Setting Up Trello

My current board on Trello

So, I have finally set up the Trello board like I was supposed to. I didn’t realise that it was more a requirement than a request so its taken a little while for me to sort out. I have to admit that this has addressed a problem for me though.

The Goals Keep on Coming…

Once I started thinking about what it is that I wanted to learn, the kind of developer I wanted to be and the tools and knowledge that I would require, the SMART goals started coming thick and fast. The problem that I started to experience was simple overwhelm. More specifically, I was struggling with the effectiveness of the tool that I was using which was Workflowy. I could not see where I was in relation to the tasks that I had already defined and frankly it was making me very reluctant to issue myself with any more goals, despite them being identified as necessary. I have experienced this in the past and know to visualise the tasks, usually using pieces of paper and a time line on the wall. I think that my experience with Trello in the past was not that good as I, and the leadership of the Commercial Game project on the BA were constantly on it and found that many team members didn’t pay any attention to it therefor wasting out own time. I think that how I feel about Trello was linked to that experience more than how effective the tool can actually be. I am happy to have been pushed into using it a second time and time (and use) will tell if its ‘Team Trello’ or, well, just get out of my face Trello!

Example of the checklist approach for the task ‘Learn C++’

Deciding on a Structure

This was a little tricky but nothing that a little thought could not sort out. I am pleased that I am somewhat late to the party and I learned a lot from Sam’s very, very good journal and posts on Canvas about his use of Git Trelloish, which I strongly believe to be the name of that tool… It might be Git Kraken Glo. Might be. I like the way that Michael Scott set up the Trello board in the example video and I think that using the ‘user stories’ approach makes a lot of sense if there is one project to a board. But, I think that for that tasks that I have to accomplish, Sam’s idea (which was the same as mine, I promise!) was that one list should have all the SMART goals and then the other lists track tasks that are related to them. So, thats what I decided to do. I now have a list of all the SMART goals and have created a label for each of them that is used to link the smaller task cards that will move around the board. I also decided that for the most part the main card that resides in the SMART goal list will contain a detailed set of checklists so that I can track how for I think I am through a particular goal. From that card I have extracted a task or three that has gone into a list called Sprint To Do and I would like these completed by the 30th of this month. I have made sure that all of the goals that I have identifies so far are represented in that list ensuring (hopefully) that all of the goals move forward in some meaningful way by the deadline. I have also put a work in progress limit on the In-Progress list of 3. This eliminates that uncomfortable feeling that you ‘should be doing something else’, common to large sets of tasks. I think that this will work well and I expect that I will be more productive and focused thanks to using this board.

I have also made sure that my SMART goals are on the main task card so that I cant escape from the things I said I would do. Is there no mercy?

I Do Like a Good List

Bow down before the Order of the List!

So, the way that I have thought through the lists is this. I started off with Michael Scott’s version with the Project To Do in there too but quickly found that it was really a double for the the SMART goals list so I took it out. However, I have already found that I need some other sort of ‘dumping ground’ for things that are not real objectives yet but that I do not want to lose track of either. This lead to the inclusion of the list called Goals and Activity Ideas. This is a place to put things that may form into full on SMART goals or not. From there I have gone through each of the defined SMART goals and pulled at least one, but usually two or three tasks, and put them into a list called Sprint To Do. Thats the pool of things that I can then draw forward into the list In-Progress. I have put a WIP limit on this as I said (you were listening, right?) as it prevents the task flood. From there, the task hits the Update Journal list and I am pretty pleased with this. I have been struggling to track what I should be talking about sometimes with regard to my own personal practice. I think covering the course material is obvious enough but sometimes I just don’t post about what I am doing, making it look like I’m not doing anything. So, Im really keen to see if this list does what I think it will and have me updating the journal more frequently. From there tasks go to Peer and Staff review so that I can get some much valued feedback about things and if all is good and I have been a good lad, then its onto the Complete list. I’m not sure what happens if I’m not a good lad though.

Getting SMARTer

Image found at this beautiful location

I have decided to construct a template for my SMART goals as I think that I would miss some of the details that make a worthwhile goal if I am left to remember all the elements each time. I am getting on a bit now…

I have been focusing this morning on making sure that I am up to date with the course content and have found during that process that I have already written some SMART goals that I am not tracking properly and that on reflection, I need more goals! I know, you let one stray cat in and suddenly there is a flock of them. Cats move in flocks, right?

Template time

So, this is the template that I have come up with, some of which is my own thinking (copyright MrSofaNinja) and some is from the video that Al put together on SMART goals (copyright MrSofaNinja). Oh, and I am taking up copyright theft, Ill need a SMART goal for that.

  • Specific
    • I will … so that I can… which will … I will do this by… and I will complete this in … (time)
  • Measurable
    • I will track my progress by… The measurable outcome will be…
  • Achievable
    • This is achievable because… A similar skill I have learned is… The skill level that I should be aiming at for this goal is… I may need to watch out for… that may make this task unachievable.
  • Relevant
    • This goal is relevant to me because it improves my ability to… I am the right person for this because… In the future I will need this skill because… This is the right time to achieve this goal because…
  • Time Bound
    • The entire goal will be completed by/in… I will achieve this be spending … time per… (day/week/task).

So, this will help me to construct better goals some of which will follow…

Week Fours things to hammer the keyboard about.

Critical reflection and Journaling

I like this next video. You need to recognise where your problems are and then develop concrete plans. This is the purpose of the journal. This is important because we all come from different sets of experience and although the skill of reflection is able to be learned, what you reflect upon will be highly personal. He goes onto talk about a phrase I learned a few years ago from a book called Bounce. Deliberate practice. I understand that to be creating tasks, drills and so on that focus mostly or entirely on the weak areas of your skill or knowledge so as to improve yourself. I have always found that the improvements are found in the areas that hurt. Those areas of your activity that make you say to yourself, ‘I just dont get this’ or ‘wow, this is really hard’ I remember learning to double tap on to guitar (many years ago now though 😉 ) something that I thought I would never, ever be able to do. I think that I am lucky to have that mindset naturally but I am well aware that there is always room for improvement. What Dr. Scott says about the middle ground between perfectionism and be ‘good enough’ reminds me of another book that I read a long time ago and respect greatly.

I put great effort into this link, which is more important than just knowing the link.

Mindset by Carol Dweck (and no, I didn’t know that this book was in the material this week) is an incredible account of the research that she and others carried out regarding the results that people can get in terms of personal growth and progress, when they adopt a ‘effort is the key’ type of mentality over a ‘this is how smart I am and if its not enough, I quit’ style of thinking. Because of that book, I never praise Sophie, my daughter, for being clever, although she is. We always praise the effort, the trying, the problem solving and point out at every opportunity how those things have lead her to where she is, even if thats just eating over her plate, or remembering to put her cloths away.

Image here

Reflection can be a painful process for people who have not seen all the links in the chain yet. I mean that until you have identified something that you do poorly or dont do at all, found better alternatives, practised them to the point of proficiency and fully incorporated them into your practice, it can feel like a deeply negative experience. I think that a mentor is very useful in the early days as not only will they be able to help you identify that things that you need to change (raise the bar) they will be able to advise on how to get that done (how to reach the bar).

Identify what you are lacking in these areas and define a plan to solve them. No doubt then that a skill in planning would go down quite well too then? In this context, it is clear that its very important to know ‘where’ your heading and what set of skills you wish to end up mastering. That sounds kind of obvious but I have met people who have little idea what they want to do and have experienced this myself many times in my life.

In talking about the students that he has seen who lack the ability to move on from problem and their need to step back from the issue, I am reminded that this in itself is a learn-able skill, something that many people are not born with. Personally, (time for some reflection.. ) I tend to try to get closer to the problem I am facing and on rare occasions that seems to work for me. Think about locking yourself in a room and refusing to come out until that problem is solved and thats how I have dealt with many of my challenges. But, as I have gotten a little older I have realised that although I still have a tendency to do that now, I do it less. I am more willing to come away from the issue or talk it through while pacing about or even, if I really cant get something, talking to myself in the mirror. Everyone does it!

Challenge and how to make a plan to solve it

  • Why have you encountered it.
    • I think I tackle this part of the structure quite well and am usually able to say that I am encountering some problem because of something I am trying to achieve and link the two together well enough. “I am having a problem with the AI because I need it to go over there when this event happens, but I have not done that before so I need to learn how that works”.
  • How has it arisen
    • This is an area that I think I could detail a little more clearly when I am reflecting on my own experience. I tend to just jump right in with what I am struggling with and not really how that came to be. I suppose that I think about the context in which this journal is being created and think that the origin of the problem is self evident. I think I might be wrong about that and in any case, it would only add to the integrity of the discussion, even if it is just with myself at the moment!
  • What you may be able to do to overcome it
    • This is much more the area that I and I think others are comfortable in. This is what I’m going to do about it. So I think that the value in this part of the course material for me is to perhaps consider in more detail ‘why’ I have come across the problem of challenge and then ‘How’ that happened. There, I think, I will find things that may inform me as to mistakes that I could be making right now.

Meaningful, Purposeful Practice

I nabbed this image from here

Meaningful and purposeful practice. This ties in a little with what I was saying above about the book, Bounce. Its the account of how a table tennis player became the best in the country from what I can remember (its been a few years since I have read it) but one of the most interesting parts of the book talked about the fact that the majority of the top tier players England at the time all came from within a few streets of each other. His point was that how the couch worked and what they focused on, plus the 24 hour a day access to the practice room, showed that the practice routine and its personalisation was much more important than the native skill that any single player had. I do think that talent matters, but I think that talent without practice and discipline is soon overshadowed by the people in the room that work every hour they can with a humble attitude. Of course, champions are usually the combination of the two I think.

The conversation about the right level of challenge reminds me of the boredom/anxiety chart that is used to illustrate the best place for gameplay to sit, although as I type that, Im sure it existed before that and more likely associated with what Dr. Scott is talking about here.

The boredom vs anxiety flowchart. I found this one here


Its interesting to hear Dr. Scott talk about the ‘reflective practitioner’ that does not really write anything down but is constantly ‘thinking’ about how they need to improve. Guilty. I do this and its surprising really as I know that I got a lot of value from all of the journals that I had to write for the BA Top Up course that I did. I wasn’t shy about it either and I think that my journals were around 80 to 100 thousand words each. My apologies to Steve Howard and anyone else that had to read them! But, I was on the back foot when I first began and everything was new to me. I had to reflect constantly just to have a good guess as to where I needed to be next. I think that in other work, away from academic study and marking, I just don’t do it. I think thats a mistake. I could keep something just for myself that is not as wordy and readable and more like the notes that I took for the Game Jam just gone.

Planning, without the exercise of journaling could I think be slightly off target. Although having watched most of this presentation now I am comfortable that I do have a system in place to define and help my track the hours paid to certain endeavour’s in the form of my trusty Nerd Chart. I think I either have already or will post a blog entry about the Nerd Chart and how I think about that stuff. I do wonder though if I would benefit from defining a goal too, and not just tracking the hours done. I run a Kanban board for Serial Link so that is tracked, I watch and complete the tasks for the MA so that is tracked, I am completing a structured Udemy course in order to learn C++… Actually on reflection 😉 I think Im doing quite well in this area!