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Discussion on: How do you keep track of what you’re working on so you remember where to start next time?

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adambrandizzi profile image
Adam Brandizzi

That depends on the situation but I have two indispensable tools:

  • Issues. I really like issue trackers and I always write an issue before starting anything. It is great to clean up the pending tasks from the mind, to clear the requirements and, of course, for documentation.

  • A notebook. My favorite ones are legal pads, but they are quite hard to find here... Anyway, any one will do. If it is somewhat larger than a pocket, I like to split each page in two columns. The first column is an immediate to-do list, and the second one is reserved for any kind of annotation I want to do. Of course, there are many other approaches.

Sometimes, a task goes into my personal Wunderlist to-dos, but it is rare. The two tools above are the ones that save my day.

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

I think the notebook is key. Right now my personal system is slightly disorganized, but the act of physically using your hand to write something down really helps lock it into memory. If I write something down, I usually don't even have to refer back to it. If I don't write it down, or simply type it, the effect is totally lost.

This is definitely my personal experience, but there is plenty of research to back this up as well.

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rubynista profile image
Theresa Luu

@adam and @ben , also for handwriting, my fav new thing from this past year has been writing w erasable Japanese pens and markers: jetpens.com/blog/pilot-frixion-era... I buy them at Japanese stationary stores.

The erasers don't produce debris like normal erasers. I love them. Just fair warning, don't leave your notebook in high heat because it will fade the pen/marker marks

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samxeshun profile image
Kwaku Eshun

This is me. I always write it down and never refer to it but always remember

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rubynista profile image
Theresa Luu

@adam do you then transfer your ongoing to do list somewhere? I think this is a cool idea but your short term task column would outpace your long-term column. I LOVE talking about task systems!

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adambrandizzi profile image
Adam Brandizzi

The first column is the short term one, the second column is the yet-shorter-term one :) There I write any note I need. It may be subtasks or any debugging information, or even a phone number I'll have to call! The second column is deeply unstructured, so I can keep the first one tidy.

Yet, it is true that the second column outpaces the first. When it happens, I go to another page and restart thed process, copying any pending task.

This method works for tasks that I'll handle in the current day or, at most, in the next day. If a task is not going to be handled in this interval, I have different "buckets" for different contexts:

  • Tasks at work usually become a JIRA issue. I am upfront when it comes to create tickets, especially technical subtasks. But those are only half of my tasks; the other half are emails and pull requests. Regarding those, I use my inbox and my PR listing as my to-do list.

  • Tasks on personal projects become tickets in my personal repositories. Even if the project is deeply personal, I create issues for that. I find it quite instructive and calming!

  • This is how I handle my programming-related tasks. Any other thing I have to do goes to Wunderlist or, ideally, become an event on Google Calendar. But I guess it is beyond the topic :)

So, I handle the long term with digital tools and the short term with paper, basically.