Tools of The Effective Developer: Personal Planning
In the first post of this series I stated that the best tools, the ones that make developers efficient, are the habits that they possess. The habit I referred to in that post was the habit of keeping personal logs. In this post I will tell you about another habit that helps me in my daily work: The habit of personal planning.
When I come to work, the first thing I do after catching up on the e-mails, is grabbing a pen and notebook and start listing today’s tasks. When I’m done listing the ones that are in my head, I turn to my work log and my calendar in search for more things to be done. At this point I usually have a big unordered list of tasks with various degree of importance. It’s always more than enough for one days work so I start prioritizing.
In order to prioritize I rip out the page of my notebook to start a new list. Then I bring the tasks back to the notebook in order of importance. This time I draw a small square in front of every item, turning them into a proper todo-list. When finished I can start the real work, taking on the tasks one by one.
The planning usually takes around ten minutes to do and is worth every second. There are three main reasons for me to do it, listed here in order of importance:
- It helps me do the right things in the right order, making me better focused and more effective.
- Because of the importance of closure. When I finish a task, the ceremony of checking the square makes me feel good and brings me energy to take on the next task.
- It helps me remember what I’ve done during the day. This comes in handy when it’s time to update my work log.
I have tried several applications to help me in my planning, applications like Notepad, Microsoft Outlook and iGoogle’s todo-list. None of them could, in my opinion, compete with the good old pen and paper, so that is what I recommend using. But remember: it’s not the tool that matters, it’s the habit.