Staying Organized as a Developer

I’m an employee, a wife, a mom, and a person who naturally has very little organizational skills. Left to my own devices, I don’t have a messy house, but I regularly wouldn’t know where anything was.

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My day to day tasks are usually dictated by whatever the Jira board has for my tickets, which are usually really broad features to work on. I would use an app like Reminders to make personal, work, and long term to-do lists. If I was working on a ticket for, say, getting Jenkins up and running, my Reminders list would look like this:

One of the limitations of Reminders is that once you complete a task, it goes away. This intuitively seems like a good thing – if it’s done, why would you care? The problem for me is that I DON’T REMEMBER IF I DID A THING. Just like I like seeing a commit history in a repo, I like seeing a historical log of what I’ve done.

It was at about this time that I read a book called Getting Things Done by David Allen. I also read a blog post by Zapier on how to use a tool called OmniFocus which looked like it did everything I wished Reminders could do.

“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”

David Allen, Getting Things Done

Here’s an example of how I use OmniFocus for work:

You can put due dates, set up flags for high priority items, set up as many of those nested items as you would like. You can also add tags to any of the items, but I don’t tend to do that for my work set up as I have it separated by project anyway. I also put the ticket number/link, if there is a Jira ticket, that is associated with a task.

I now do this system for every single part of my life, not just for work stuff. As soon as I have a thought I put it in OmniFocus. I don’t forget to do things as much because I record literally everything in my life. Need to set up my kid’s birthday party? Make a project, jot it down, call it good. Find an article but don’t have time to read it just yet? Make a task, put the url in, done. My mental energy gets spent on creative problem solving, not juggling projects, timelines, and junk.

Staying organized is hard, and a big revelation for me is that it is hard for everybody. Starting a new organization system can be extra hard, but once you become accustomed to putting things in a system you may find that your life gets less complicated and more automated.

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