To-do list: good, bad or indifferent?

  • Comments posted to this topic are about the item To-do list: good, bad or indifferent?

  • If it needs doing we raise a user story so that it is visible and can be prioritised.  These stories can be relatively minor TODO list type items or something more hefty.

    Things are on a TODO list because someone thinks they are important.  Things that are self evident to the individual may not be self-evident to the team.  Things that are self-evident to the team may not be self-evident to the manager.  Therefore it is the duty of the individual/team to communicate why the TODO item is important.

    When it comes to managers there is a term called "managing upwards" or managing your manager.  As you move up the organisational tree you inevitably lose the detail perspective so you have to learn to trust and build trust with the team.  If the team comes forward and says "we need downtime to do X" I'll push back.  If they say "we need downtime to do X as it is a growing problem and will be a blocker for Imminent Project Y" then that is a different conversation.

    Every now and again my team go through their collective TODO lists and decide the following:-

    • Have any items been addressed through other stories?

    • Can any items be absorbed into the stories that are more palatable to any stakeholders?

    • Have any items diminishing in importance such that we can take them off the TODO list?
    • Are any items increasing the pain for the team?

  • We have a basic request system with our tasks scheduled in for months ahead. It's useful as you can see centrally all the tasks that are coming up and re-schedule things for the whole team. We still have to be very flexible though. I still end up doing 20 to 30 percent of my daily work based on emails.

    I'd be interested if anyone uses or has used project management software of any kind. We started using one called Wrike which was ok, but a lot of stuff ended up going through email anyway. You also need everyone to adopt it and learn it at the same time or it doesn't work that well.

    Anyone else found any software that works well as a todo list substitute? Outlook works fine for me as a basic todo list.

  • TFS works pretty well for us. Tasks come in as unassigned and we just go and pick things up when we're ready to do so. No-one ever has more than a few tasks assigned to them, so no-one feels overwhelmed and no-one is a bottleneck either. Tasks are managed by our principal who liaises with the business and gets their priorities. Out tech lead adds in the internal house-keeping tasks. Anything super urgent will be mentioned in our morning stand up. The principal/tech lead moves anything not urgent out of the current iteration. For a project or larger piece of work we break things down into use cases which each have their own task in TFS. If we see a task with no estimate we'll go and add it (even if someone else ends up doing the work) and we have a burn down graph which shows progress and estimated time to complete current iteration.

  • I tend to not think of the to do items so much as a "list".  I see them as a stack of queues.  If something comes in at a priority that I already have a queue for, it goes to the end of that queue.  If something comes in at a higher priority than I have a queue for, I push a new higher priority queue onto the stack and take care if it.  When the higher priority queue is empty, I pop it back off the stack and work on the next lower priority queue.

    The difficult part is that most list based software makes it difficult to track things that way, so I have to translate the task list stuff into my stack-queue based thought process.

  • I'm currently using Microsoft Access and an in-house designed ticketing system. The ticketing system is the main interface for the end users, while I use Microsoft Access to manage these tickets as well as a plethora of other requests that get thrown at me daily via email or "walk-by impromptu meetings" that need to be planned and executed over time.

  • I use a to-do list. I have for several years. Normally I write things down on paper during a meeting (we have weekly meetings), making special notes of action items. Then I use that to plan out of week/day.

    The hard thing is when you don't know what to do. I'm sure we all experience that at times. Currently, we're waiting to see what gets funded and what doesn't. So I make my own projects up and work on them, until some direction is finally determined.

    Kindest Regards, Rod Connect with me on LinkedIn.

  • Most of the stuff I work on are request from other staff members, which has to go through a web application we use. This normally works fine, as the staff can see their "priority" level on the ticket, and I can (normally) change it something more realistic and assign it to myself or another team member. This has been working well for years. It works especially well when people don't communicate between their own departments, and someone calls up to tell us something "isn't working", but in fact it's working under the new change request. It gives us details of who asked for and when, and often why. Great for auditing. 🙂

    What really bugs me though is when people phone and ask if we can do something as they need it "urgently", and try to get around the ticketing system. We'll say yes and we can start work shortly based on the conversation, but they need to load the request, and that we can't do the job fully till they do so. An hour (3 days) passes by, and no request has come, so we halted work at the preliminary stage. They then phone to chase it and wonder where it is. Of course, they then get upset when the new time scale is 2 days from when they load it. Most of these people learn after the 2nd mistake, but we still have a few that kick and scream when the only person they have to blame is themselves for not opening a ticket.

    Thom~

    Excuse my typos and sometimes awful grammar. My fingers work faster than my brain does.
    Larnu.uk

  • I use a personal Kanban board (created in One Note) to manage my personal tasks. 
    I have a bucket for To Do, In Progress, Blocked, and Completed for current work, plus a bucket for Future Work that has is in the pipeline, but not approved to work on yet. 
    In Progress is limited to 3-5 tasks (depending on complexity)
    Tasks are dragged and dropped into the appropriate bucket as I move through my day, and I have a clear view of my bottlenecks.
    I save the Completed Tasks at the end of each week so that I have some historical data for reference, and then "reset" the board on Monday for a fresh start. 

    When working with a team, I still use my Kanban board to manage my tasks, but add a team management software like Asana.
    I LOVE Asana. 
    Smart Sheet, Base Camp and Trello are all good as well. 
    Jira was geared toward larger teams that have project managers and business analysts to administer the stories and boards. 
    I have also used a ticketing system but it doesn't seem to work as well for the kind of work I do. 
    Like all team endeavors, these work best when everyone on the team participates! But having a designated team member to administer the boards/lists/user stories can help overcome that problem.

  • allinadazework - Monday, August 7, 2017 4:59 AM

    I'd be interested if anyone uses or has used project management software of any kind. We started using one called Wrike which was ok, but a lot of stuff ended up going through email anyway. You also need everyone to adopt it and learn it at the same time or it doesn't work that well.

    One of the main functions of project management software is status reporting to management. If you keep that requirement in mind, it might change what tool you choose, if any. Frequently management will dictate the tool, and this is the reason. Managing multiple projects is a challenge, and when I am only part of the overall management effort, I try my best to cooperate.

  • Project level todo lists are generally dictated by management. I have never seen an IT operation that did not use a common tool for this purpose, one that they either license or built in-house. All share similar characteristics. After seeing a few you can pretty much use them all. For my personal todo list, I have found that I change tools and formats depending on what role I am performing. My todo list as a consultant with external clients is very different than the one I use when I am a project programmer.

    For both types of lists, the most important function is prioritization. Constantly revising the list so that you are always working on the most important tasks. This is why some tasks on your personal list seem to never get done--they are never high enough in priority to do. That is a good thing. If you are constantly prioritizing and constantly working on the most important task, I can't imagine what else anyone could ever want of you.

  • GeorgeCopeland - Monday, August 7, 2017 12:15 PM

    This is why some tasks on your personal list seem to never get done--they are never high enough in priority to do. That is a good thing. If you are constantly prioritizing and constantly working on the most important task, I can't imagine what else anyone could ever want of you.

    As a DBA, the problem I see is that I really have at least 3 different sources of tasks coming at me.  There are items in the trouble ticket system, there are items that come from the development team which manage projects in a different system, and then there's infrastructure kinds of projects that come from my boss, which he only tracks in a spreadsheet.  I need to balance all 3 sources and come up with my one true collection of all items, re-prioritized by me taking into consideration if the item is for production environment, development environment, etc, how many people the task affects, what bottleneck or blocking the task presents to someone else, etc.

    If there are some things that are waiting on me that never get done, then I would have considered myself failed at that task then.  Sure, in a perfect world we could always work on the "most important task" first, but sometimes you have to get some of the little "unimportant" things done because they are affecting other people.

  • Chris Harshman - Monday, August 7, 2017 12:37 PM

    If there are some things that are waiting on me that never get done, then I would have considered myself failed at that task then.  Sure, in a perfect world we could always work on the "most important task" first, but sometimes you have to get some of the little "unimportant" things done because they are affecting other people.

    I'm not sure how that differs from prioritization. Prioritization requires knowledge, which is why you get paid the big bucks.

  • I find that I work better with a to do list, especially when I'm feeling overwhelmed with tasks.  I've tried a few different software to do lists, but never really found one that I was happy with.  I always end up back to pen and paper.

    Starting last year, I bought a daily planner for the year and each morning after I review my email, I write up my to do list for the day.  I generally group my tasks according to the project or application they're related to. So far I'm happy with this setup.

    We also have a two ticketing systems here - one for small day-to-day issues from users and another for larger code changes that we can attach all the documentation to for auditing.  I find that those don't really work for managing my own tasks though.



    The opinions expressed herein are strictly personal and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of my employer.

  • allinadazework - Monday, August 7, 2017 4:59 AM

    We have a basic request system with our tasks scheduled in for months ahead. It's useful as you can see centrally all the tasks that are coming up and re-schedule things for the whole team. We still have to be very flexible though. I still end up doing 20 to 30 percent of my daily work based on emails.

    I'd be interested if anyone uses or has used project management software of any kind. We started using one called Wrike which was ok, but a lot of stuff ended up going through email anyway. You also need everyone to adopt it and learn it at the same time or it doesn't work that well.

    Anyone else found any software that works well as a todo list substitute? Outlook works fine for me as a basic todo list.

    I've used half a dozen project management software tools. 
    All have pros and cons, but my personal favorite is Asana. 
    Stuff will always happen outside of any PM tool though. That is the nature of the beast. 
    In most PM software, you can attach the email request to a new (or existing) task/project and assign it to a team member on the fly.

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