The Tyranny of the TODO List

Even superheroes need Todo Lists

Like many people I keep a TODO List (on Trello for those that are interested) with all the tasks that I’m planning to take a look at when time allows. I suspect that also like many people, I rarely do anything on the list. So much so that I jokingly call it my Not Going TODO List. Over the last couple of years it’s become like the Hotel California — tasks can checkout any time they like but they can never leave. Instead of being a useful guide to things I need to focus on when I have some precious spare time, it’s a place where tasks go to die. The list should motivate me but instead it silently mocks me.

But why is this the case? Put simply, many of my tasks aren’t fit for purpose, for a variety of reasons.

Tasks that are too vague are unlikely to get picked up as I have no idea how long they will take, or often where to start. An entry such as “Look at React” isn’t something I can dip into when I have an hour to spare — if I google React I’ll get hundreds of thousands of hits so which ones to tackle?

Vague tasks don’t belong on a TODO list — these need to be changed to something actionable, such as “Complete a tutorial on React Basics”. Then when I complete this I can create another item around more advanced learning. As an aside I don’t find it useful to create a number of entries for the entire journey of something like learning React, as everything apart from the starting point isn’t achievable and it’s highly likely the direction of travel will change as I learn and focus on specific areas. In this case I’ll usually create a separate board with the various tutorials/ideas on it and link to that, but more as a resource than a set of tasks.

Believe it or not I’ve had tasks in my todo list such as “Create a shopping site on Salesforce”. Even to get something basic together for this would probably take 50+ hours, and again there’s no real criteria for success. If I’m going to to do this it needs to be broken down into a set of achievable tasks — the same approach that I’d take to a customer project. In this specific case, masterful inactivity turned out to be the right approach as Salesforce acquired Demandware and created the Commerce Cloud.

Often I’ll put tasks on my TODO list that I don’t want to do, but feel I should. Taking a step back and looking objectively at this, I’m never going to do it as long as there’s something I’m more interested in on the list, which is anything that doesn’t fall into this category.

As I’ve written before. my awesome ideas often turn out to be stupid and unworkable. Just because they made it to my Todo List doesn’t make them any less stupid.

Curate the List

A Todo List shouldn’t be like a dartboard where tasks get thrown randomly at it, and anything that doesn’t fall off becomes an onerous duty. Instead it should be curated list of achievable tasks that set you up for success. Tasks that are “too anything” to be started need to be ruthlessly cast aside, otherwise they’ll turn into yet another stick to beat yourself with.

I’m better known in the Salesforce community as Bob Buzzard — Umpteen Certifications, including Technical Architect, 6 x MVP and CTO of BrightGen, a Platinum Cloud Alliance Partner in the United Kingdom who are hiring.

You can find my (usually) more technical thoughts at the Bob Buzzard Blog

CTO at BrightGen, author Visualforce Development Cookbook, multi Salesforce Developer MVP. Salesforce Certified Technical Architect. I am the one who codes.

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