur in everyday life needs to acknowledge life is more than a project or a sprint.

I have developed an approach that recognizes five classes of work ranging from association work items to work items associated with my work (I am process consultant and manager at the David Consulting Group). Each class of service has a higher or lower priority based on the day of the week and time of day.

My Classes of Service

My Classes of Service

For example, daily items like running or editing a podcast segment typically have higher priority between the time I get up and beginning the work day. In a similar manner house/personal and podcast/blog entries priorities are driven by day of week and/or time of day. Alternately work and association items are driven by cost of delay. The backlog items in each class of service vie for the slices of attention available 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Backlog items are captured in a wide variety of manners. For example, project work items can be captured using standard techniques for building an initial backlog (observation, showing, asking and/or synthesis). Backlogs for most projects can be developed using these techniques. Many smaller items or grand concepts will be discovered while encountering day-to-day trails and just generally living life. These need to be captured and logged (a habit that has been drilled into me by my wife), where they can be broken down and prioritized at leisure rather than being forgotten. Just as in a typical backlog, items that that are higher priority (by class of service) are broken down into next steps that are small enough to be completed in one to two days.

Using Scrumban as an approach to bring order out of chaos can be combined with other time management techniques. Real life is more complicated than a single project. For example, real life might be a project at work, prepping the yard for winter on the weekend, training for a half marathon and writing a book before sunrise. Each type of work is its own class of service that needs to be addressed separately to focus on what is important, when it is important.