Friday, October 30, 2009

Quick, Colorful and Collaborative TODO Lists

These days, I've been using the following recipe to track TODO items on projects. It's not a perfect solution, but it's quick and flexible.

  • Create a new Google Spreadsheet or add a new tab to an existing one
  • Create the columns Priority, Task and any other ones I'm tracking. Often I use at least one column to store the URL to the Gmail message that triggered the item in the first place.
  • Add some tasks to the list. In the priority column, choose a letter A - Z. In the task column, prefix the task with a tag such as Ben:, Urgent: or X: for completed
  • Highlight the task column and select Change formatting with rules. For each of the tags, select a color combination, like so:
  • Go under Share » Set Notification Rules to setup notification. That way, anytime someone adds an item to the list, you'll learn about it.
  • Share the spreadsheet with the rest of the team

Here's a sample spreadsheet in action:

Whenever the priority of a task changes, I just update the letter in the priority column and then resort the column. All the items will then snap into the correct location.

For bonus points, you can setup a form, which allows people to contribute to the TODO list without accessing the spreadsheet directly. For example, you might use this approach to collect up issues on a new application you're having the company play around with for the first time. Filling out a form is super easy, and you can even do it via e-mail.

Now, if I could only get Google Spreadsheets to actually do the items on the list, I'd be all set.

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