Self Organisation

I use Trello to keep track of things I need to do. Everything I need to do, which isn’t captured elsewhere (like in a github issue), goes on the Trello board.

I’ve found Trello works better for me for this than org-mode did: the latter is very powerful, which makes it hard to use consistently; Trello is much more limited, so consistency is easy.

Task States

There are three types of state a task can be in: not yet done, being worked on, and done. I break those three broad types into a few different more specific states:

  • Routines—regular, time-based, tasks.

  • Has Prerequisites—things I can’t do until I do something else (which is also on the board, and linked from this thing).

  • Backlog—things which would be nice to do, but aren’t particularly important or urgent.

  • Upcoming—important, but non-urgent, things.

  • This Sprint—a mixture of tasks from Backlog and Upcoming I’ve decided to do this sprint (see below).

  • Urgent—things to do ASAP. Normally tasks will arrive straight here. They can also come in from Has Prerequisites, for example, if there’s a task which can’t be worked on until a condition is met, but once that condition is met it becomes urgent. Tasks in Routines move into Urgent a few days before they’re due.

  • Doing—things I’m actively doing at the moment (this list is very small).

  • Waiting / Blocked—things where I’ve done my part, and need to wait on something or someone else.

    For example, saving three months expenses. I’ve got a budget to achieve this, I just need to wait for enough time to pass.

  • Evaluating—changes which I’m still trying out, like changes to my Personal Finance system.

  • Done - things I’ve done (there’s a new done list every month).

Here’s a state transition diagram showing the normal workflows:

%3 Routines Routines Urgent Urgent Routines->Urgent Has Prerequisites Has Prerequisites Backlog Backlog Has Prerequisites->Backlog Upcoming Upcoming Has Prerequisites->Upcoming Has Prerequisites->Urgent This Sprint This Sprint Backlog->This Sprint Upcoming->This Sprint Doing Doing This Sprint->Doing Urgent->Doing Waiting / Blocked Waiting / Blocked Doing->Waiting / Blocked Evaluating Evaluating Doing->Evaluating Done Done Doing->Done Waiting / Blocked->Doing Waiting / Blocked->Done Evaluating->Done

States in which new tasks arrive have a double border. There are also flows which don’t really fit into the idealised model:

  • Tasks might jump straight from one of the to-do lists to Done without going through Doing first.
  • A task in Has Prerequisites might move into Doing at while a prerequisite is still in Doing.

Tasks can be deleted at any point.

Sprints

I’ve decided to take a concept from software development planning and use “sprints” to prioritise tasks. Every fortnight I move some tasks from Backlog and Upcoming into This Sprint, and when picking up a new task I look at This Sprint first.

If I get through all the sprint tasks, great; if not, no big deal, they can either remain for the following sprint, or move back into a different list.

Tags

Every task has at least one tag. The tags are:

  • Career
  • Finance
  • Home
  • Kitchen
  • RPG
  • Memo
  • Miscellaneous
  • Programming & Tech
  • Self

I’m thinking of tweaking these.

Routines

I have a bunch of regular tasks which I collected together into a few different routines:

  • Weekly—household maintenance (cleaning, laundry, etc) and writing weeknotes.

  • Fortnightly—sprint planning and preparing for my RPG.

  • Monthly—more intense household maintenance (cleaning the oven, emptying the hoover, etc), budgeting, and backing up computers.

  • Quarterly—updating my CV and website.

  • Biannual—testing the harddrive failure alert in my home server.

  • Annual—reviewing my financial habits.

Each routine is a single card on the board with a checklist of tasks to complete and a deadline (end of last Sunday in the time period it’s for).

I expect these to change as I repeat them: the weekly and monthly routines have already been tweaked a bit, but the quarterly routine has only happened once so far, and the biannual and annual routines haven’t happened at all yet.