Organizing 101

[en] 5-8 Minute read - society

As a first act, ill be absolutly honest: im the most disorganized person struggeling with EVERYTHING. However, that doesn't keep me from getting shit done: my personal process is usally an absolute and utter mess, usually I barely make it until deadlines or slightly miss them. Yet somehow lots of people I work with have the fucked up impression of me beeing quite professional, well organized and productive.

I set out to find why and looked at what common things where done in past well-working projects, mixed with some general best practices:

  1. prepared routines
  2. accessible documentation
  3. friendly reminders
  4. dedicated workspace

Lets go over some details on what usually works for me (or rather others).

1 Prepared routines

Don't just start a meeting and fuck around for 2 hours, everyone hates that.

Make a list of things you want to talk about, plan the time you'd like to spend on them. Time assumtions don't have to be perfectly accurate, but should provide a rough guideline. If its crowd sourced, write down a responsible person:

0. Check in
1. Quick updates (15min) <-- everyone
2. New team: content creation (10min) <-- Lea
3. Discussion: (20min) <-- Leon
n. Check out

Notice the check in/check out?
Use the check in to sense the general mood, find a common ground to work on. Time per person should depend on your team size: don't make everyone go through the pain of a 30min checkin. Also, make it clear that this isn't the place for discussions or even worse, extensive monologues.
It sucks when lots of people tell everyone they have to leave early, this hurts the motivation of everyone. If that happens on a regular basis, make it clear that people are either attending, or not. If they can't, find a new timeslot.

The check out is meant as a short reflection of how everything went, maybe small sidenotes and hype building. Ideas for improvement of the workflow should also be noted here before they are lost.

Important: its not beneficial AT ALL if every person tells everyone that is was exhausting. Don't get me wrong, if people where missbehaving thats a no-go, but public shaming is as well. If no names are mentioned, people who've done nothing wrong may feel adressed, but the person misbehaving probably wont see themselves mentioned.
Use an anonymus awareness box for that and regularly check it. Nextcloud forms or a pad on a different host worked well for me.

2 accessible documentation

Personally, I've seen great success with etherpad for linear documentation and a kanban board like cryptpad, nextcloud deck or trello.

2.1 Linear Documents

Just write a damn protocol! Not all people can attend everytime, made decisions need to be written down. Important: rotate the people doing it, ideally let a person self-assign for the next meeting at the start of the current one. Note the assigned responsibilities and number of attending people at the start and end, maybe like this:

## Organisation
1  Next time:
      writing the minutes: NAME
      moderation: NAME
2  Today: writing the minutes: NAME // moderation: NAME // participants: 11-12
3  Setting todays agenda

2.2 Boards

I like using kanban boards to have a general overview over a project.
It also has the added bonus that you can keep track of

  • who should do which tasks
  • whats the state of a task

Although cryptpad boards are infearior feature wise and generally "less great" they are easily accessable without an account or mobile app. This is important for open projects!

If you work in an enviroment with fixed teams where you can dictate the usage of a cloud platform, I absolutly recommend nextcloud. Its the all-in-one solution you can easily selfhost or rent starting at 4€/Month depending on the team size. It allows you to really attach cards to a person, which is immensly helpful to also keep track of progress.
If its a visual project, go with trello: it has card images, something thats only alpha in deck. In case you are working on software, make use of github projects or gitkraken glo boards.

3 friendly reminders

Make them a habit for everyone. Personally I forget to attend meetings in the process of preparing them, so I'm sometimes 5 minutes late, shame on me. Its great if everyone is aware that a little reminder the day before and ~15 Minutes before the meeting helps. All people should be aware that if there hasn't been one yet, they are welcome to write one.

4 dedicated workspace

Dont (ab)use a personal messenger like signal, telegram or whatsapp. Seriously. It may work right away and be convinient, but mixing private and work/activism chats isn't healthy in the long run. It makes it hard to take a break, information gets lost quickly and it may result in people spending more time chatting than actually working.
In case of whatsapp and telegram its also a serious privacy concern. I've had a good experience with Matrix + spaces in element. Rocket.Chat is nice if you configure it well.
If you really have to, go use Slack, MS Teams or fucking Discord. Just be aware that, just like with whatsapp and telegram, there are serious privacy concerns attached to them.

If you decided to meet up virtually, check out jitsi and bigbluebutton and ideally self-host them. I strongly advise to stay away from zoom, discord, skype or other closed source centralized platforms.

Don't be too authoritarian, everyone should be participant, not ettendee.
Limit the dominance of certain people, all people should be able to safely voice their opinion without beeing talked down by a toxic male.
Value all work. Don't be an asshole.

Thats about it, thanks for coming to my ted talk.

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