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How does your TODO list look like? How do you organize work?

Hey Indie Creators,

I come for advice and inspiration.

I still didn't find a good setup for my todo list and framework to manage it that would work for more than a week or so.

For context - I am wearing many different hats. I am a leader of our team, a product manager as well as a product designer.

I take care of the vision and aim of our team as well as managing the products we do on daily basis as well as producing designs and working on clients' contracts.

So I need to have time blocks for creative work, executive work as well as management work.

We are a team of 4 people, highly autonomous and highly synced on short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals. We work on our brand and articulation of what we do, our own products, and on clients' contracts to keep our bootstrapped machine running.

So 3 levels, kind of

  1. Our business/brand - vision, aim, passion, good energy, content
  2. Our products - 2 products, one in later stage, one in early stage
  3. Clients products/contracts - We offer each person's hard skill individually (so dev, design manpower) as well as work on profiling and offering ourselves as a stop-gap team for startups.

We work in weekly sprints that we set each week. There is one general todo list for each week that holds the most important tasks for each of our activities (our business, products, clients).

We set the owner of the task and also set the desired outcome of the week (specific goals, like delivering a new version of product X, or sending an invoice to the client for $XXXX).

But I feel like this team list is still too abstract for me and I need another, more detailed list, to track smaller tasks that reflect my daily reality better.

I tried using this team's list as well as my own to-do list, but then the hassle of taking care of both and making sure they are updated is taking too much energy. I am not sure how to mix those two, in what way so it's clear and there are no duplicate tasks.

So my question is:
How do you take care of the team todo list as well as your own todo list, how do you prioritize tasks and reflect and change the tasks and priorities according to new data inputs that happen every day? How do you manage them, what's your framework?

I am not sure if my needs are formulated clearly, it's quite complex so if not, don't hesitate to ask me anything.

I will be grateful for any inspiration!

Thanks

  1. 4

    Monday - Friday

    1. 7AM-9AM work on my side project
    2. 9AM-4PM work on my corporate job
    3. 5PM -7PM work on my side project

    Saturday 9AM - 6PM work on my side project
    Sunday 9AM- 1PM work on my side project

    1. 1

      Do you manage to stick to this routine for a long time?

      1. 1

        I have been doing this since lockdown.
        I consider it as a scatch.
        If I feel very overwhelmed or frustrated I break this schedule and push task for tomorrow.
        But I try to stick it as much as I can!

        Keep in mind that I do a break after every hour for around 10-15 minutes(do something which is not related to dev), and I do 1-hour lunchtime when I do not touch any screen.

  2. 1

    Hey Johan,

    I believe that todo lists are fundamentally broken and aren't good tools to support our productivity. They serve well as reminders to do something when you have context in your head but are the worst to store things long-term. To make them work you need a system of constraints and a lot of discipline. Here are a couple of ideas:

    1. Only create tasks when a project is well-defined. Like, no more than 2-3 weeks ahead. I usually create tasks in bulk when I have a project with a clear "definition of done" and everyone is on the same page on what to do.
    2. Use "progressive jpeg" method for the rest. The idea here is simple, you keep things very high-level (I use a format of "what problem I solve", "how important that problem", "what will be the result if it is solved"). You prioritize what problems/ideas are important to your current project and then start to add details. Solutions, designs, inputs, deliverables, deadlines, etc. Until you get to a set of tasks like in point 1. This helps you minimize the time required for keeping things in order.
    3. Try to remove as much unknown as possible at the beginning of a project. For a plan to be accurate, you need to have a very well understanding of what needs to be done and then you just follow it.
    4. Have separate projects/lists/tags for different kinds of tasks. Ideally, it should be very straightforward for you to prioritize a list like that. E.g. client with a more expensive contract is better than with a lower one. But it is hard to compare "going for a run" with "writing a proposal for a client". Both of those tasks are important, but in a different way. This is where I believe todo lists are broken, all of these tasks compete for your limited time, but todo lists just ignore time as a concept altogether.
    5. Try to balance your life and mind by scheduling tasks from each important list.
    6. Throw away everything that isn't absolutely necessary ;)

    Hope this helps,
    Sergey

    PS I'm working on a tool to manage my time better. Happy to connect and show you some of my ideas if you're interested.

  3. 1

    For our team to-do list, we use a google sheet with shortcuts to update the task status.

    As for my own personal to-do list, I have settled with pen & papers after trying almost every productivity tools under the sun, Todoist, ClickUp, Trello, Ticktick.. And never looked back :)

  4. 1

    I've used a ton of tips from the book Getting Things Done. When I've given that book to other people they can usually open up to a random page and get one helpful tip. I don't adhere 100% to the whole GTD system but it has a lot of good insights about what makes managing work hard and how to make it so that you feel and actually are on top of everything.

    As for managing team tasks vs. individual granularity: I wonder, could you have the team list synced somewhere (a spreadsheet? coda.io doc?) that you then fill in detail for each item?

    1. 1

      Heard about the book many times never looked at it. I should! Thanks for the nudge!

      And yes, syncing might be a good idea so I can see everything in one place yet team doesn't need to see my things.

  5. 1

    I use an app called Dynalist to manage all my projects. I used all sorts of todo apps before, but they all had the same problem - they were flattening out my project structure, so instead of seeing what a certain task means in the context of the whole app, I saw a flat 1D list of things, that I need to do. That was quite demotivating. Now I tend to write outlines of everything, so I can always see the big picture. I use colors and hashtags to mark the most important things. If you like to think in bullet points - this is the way to go!

    1. 1

      This is interesting! Thanks

  6. 1

    I am working solo currently but if I had a team I would do scrum with a kanban board. This is what most dev teams do and it's what I did when I was still working at a company. It would just be a bit simpler because there is only 4 of you.

    Have a weekly meeting to prioritize what tasks you want to get done for the week.

    Have lanes setup on your Trello board. Everyone is responsible for updating the status of their ticket on the Trello board every day.

    If you find the Trello list is too abstract, it probably means that ticket needs to be more granular and should be broken down into multiple tickets.

    Your own todo list is for you. Your team doesn't need to know about it so you don't have to worry about keeping it in sync with the Trello board. If your personal todo list has something that the team should know about it should be on the Trello board so everyone has visibility. There's nothing wrong with your personal todo list having duplicates from the team's list.

    For your personal todo list I like to keep it all in one large file on Apple notes. Everyday I enter today's date at the top of the file and list the tasks I want to complete for the day. As I work on a task I will mark it with an "X" for every pomodoro. When it's complete I check it off. I like this because I can just scroll down the file to see what I did in previous days and I can also see how long a task took me to complete by counting the X's next to it.

    1. 1

      This is what I try to do, but fail to manage haha. I start to think the challenge is not in the setup but in my flow of organizing these!

  7. 1

    The complexity is that work is flexible, and your team way of looking at work when you plan work is different from the view you need to get it done on a day to day basis.

    You might want to break down work into smaller pieces to get it done, or you need to keep track of other tasks that might not be relevant for your team.

    Why not combine the actions that are your team board with your personal actions that are on your personal board so you can manage it as if it is on one board?

    I created placker.com to make this type of complexity simple, when you have trello you can simply import existing boards to get started, cards will stay in full sync.

    Would be happy to help you optimize your setup, feel free to reach out, also when you use something different.

  8. 1

    Hi @JohanCutych,
    This sounds pretty complex. Which tool/app are you using to manage all this?

    Broadly speaking, if you look at all the things that need your time/attention during the day, you can divide them into following groups

    1. Things that you have to work on personally TODAY (code for a specific feature before the end of the day today, send an invoice to your client, get milk for kids, etc)
    2. Things that you have to do SOMETIME IN FUTURE, like tomorrow or next week or next month (such as learn a new skill, send an invoice next week etc)
    3. Things that you have to do only after some other task is completed first (such as sending an invoice only after the user acceptance test is completed)
    4. Things that you need to do/track daily ( Track your water intake, Track hours of sleep, your weight, your daily writing streak etc)
    5. Things that you DO NOT need to work on personally but you need to make sure somebody else does on time (such as things that you delegated to somebody else).

    The list of all these tasks are easy to overwhelm anybody.

    This is how I manage these tasks so feel free to adjust it if it makes sense:

    • Write down all these tasks on a piece of paper or your favorite todo app
    • Spend 10-15 minutes everyday in the morning, afternoon and evening to go through the list of all the tasks
    • Hide all the tasks from sections #2, #3, #4 and #5
    • Focus on #1 i.e. the tasks that you have to work on personally and that you have to do today
    • While reviewing the other tasks during the day, see if any of the #2, #3, #4 or #5 tasks have become a #1 task. In that case, update the list accordingly

    I am building a personal day planner and organizer at BetterToday.app where a lot of these things are automated.

    While this will help you prioritize your personal todos, it will not help you with the problem of syncing your team and personal tasks. For that you need an app/software that meets your specific needs.

    BTW, have you tried tools like Asana etc for this?

    1. 1

      Thanks for jumping in @quadralyst! I mix using Things 3, Trello and Gsheets. I never tried Asana tho.

      Your framework kind of reminds me the framework of Stephen Covey, the 4 quadrants.

      I tried that too, but it was really complex to keep up with it. Maybe it's the question of self-discipline and just sticking to it, really dedicating the time to manage it, clean it, plan things.

      p.s. I check your app and it looks interesting. Really complex at first sight, seems like it needs a lot of data inputs from my side, and a lot of management, which I in general don't like. Maybe that's the issue haha.

      p.s.s. if you ever look for product design advice, reach out to me, I will be happy to provide some feedback as I believe a nice and slick design is the essence of an app like yours. Things 3 managed to nail it. Simple and sexy, though sometimes it feels too restrictive.

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