As a technologist your career will be filled with change. New technology, new versions, new platforms, and new approaches are a constant in your chosen field. Often times skills are referred to as tools in a toolbox. For you these tools are more like arrows in a quiver. Many times you can use them over and over but eventually you are going to need to replenish your supply or you will eventually become less effective or worse, irrelevant.
You simply cannot rely on just becoming better at a single skill. You have to be on the look out for new, hopefully complimentary, skills to learn. You have to look for new arrows to add to your quiver. This is what will keep you relevant and make you more valuable to your organization.
Don’t be satisfied with what you are capable of today. Don’t be satisfied with what you will be capable of tomorrow. Be satisfied that you’ve committed yourself to constant learning and growth. Be satisfied that you won’t stop learning new skills or adding arrows to your quiver at any stage in your career. Be satisfied that you refuse to become irrelevant and that you will always add value to your organization.
Your quiver is never full. It is up to you to find ways to refill and redefine it.
Get out there and conquer the world.
This stuff is cool!
I’ve been aware of Type Form for some time now. I’ve used it to let people request an invitation to my live Slack team. But until now the review and analysis of the data it collects has been manual. That meant I had to remember to check the responses every day and respond to new requests.
Let’s just say I haven’t always been as responsive as I should have been when new requests came in. In fact you could say my responsiveness on this front has been lacking.
Fortunately for me a recent question I received about how to automate some notifications got me to pursue Zapier as an automation tool. That was the key that unlocked the door for me.
Zapier allowed me to create an automated workflow that starts when someone fills out my Type Form requesting an invitation to my Slack team. Once they’ve submitted the form the magic begins.
Step One: Trello Card Creation
I use Trello to track my tasks and to do items. It’s my system of record for what I have to do and what has priority. The first automation step I added to my Zapier work flow was to add a card to my To Do list in Trello. The card contains the name of the person requesting the invitation and their email address.
This means that whenever I check my Trello To Do list, at least once a day, I will see the new request and be able to send the invite.
What if I’m busy or what if I add a bunch of new tasks and happen to miss this new card on the Trello board?
Never fear! Step two of the workflow solves this for me.
Step Two: Slack Reminder
Slack follows me wherever I go. It’s on all my computers and my phone. If someone wants to get in touch with me it’s the most reliable way to go about it (did I mention my Slack team? 😉 ). So what’s the best way for me to be reminded of something to do? Set a reminder in Slack!
With Zapier I setup a second workflow step to set a daily reminder that I have a new request to send an invite to a new Slack team member. This way if my day gets hectic I will still get that reminder and be able to go find the Trello card and take care of the invite when things slow down a bit.
Boom! No more missed tasks.
That’s not the end of what you can automate with Zapier. There are a Plethora of additional apps that you can integrate with. Gmail, Face Book, PayPal, EverNote, etc., etc.
You can build a prolific automation system to support you and your organization in practically any task you can imagine. If there are multiple steps and data involved it can be built. Even better there is an entire catalog of Zaps (Zapier Automation Workflows) that you can use out of the box or customize to help you get started.
A Vision of a Better Grocery List
Just to show how versatile Trello can be I want to share one of the personal projects I built with it this week: a family Grocery List.
We’re a family of five. Grocery shopping for that many people is the urban equivalent of big game hunting. Minimizing trips to the store is key to staying on budget in terms of money and time. That means making sure everyone’s wants and needs for the week are collected into the weekly grocery list.
In the past we used pen and paper but inevitably whoever was collecting everything into one master list would miss something, regardless of how many times they grilled each member of the family to find out what should be added. We needed a way to centrally track everyone’s additions as soon as they thought of them. Something that could go everywhere with everyone and be available to whomever was doing the shopping that week.
I’ve been a fan of Trello for work related project management for a couple of years now. It is great for managing software development and IT projects but I wondered if I could put this Kanban tool to work in a more mundane practice. Could it be the ultimate grocery list tool?
Why yes it could.
So here’s the step by step on setting up your own collaborative grocery list tool with Trello for you and yours.
First things first. If you don’t have a Trello account get over to Trello.com and sign up for one. It’s free. And after you’ve seen what it can do you’ll be using it quite a bit.
Create Your Team
You can use Trello as an individual but for the family grocery list you’re going to want to setup your family as a team.
Once you’re logged in click the “+” button to drop down a list of options.
Click the Create Personal Team option to launch the team creation wizard and start adding family members to your team.
Add the name and description of your team and click the create button to finish creating it.
You will land in the team page.
Click the Members tab and then click the “Add by Name or Email” to start adding family members to your team.
Once you’ve added all your family members it’s time to create your board to hold your Grocery list. Click the Boards tab and then click the “Create Board” button.
This brings up the Create Board dialog where you can name your board.
Click the “Create” button to finish creating the board. You will land in the Kanban board for the grocery list.
Add the following lists by typing each of the following headers into the “Add a list…” text boxes and pressing enter: Need, To Buy, Bought, and May Need again.
Your board is ready for your family to begin adding items.
But Wait! There’s More!
You could stop here. But right now you’ve barely scratched the surface. You’re just one step beyond paper and pen at this point and I promised this would be the ultimate grocery list solution. So what’s next? I’m glad you asked.
Label Items With Their Stores
Trello items can be labeled. This makes it possible for you to have items from multiple stores labeled for easy reference. And if an item is available at more than one store? You can add multiple labels to it to represent each store.
For the demo here I’ll show three labels: Red for “Bulls-eye”, Blue for “Wally World”, and Yellow for “Office Colossus”.
You can add more labels for all of the stores you and your family frequent. When I add items to my board it comes out looking like this.
But which paper-clips should I get? Is it the organic bananas or chemically enhanced ones? That’s where the last feature I’m going to show you makes Trello truly the Ultimate Grocery List tool.
That’s right! No more questioning whether it’s the blue bottle or the green bottle. Snap a picture of the item you want and add it right to your grocery list item. Bingo you’ve got a visual guide as to what needs to be bought.
You can keep enhancing your list to make it even more useful for you and your family. Edit the description to include prices. Add comments to track the last time you bought it. Mention @familymembers to let them know they need to pick something up or ask them if you are running low on a certain item.
There are plenty of ways to add more to make this even more useful.
Happy Shopping Everyone!
Slack has quickly become one of my go to tools for communication. It’s more streamlined than email. It parses conversations out into easy to organize channels and it brings together teams large and small. It really takes team collaboration up a notch.
During a Sprint, Slack can catapult productivity into higher orbit but only if you use it effectively and consistently.
The pointers below will give you some best practices that I’ve found extremely helpful with my teams when collaborating with Slack.
Use Channels like your life depended on it
Context is king when it comes to team communication. Channels make it easy to stay on target in team communications.
Create channels for topics like #performancetuning, #projectxyz, and my personal favorite #teamkanban. Keep to the topic at hand in the channel and your team won’t suffer the confusion often associated with continuously growing email reply-to-all threads.
My team uses the #teamkanban channel to keep everyone updated on work items flowing across our Kanban board. Whenever an item is ready the team member who just completed their work posts a message to the #teamkanban letting everyone know the item is ready to be pulled to the next state. When someone pulls it they let everyone in #teamkanban know.
When a Channel is Overkill use Direct Messages
This amounts to a temporary channel among a small group of collaborators. Great for quick questions that don’t need the whole team copied in.
Go Mobile with Slack
All the goodness of communicating with Slack can be held in the palm of your hand. With Slack on your mobile device (Android or iOS) the collaboration doesn’t stop when you’re away from your desk. The mobile app will even let you call collaborators when text just doesn’t quite convey what you’re trying to communicate.
Attachments, Attachments, Attachments
Spreadsheets, diagrams, text documents, and Source Code. Attach these to your conversations so your team members can have them at their finger tips. Drag and drop attaching makes this feature extremely easy to use.
Did I mention @Mentions?
Need to call something to a particular team members attention? @Mention them but putting an @ symbol in front of their name. Slack will even help with intelligent search ahead based on what you’ve typed. This is a great feature just be careful or you’ll start calling people by their screen names IRL.
Slack is collaboration done right. It works with teams large and small. If you’re geographically dispersed or just across the hall it makes communication better. Get on Slack. It will change your world view on how well collaboration can be done.
What’s your favorite Slack #channel? Let me know in the comments below or Join my Slack Team to talk about it in real time.
One last tip. Slack is great for reminders. Simply DM yourself anything you want to be reminded of and use the app to set a reminder. Slack will ping you at the appropriate time. Bingo! Never forget another event, meeting, or to eat lunch.
Just learned this time saver today. To insert a row you’ve copied into a spreadsheet you use:
‘Ctrl’ + ‘Shift’ + ‘+’ (Control Key, Shift Key, Plus Key).
This will insert the row directly above your current position in the spreadsheet.