What is Visual Self-Management?

Vintage Gouges. This image is CC0!

Seeing is the most dominant of all senses.

Even if seeing is not your personal preference to get input it is good to use visual tools. The benefits are the following.

  • Efficiency: A lot of information can be packed into a simple display
  • Clarity: Used properly, visual information is less ambiguous than other input
  • Fun: Both creating and reading visual tools is fun

Look at the dashboard of a car, if you do not believe this. However, there is one exemption from this: warnings are best transported aurally. This is why cars have a horn.

Everybody needs to come up with his own set of visual self management dashboards. The following are examples for elements of such dashboards.

  • Traffic lights to signal a qualitative status (red for danger or warning, yellow for action required, green for everything as expected)
  • Arrows to signal an tendency (up for improvement, down for worsening, horizontal for stable)
  • Checkboxes to mark task status (finished or not) or availability of resources
  • Harvey balls or progress bars to show partial completion of tasks or fulfillment of requirements
  • Smileys to show degree of happiness or satisfaction
  • Timeline graphs to show things evolving over time
  • Dials to show single important numbers
  • BIG NUMBERS for the one or two most important numbers
  • Sticky numbers for things that you want to move around

Less is more. When you want to create your personal dashboard, you do not want to put all of those onto it. That would create a very confusing display. One solution can be to have more than one dashboard, depending on types of data you want to show. Again, less is more. If you start to dabble with dashboards all the time without achieving anything, the benefit will zero.

Maintaining a personal dashboard can be overwhelming, too. I suggest one of the following approaches:

  • Whiteboard with differently colored pens – this is the most flexible tool for a dashboard
  • Pen and paper – this is OK if you want to carry something around, but makes maintenance and usage a little bit awkward
  • PowerPoint – especially for work related dashboards this is a flexible solution, but you should be able to print them in color
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