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April 21, 2014, 04:10:10 AM
TIGSource ForumsDeveloperTutorialsManaging to do lists
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Author Topic: Managing to do lists  (Read 5911 times)
Muz
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« on: January 30, 2013, 06:02:35 PM »

To Do Lists are a miracle drug that's drastically increased my productivity. With software/game development, you're struck with information overload on a lot of little things. Which sprites to draw? Which animations? Which component to code? Does that rare fatal crash bug mean something larger and more sinister? What about these components which I'm waiting for someone to do?

I'd say team projects are nearly impossible to do without to do lists, especially if you can overlap with someone else. They're low maintenance enough to be suitable for small indie projects, but powerful enough that they cover almost anything. Don't need to bother with a lot of other management tools like Gantt charts, dependencies, when a To Do list can handle it.


Recommendations
So far, I've found Asana to be the best in features. It's very fast and powerful, allows notes inside to do stuff, has subtasks, lets you add other people to the same list, has privacy stuff, and so on.

Workflowy seems to take a nice minimalist approach. It's very fast too and is great at displaying a lot of information at once.

Trello uses a somewhat different concept, based off Kanban. Some people prefer it as it's like passing post-it notes to teammates, but it's not my thing.

Holly has about the same power as most to do lists, like nested lists, tags, deadlines, sharing with friends, and looks good when printed. Main advantage is that it doesn't need a sign it, so it's easily used and disposed of.

If you want a mobile recommendation, I use GTask as it seems the best coded, but most of them are fairly similar. Epic Win might be your thing if you like gamification.

Can't find a good offline one for now. I'd just recommend using Notepad++ or any good text editor, and learn the hotkeys to move lines up and down and delete lines. Notetaking apps like OneNote and Evernote are ok if you need more power, but I find them clumsier than the tools dedicated to being a to do list.

Get everything
If it takes less than 3 minutes to do, do it. Otherwise, consider writing it down.

Ideally, you'll want to get everything down. The trivial bugs and typos (that take more than 3 minutes to fix) too. Things like "make some tea", probably not.

Write tasks down in a "next action" format. "Design forest level" is a next action. "Forest level" is a poor way of writing it: It can mean anything, like "do tiles for forest level" or "debug forest level". This might seem trivial now, but it makes the task seem a lot more do-able. It's easier to skim over, especially if you're in the mood to design something. And your friends can't read your mind.

There's probably going to some tasks you can't do yet, like say, animate a model when the model drawer guy hasn't created it yet. I'd normally put a Waiting For Someone tag on those things (which is why it's so helpful to have a To Do system that supports tags). It allows you to simply gloss over those Waiting tasks if they're not applicable, so you can forget about them.

For time-critical tasks, things that you have to do next Sunday and such, I'd recommend just getting a phone or desktop reminder.


Organize them
As a programmer, I prefer splitting task lists into "Main list" and "Do later". I'm guessing it's similar for things like artwork as well. So far, game design doesn't work so well for me with a To Do model; I find that they go better in some Mind Map format or just a brief plaintext file. For grander projects, you'd probably want a Development Roadmap list.

Note that all these are what worked for me so far, but others may have better methods.

Development Roadmap
So far, I've rarely needed this as all my projects were done in 3 months or less. But if you have a large enough project, try to break it down into different phases. I think Dwarf Fortress does a good example.

Your aim here is to list down all the different things that have to be done, and not think yet about how to do it.

Main list
I often maintain one megalist of things I plan to do for one week. The idea here is that 90% of the time, I'll only look at this list. Think of it as what you'd otherwise juggle in your brain. Things from the other 'minor lists' get transferred back and forth from this.

I'd spend about 30-60 minutes every week keeping this list up to date: making sure that the things on the "Waiting" tag are not dead, transferring stuff between lists.

Do later
You'll probably want several of these lists. Normally I only need one, but if they require vastly different skill sets (and different people), you can split them up into more.

By default, this has been my bug list, but I find it useful for things like polish features. As it's evolved from a bug list, I sort it according to priorities:
1. Emergency - something absolutely critical. Almost nothing should be priority 1 unless you've messed up bad.
2. Requested - Sometimes a feature is requested by a client. This will normally take higher priority than the Main list, or should probably be transferred there soon.
3-4. Important - A noticable feature. I split it to two different levels just because.
5. Fix if time
6. Probably don't fix
7. Don't fix - This might seem unnecessary, but sometimes you get common recommendations from fans/friends like "do jiggle physics". From a bug report angle, you have something to tell them that it's not a unique idea and you won't do it.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2013, 06:07:37 PM by Muz » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2013, 07:18:22 PM »

i prefer plain text because your alternatives seem to require internet connectivity; i'm not always connected to the internet so i'd want access to my to-do list when offline

i'm constantly surprised that anyone tries to make games without a to-do list. it's kind of unimaginable that it would occur to someone to make a game without having a list of what they need to do to make it

the main thing i can offer by way of to do list knowledge is: clearly differentiate between wishes and necessities, otherwise the wish list will continue to grow forever as you think of more things you want to do. i have three to do lists: one for necessary tasks, one for wishes, and one for bugs

examples of stuff on my lists:

necessities: making levels, making bosses, making an installer, etc.
wishes: improving particle effects, improving the textbox borders, etc.
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« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2013, 07:33:02 PM »

Incase anyone is wondering, Workflowly is the best even better and more efficient than notepad!
« Last Edit: January 30, 2013, 07:58:59 PM by alastair » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2013, 07:49:52 PM »

sssss notepad sssss
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« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2013, 08:28:09 PM »

idk wat any of those programs are but https://hollyapp.com/ is simple and doesnt mak u register
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Moczan
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« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2013, 02:01:01 AM »

I experiment with workflows a lot, but my current task management looks like that (I also use Asana):
Main list
I use Kanban-like approach here, ToDo priority heading is for task that I work on now, Upcoming priority holding task that will get into ToDo as soon as something else is done there, and Later list with task that are not priority or have some dependencies that need to be done before they can get into Upcoming/ToDo.

It's the only list I work with daily and it pretty much dictates what's getting done.

Roadmap list
This one is for long-term goals, I use it more for planning than actual task management. It helps me keep track of my progress and keep focused on most important aspects of the current project.

Bugs/feedback
This is self explanatory, this list feeds the Main list's Upcoming header with task when needed.

I usually do the lists cleaning when I update Roadmap. I also use Tags extensively, it helps me filter the list if it's getting too big and choose what to work on depending on my mood.
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Muz
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« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2013, 05:42:07 PM »

i prefer plain text because your alternatives seem to require internet connectivity; i'm not always connected to the internet so i'd want access to my to-do list when offline

Ah, right. I've been doing mostly internet stuff lately. The good stuff often aim to be suitable with team projects and functional on different OSes and are thus native web.

Don't know a good offline one. I'd say Notepad++ or any good text editor works. Just have to learn the hotkeys to shuffle lines up and down, and delete entire lines.

A major downside it's a lot harder to 'cross out' or archive finished tasks in plaintext, or even to attach small notes. I find archives really useful if you have to dig up something old or as a method to quickly measure progress.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2013, 07:22:07 PM by Muz » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2013, 05:58:27 PM »

Incase anyone is wondering, Workflowly is the best even better and more efficient than notepad!

I use workflowy intensively too - it's far more spartan than any one in the OP, and unfortunately nearly not updated - but they nailed the fact that todos need to be trees, not lists, each todo being composed/dependent on other todos and so on, allowing you to have todos as detailed as you like without getting lost in a chaos of too specific tasks.

It perfectly models how you make a program: you say "I'll add feature x"... and that explodes in n tasks and each one of them explodes in other task when you get deeper in the problem.

The other "flat" task lists are just useless, as they say nothing about the relation between tasks, and add very little over a txt file or issues on a tracker, imo.
I tried some and they were such a chore to mantain that I constantly forgot to close tasks, so I just stopped using them after a while.
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« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2013, 12:51:42 AM »

One Note's good
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« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2013, 01:08:33 AM »

One thing I am totally not a friend of is having a list for bugs. There shouldn't be any bugs you know of on your road, you eliminate them as they pop up. List of bugs is something for aaa game development because you know, too many cooks are expensive and bug the meal.
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« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2013, 02:29:51 AM »

One thing I am totally not a friend of is having a list for bugs. There shouldn't be any bugs you know of on your road, you eliminate them as they pop up. List of bugs is something for aaa game development because you know, too many cooks are expensive and bug the meal.

Some of us are not the perfect human being like you J-Snake and we don't work on best game ever 24 hours a day for 3 years. We send build to few friends, one of them notices a bug, tell us about during beer-time, so we add it to ToDo and fix it as soon as we are at our workstations. Probably don't know the feeling, cause you write bugless software.
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nikki
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« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2013, 04:07:10 PM »

todo lists aren't only for bugs though.
I use them mostly for uninplemented stuff that's todo  Wink

I mostly use the VS inbuild "//todo" tags.
But I've found that a piece of paper on my desk actually works better . The act of writing it with a pen and having a real list I can tick off things is sort of great.

the //todo stuff in VS I moreso use for functions that I know I will have to write one day or some hardcoded garbage that needs to be cleaned out or that sort of thing.
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« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2013, 05:17:42 PM »

trello forever
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Muz
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« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2013, 06:30:08 PM »

Checked out and added some of the recommendations to the OP.

It perfectly models how you make a program: you say "I'll add feature x"... and that explodes in n tasks and each one of them explodes in other task when you get deeper in the problem.

The other "flat" task lists are just useless, as they say nothing about the relation between tasks, and add very little over a txt file or issues on a tracker, imo.
I tried some and they were such a chore to mantain that I constantly forgot to close tasks, so I just stopped using them after a while.

Yeah, good point. Most decent to do lists actually show it in a tree format though, or at least have subtasks. The mobile ones don't seem to, but I think that's more because of limited space.

One Note's good

I find it too slow to start and create something new. It's good for displaying a bunch of stuff. But for a to do list, you don't really need to see all that at once. In this case, it's a tool that does a little of everything, but not as specialized as most of the dedicated to do apps. With to do lists, it should be like a tray or folder... something you can toss stuff into and recover with as little mental effort as possible. Powerful note apps rank poorly on that criteria.

One thing I am totally not a friend of is having a list for bugs. There shouldn't be any bugs you know of on your road, you eliminate them as they pop up. List of bugs is something for aaa game development because you know, too many cooks are expensive and bug the meal.

I'd agree that you should be killing your bugs as soon as possible. Bugs left inside the product make it harder to release and the longer the bug stays there, the harder it is to detect. But sometimes, they're just not easily killable, or you have higher priority stuff.

To take a high priority thing from my own bug list, I have "Edit box does not validate or limit characters".

While there's the possibility that the player might enter "Mr. <b>Steele</b>" in the character name box and mess everything up, there are higher priority things. It is something potentially very dangerous and should not be forgotten, but in the grand scope of things, getting it into beta is more important. It might not even be worth fixing, as I could replace the edit box with something custom before release. But it is worth knowing all the things that you have to do before release.
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« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2013, 06:46:35 AM »

I use Workflowy, it's the best

I make parent lists organizing things into projects so I can isolate out the ones relevant to whichever project I'm currently working on. Also drag around each individual item into the order it needs to be completed, that way you waste no time choosing from the todo list, you just start at the top and go.
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