Just my thoughts and conclusion about trying to create a perfect TODO list. Nothing pretending to be only truth
. That is my truth, for today. I can't guarrant that for some time I won't create a new, better truth XD. Anyway here is my current one, the best I have at the moment
They say we have right side of brain (creative) and left side of brain (analytical). Biologically it's true (really, once I saw a real human brain in jar in biopsychology department of Jagiellonian University in Kraków, and I can admit, that it looks like these depicted on (in?) films XD). But in practice I can easily see that besides creative and analytical parts I have also at least social and management (or should I write managing? which one is correct? XD) parts. Ok, I don't really care which part of my brain contains which activity, anyway I find it really interesting to list these activities and analyse how do they affect my following and not following the TODO list tasks.
Once I've read that scientists discovered that to switch from one activity to another we need 15 minutes. So that's why (or at least it's one of possible reasons) we can spend whole day doing a lot of stuff but in the evening realise that actually we did really litte. But if we'll count 15-30 minutes tasks and sum up and count all breaks and sum up, we'll see that we've spent half of day on switching! Yeah, we need breaks, that's true, but they can be managed in far better way.
Of course we can group activities. Then we don't need time for switching because we just continue the same type of task. It's great safe of time, because I do "1h drawing + 1h drawing" instead of "1h drawing + 15 minutes switching + 1h programming". We can't work whole day without any breaks, but making them too often is not really needed and becomes wasting of time like this.
When I was working in game industry employed as project manager (now I'm starting my own business) I tested many task management styles, not only fine for me, but for whole my team (up to 10 people, mostly programmers) and I discovered that the best is 4x2h tasks per day. But task here doesn't mean literally one singular task (it's impossible that all our activities take always 2h), but more group of similar tasks or fragment of bigger task. This 2h time incuded also time for switching (breaks). More complex tasks were cut to 2h units. But what about quick easy tasks like answer simple e-mail, fix easy stupid bug etc?
In game industry tasks has their importance levels (it mostly refers to bugs, but can be applied to new tasks too). All tasks are marked with any of 3 letters: A, B or C. And in my management in description it was written how time it will take (how many 2h units). A task marked with A is crucial - it's impossible to play the game with such bug (say, to pass a level you need to collect 100 points, but on level you can collect only 80, so you'll never pass this level), B is quite important, it's hard, but not impossible to play the game (say, you need to kill a boss to pass a level, you should get magical sword before the boss, but there is bug, you can't reach it, you have to fight with the boss with bare hands what is extremely difficult), C is minor and despite it irritates, it doesn't bother the gameplay (like ugly pixelized graphic, not adjusted texts, missing translation etc). So that's classic rule (these ABC marks), which you'll find in any book about game dev industry. Of course importance grades influences priorities. But only priorities didn't work very well. So I added 3 more marks for tasks in system: crash task (higher than A - game crashes), dangerous (any of ABC, but programmer assigned to the task (or any other) had no idea how long it will take) and the quickshot task.
Quickshot tasks were always open for everyone, not assigned to any programmer. So when they were tired with hard normal 2h task they could rest a bit by using once a day one of these "2h time" for doing any quickshot tasks they wished and they did as many of them as they could within 2h (it was reported near 1000 quickshot tasks to do in that project so always was something to do and they could chose any they wished). These tasks were really simple like correcting typos, linking missing graphic file and such stuff 2-30 minutes each (if any took more than 60 minutes I used to change it to normal (A/B/C) task status, not a quickshot). Crash (even if it was a quickshot in the same time) always was marked as Crash and Dangerous as Dangerous. They had of course in description written if it's A, B or C, that programmers knew priority, but adding these extra marks really helped me managing the project and my team was really happy of my management. Why I bother you with theory of managing game production? Because it can be easily applied on everyone's daily TODO list
You can say that there are so many other methods for "normal" (opposite to geeks like me XD) people like, say, Eisenhower's matrix. Yeah, that's true. Eisenhower's matrix is a really great tool. Just quickly about for readers who don't know it. It's about grouping your tasks to 4 categories:
- important AND short deadline (i.e. exam next week, game release etc.) - do as first
- important AND long deadline (i.e. learning foreign language, writing book) - do as second
- not important AND short deadline (i.e. pay bills, do shoppings) - do as third
- not important AND long deadline (i.e. learn embroidery because it's so cool) - forget about, doing all above you don't have time for this XD.
What's the difference between mine and this one? Can they be used together? Difference is that mine is for 1 day TODO list (mark all your tasks with Crash/A/B/C/Dangerous/Quickshot and compose your day taking into account their importance). The other is for many days/months/years. They can be used together and should. Mine can be applied on each of Eisenhower's category, it's just more specific. In game industry we work mostly on TODO list from 1st Eisenhower's category.
Cutting tasks to 2h units helps to predict how long it will take. If it's a big task, cut it to 2h pieces. If in creating really complex MMO online game for mobile devices there was no tasks which couldn't be cut to 2h tasks, I guess that there is no such tasks in any industry of someone's life. Everything can be cut to 2h units. What more a human being can't keep his attention longer than for these 2h. He needs a break for tea or something after each 2h. What about tasks which don't need 2h, but far less or task which we can't estimate? That's why I crafted Quickshot and Dangerous category. What about special really important sudden tasks? If you have many of A tasks (say 100), feel free to mark 1-5 with Crash label (or name it as you wish, outside game dev industry this name doesn't make too much sense XD). For me this set works really well.
Ok, so I've covered prioritising (Crash/A/B/C/Quickshot/Dangerous method), prioritising vs deadline (Eisenhower's matrix), but here is one element missing. Last time I wondered why one day can do all my tasks, the other I really struggle with it. Because of required time of switching itself.
So going back to these mentioned scientists - they discovered that average for switching is 15 minutes. Ok, but it's just an average. Observing my averge span I realised it's different in different cases. It can vary from 5 minutes to even 2 days (!) to reach my max efficiency. And this what influences the span is both the type of activity we switch to and the type of activity we switch from. So for example I need far less time to switch from business stuff like planning meetings, preparing presentations etc to programming, but it takes really a lot before I switch from programming to drawing or writing. However from business things to writing is easier, than from programming to writing. But from business to drawing is far harder than from business to writing, despite both are regarded as creative. These switchings also are not mirror (mirrored?). For example from business to drawing is harder for me than from drawing to business.
So to make a TODO list, which makes sense it's worth to remember:
- to correctly mark tasks' importance level, deadline and count approximate time, which it the most probably will take (2h units)
- to not place too different types of activity right after each other (like programming and writing book)
- to know own predispositions and personal switching span for each configuration of activity types
My types of tasks?
(I) Programming - highly analytical energy + high concentration
(II) Writing - highly creative energy + dreamy meditation-like mood
(III) Design - creative energy + high concentration
(IV) Drawing - creative energy + dreamy meditation-like mood
(V) Other things - oh, what a brilliant category!? How can I analyse it? XD Well, it's mostly boring quickshots to do, so I'll need to change the name of this category to Quickshots - any energy + average concentration
(VI) Languages - analytical energy + average concentration
(VII) Exercises and learning (daily) - but what about? Uh... my names are terrible XD. I usually put here watching video tutorials... hmm.. maybe I should change the name of category to more specific? I'm not sure... - analytical energy + average concentration
(VIII) Fun, rest and relax - and one more brilliant category... what do I require to do these "tasks"? To be tired? Well... checking box method is to want to mark a check box as done. I can't *want to be tired* to be able to do any task from this list... So maybe instead of this category, when I'm tired just use a quickshot list? My main problem is that I don't know how to rest, how to relax. Playing games, watching TV I feel I waste time, so I don't. I work 14h/day and then after few days I sleep 14h/day what is not really handy, not mentioning it's unhealthy and makes no sense. Uh... any tips on this field? Yeah, I am workaholic, I know... uh... Maybe start using at last 4x2h? (Since I work for myself I ignore so many good practices I used working for others...) And after that whatever I want? Hmm... that's a serious issue... Anyway I should remove this category. It doesn't make any sense put in such light...
(IX) Social relations - social energy + average concentration
Hmm... On begining of article I mentioned "managment energy" but I didn't use it on the list above. I surely use it, but... when if not in these above? Seems I missed one very important category: Planing and analysing. What does it include? Making my todo list and writing articles like these (more personal which I keep in my notebook and these more general which I post as my journals) - I don't plan them, I write them spontaneously, just writing down my way of thinking at the moment and analysing my own thoughts in fly, just as if I'd talk with someone. So:
(X or VIII <- it's empty now) Planning and analysing - management energy + average concentration
- I must update my tasks categories.
- I can't place drawing, programming and writing in the same day, especially if I have a serious tasks of each to do. Each of these tasks should be in separated day, then I'm the most efficient.
- Plan only 4x2h units of time, not more, else I get really tired after some days.
- Master Eisenhower's matrix and Crash/A/B/C/Dangerous/Quickshot method even more as I did so far.
- Learn how to rest at last... >___>.
- Write down all my tasks of any categories and use on them these methods in updated version to create a new, better TODO list
By the way my method needs a name I think
. It works for years and in my opinion deserves for a name at last
. Something like QRABCD from Quickshot-cRash-A-B-C-Dangerous [spelled "kraybeeseedee" or "kraybeesd" <- this latter sounds like CryBeast XD, so maybe this one ^^', it's easy to remember, or "krabseed" perhaps more natural, yeah I like the "krabseed" ^^]?