When working in IT I find it is so easy to lose focus and lose motivation.  I am trying to work smarter and more consistently at the moment.  Therefore, I am targeting my priorities.  To do this, I am using a project tool and a to do list tool to help with this.  My personal choice is Planner and To Do in Office365 but that is not important. However, I will give a very brief reason why I am using these tools at the end.

So, why am I afraid of losing focus and losing motivation?

It is simple. So many things lead me down a rabbit whole.  Tasks that seem straightforward lead to sub tasks and before I know it, an entire hour is gone.

Take a simple example from this morning.  Someone asked me to look into group membership on Friday.  This group is automatically populated in active directory but it contains users that have left but whose accounts are still in the directory with a disabled state. Microsoft Planner in Office365 now uses this group so these old members are getting in the way of the active users.

So here is what happened:

  • I first went into azure active directory to search for the group.  However, it was not there.
  • I vaguely remember creating this group in Teams a few years ago. So I looked in Teams.  Sure enough.  The group is there.
  • However, the group in teams is made from a static list of users. That list was derived from a group membership but that group membership is the afore mentioned static group.
  • So back to Azure active directory I go to create a new dynamic group. The requirement is simple.  The criteria is based on department name and account status.
  • However, this does not update right away. It takes time for Azure active directory to run the dynamic group rule. So I wait and go on to something else.
  • Some time later, I check to find that I have somehow chosen the wrong clause in the department field. I mistakenly choose “Does not contain” instead of “Contains”. So I edit the group to make that change.
  • While in Azure active directory, I find that I cannot set focus to the edit fields any more. I will research that on my own time tonight. The work around now is to change out of the virtual PC cursor in Jaws and just use system focus. It is annoying but it is usable.  So, I add that to my to do list for when I put the children to bed later.  Speaking of to do lists, I mark off the to do item reminding me to fix the group membership.  Now I add another to do item for the creation of the dynamic group.  Because I want to be able to look back at the end of the day and acknowledge that the previous task lead to something more complicated and time consuming.
  • Now the group is populated correctly. So I go back to Teams, remove all the users from the team that was previously statically populated then populate that team with the new dynamic group I’ve created in Azure active directory.

All of this stuff takes time. So to the next part.  Why does this lead to the fear of reduced motivation?  Again, it is quite simple.  When so many tasks in IT lead to other tasks, even the smallest things can result in hours of work.  It is like finding that every time you need to put a screw into a plank of wood, you must first create the screw yourself by hand. In the dark. While it is raining. And you have given yourself 5 minutes because who needs a day to put screws into a plank of wood?

Here is my answer to this.

I use Outlook, Planner and To do because they link in in a really seamless and powerful way.  Here is an example:

  • I come in on a Monday morning after a great weekend. Last week is a distant memory.
  • I Open Teams and it shows me my pending tasks. These pending tasks are pulled from Planner, Outlook and to do items I have written directly during meetings etc.
  • There is a to do item there automatically created for me by an Email I received during the weekend. IN the Email it said something like attention required so To do used the subject of that Email and created a to do item.  I swipe up and that is now added to my to do list for today.
  • I go through Emails that I received on Friday while I was on leave and create a few more to do items. A few of them are for today so again, I swipe up and add them to my today list.
  • There is a project in Planner that someone else needs my input on so a task has been assigned to me. That has also appeared in my pending list.  The due date is today so I am going to put that into my today list as well.
  • I now switch to my today list and everything is there waiting for me.
  • As I complete something, I hear a satisfying tone and the item is marked as complete. It still stays on my today view though as a completed item. This gives me a sense of progress throughout the day as I hit that done button on more and more of the items.

Therefore, even though I may fall into that rabbit whole of connected tasks from time to time, I can still emerge from it with a better awareness of what I have achieved.  Prior to more efficiently self-managing my day to day task list, I often left work with a sense of bitterness with the perception of not achieving something tangible that day.  This is the biggest cause for me personally of reduced motivation.  However, when I can look back and remind myself that many small tasks were completed, that helps me stay motivated for the next day.