Cool Sign at Facebook
These signs hung around the facebook offices around the time of the IPO, I assume they are still up. This post reminds me a bit of that time.
The Problem and Challenges
I am wicked unorganized and frequently scatterbrained. I find that I end up spending an entire day thinking about a problem or some philosophical idea and totally forget commitments, promises, and tasks that need to be done. I just get really lost in my own head. I blame it on being an INTJ.
So, I wanted to find some kind of organizing tool. One of my colleagues showed me his system using OmniFocus and I was super impressed. However, it was Mac-only and I am not exclusively a Mac user (I have a linux machine at home).
- Tool needs to handle contexts and projects. For more on this and organization theory, see: GTD
- Tool needs to be easier than pen & paper (the current inefficient system)
- Tool needs to have some basic reporting so I can see what I completed
- Tool needs to sync easily between my macbook air, home linux machine, and work macbook and should run on all three systems
- Tool must have some mobile application (android or iPhone since I have both)
- Open source (and free) would be a bonus
- Connecting to JIRA (for work) would be a bonus
I found this cool toolset called http://todotxt.com/. It is a completely commandline based tool, hooks up to a Dropbox account for syncing, and has mobile apps on both platforms. It is a little simplistic, since it does really have much support for date-based tasks or tasks that have dependencies. The tool itself is pretty simple - put a text file in a dropbox folder and using Terminal run the todo.sh file. Here's a quick example
tom@santaclaus3 ~/Dropbox/todo $ ./todo.sh ls 48 (A) Fix stylesheet disaster @work +uld 25 (B) Make blogpot about organization system @home 37 (B) Reply to Bobs email @home 21 Schedule daily loads of extracts @work +importantproject 49 send rent check @home .... (many more not shown ) ...
Note that it uses a A-Z based prioritization system. (A) priorities always show up at the top, non-prioritized tasks at the bottom.
So far for three weeks now, the tool has been working pretty good. I do feel like I am less likely to forget things and it is helpful to have a tasklist always available. Every morning, before I start working, I go through my entire list of @work tasks, figure out what I need to work on that day and prioritize them to an (A) task. If I can get to (B) tasks in a day, I consider it a pleasant bonus.
Command Line Magic
One of the most convenient tricks with this is that I can hook it up to my command line .bashrc file and have quick aliases to see my lists:
# todo list aliases alias t="/home/tom/Dropbox/todo/todo.sh" alias th="/home/tom/Dropbox/todo/todo.sh ls @home" alias tw="/home/tom/Dropbox/todo/todo.sh ls @work"
So now, to see all of my "home" tasks, I just type th. Note: the coloring is different here than what shows up on the command line, but I cant copy and paste colored ASCII data.
tom@santaclaus3 ~/projects/tomhayden3.com $ th 25 (A) Make blogpot about organization system @home 49 (A) send rent check @home 09 Complete blogpost about amazon redshift @home +blog 45 Do problems from intro + ch1 of proof book @home +math 44 Read Intro and Chapter 1 of Proof book @home +math 04 Zarathusra Prologue +philosophy @home 03 Zarathustra chapters 1-3 @home +philosophy -- TODO: 14 of 49 tasks shown
Similarly, I can type
tw to see my work to do lists, and so on. Adding a task becomes as easy as just using the letter t:
tom@santaclaus3 ~/projects/tomhayden3.com/content/2013 $ t a 'Download NBA data @home +nba' 50 Download NBA data @home +nba TODO: 50 added.
I encountered a few problems with the tools and process:
- The Todo.txt iPhone application is completely broken on iOS 5. It crashes immediately upon trying to sync with Dropbox.
- I still have trouble staying focused and not deviating from the plan. I cheat on my todo list often.