Somewhere between individual contributor and middle management, it became essential that I have a to-do list. I resisted this for years, secretly hoping that I could keep track of all the crap I needed to do in my head or an a conveniently located post-it note, but then stuff started spilling all over the floor and I started getting yelled at.
Enter the to-do list.
After trying out many different tools and processes for tracking to-dos, I’ve reluctantly settled on using an Excel spreadsheet. Each to-do contains the following information:
0 – Now (must do today), 1 – High (this week), 2 – Medium (Whatever)
Which team is the to-do related to
I’ve recently added this to the spreadsheet because I needed finer grained control that Priority gave me. Currently, I have three states: NEEDS ACTION which means “move on this”, TARGETED which means “action has been taken, next step is NOT mine”, and BLANK which means “Uuuuuh, need to triage this”.
If the to-do has been triaged, what’s the next thing that needs to be done? This also gets used a lot for random notes.
When the to-do was submitted. I used to highlighted issues based on how many days had passed by submission, but other than adding a lot of color to the spreadsheet, I mostly ignored it.
This is a boolean. True means executives care about the issue, False means the opposite. This is basically an acknowledgement that Executives, by definition, care about seriously random stuff and it’s more important to aggressively follow-up on the issue rather than debate why they care about it. Separating this means I can leave priority as a representation of my opinion rather than being artificially inflated by an Executive fire drill.
At the time of this writing, I’ve currently got 73 active to-do items on my spreadsheet… 21 which I’m supposed to handle today. That’s about the norm.
I’m content with my to-do set-up because Excel is flexible tool and as I my process changes, so can it. I heavily use the filtering and sorting features to slice and dice my to-do list throughout the day to make it appropriate for the team/people I’m dealing with, but I’m wondering out loud what other people use to track their to-dos. Surely, someone brighter than me has come up with a more robust solution/tool.