I love graphing and plotting data. A visual comparison makes it much easier to understand the relative importance of different things. I wrote a small Python script (using matplotlib) to visualize home (ex)spenditure based on transactions on our bank account. By bundling all transactions by keywords, I could get Albert Heijn, Boni and Hoogvliet under one name “Supermarket”. This way, it is easy to see where the large chunks go and the relative importance of holidays vs home improvement vs car vs insurances over time. (a.k.a. Pareto analysis )
This way, we can select smarter where to economize and in which domains of our family life we can afford some slack. (For privacy reasons, I removed all numbers from these plots, but you can imagine or try out on your own transaction data!)
How to use the script: (leave a note here, and I can send you the .py file)
1. Download .csv of the transactions for the period of interest. At least from our on-line bank (Rabobank.nl – a cooperative and still well-run bank in Holland).
2. Adjust the script to categorize in your favourite way – and type in your exclusions. For us, transactions to and from our savings account do not constitute cash flow, so those were filtered out.
3. Generate graphs of your incomes and expenses!
Now you can use visual control for your own cash flow. If you want, you can even make run-charts!
One of my favorite tools of “Lean” is visual control. The idea is that visual information on the wall next to the workplace communicates better than intranet pages or databases.
For each project I run, I have a whiteboard of roughly 1 square meter per project, with the most important information, updated at least weekly. I include: project objectives, deliverables, team members, status, decision log and maybe most important: What are we working on now?
At least half of the project team is located in the same room, so they will invariably see what is going on in the project.
Typically, we have pulse meetings once or twice a week, to get alignment on what we are doing and who is doing what.
For me, this spices up my motivation.
Once in a while there are slow days, when the brain goes on half speed and the weather outside looks alluring. Then it is tempting to log on to [Your Favorite Social Network Site] and just click around. Or read another article about PyUnit, or a long email about a policy document change from HR.
But then I glance at the project wall and I see my name on a task, I am back in focus again.
I think that all tools that remind us about what we should be doing are useful.
And, by aligning weekly with the rest of the team, we can scrap some activities that we actually should not be doing, at least not now.
It is also more fun to finish tasks that have been self-assigned than diffusely delegated!