Sunday, January 21, 2018

Using Microsoft Planner to organize a Continuous Learning Plan

Have you used Microsoft Planner yet?

Planner is one of those apps in Office 365 that doesn't get much attention, but it's actually quite useful. You can use it to run different types of projects at work, from a software implementation project to planning a move to a new office.

The team members added to a plan will know what they need to do, when tasks are due, the status of each task, etc. Plus, each person can add notes, files, checklists and links, so that everyone is working with the same information.

Planner is great for teams, but you can also use it for individual projects and goals.

One never-ending project that most of us have (or should have) is called "lifelong learning" or "continuous learning". Managing this kind of project, though, is not easy. Throughout the day, you run across articles, whitepapers, books, videos, Tweets etc. that you'd like to read at the time, but deadlines, meetings and other priorities keep this from happening. But where can you keep a record of what you want to learn, all in a single place, organized by category? How about... Planner?

Planner can help you create a continuous learning plan by:
  • Organizing books, articles, whitepapers, links, etc. by category ("buckets")
  • Track items that you've started reading and those that you haven't
  • Flag (label) items as "Now Reading", "Next Up", "Favorite", etc.
  • Create a web link to the resource
  • Keep a running set of notes for each item, or maintain an expanded set of notes in the attached OneNote file
  • Search notes through Outlook
  • Add an image (i.e., book cover) for quick recognition of a resource
  • Share your learning plan with others (read-only or co-editing)
Here's a look at my Continuous Learning Plan in Planner so far:

I chose to use the "bucket" concept in Planner to organize learning materials by major category, such as Dynamics 365, Microsoft Azure, Architecture Patterns, .NET/C#, JavaScript, Inbox, Miscellaneous, etc.  I am then applying labels to items so that I can find materials that I'm in the middle of reading, materials that I want to review next, etc.

Another idea is to use Microsoft Flow and Microsoft Forms to automate the creation of items in your Planner board. With this automation, when you come across an article, whitepaper, etc. that you want to add to your learning plan, simply open your Microsoft Form, post a link or description and save the form. Then, Microsoft Flow can take that text and post it to your Planner board. This is a more convenient way to add new items to the board.

A Planner board like this might finally give you a place to organize your technical resources and create a strategy for a lifetime of learning.