Checklists are the most important organizational tool ever.
If you don’t use checklists, you’re not organized, and you should feel bad.
Wikipedia puts it quite well: “A checklist is a type of informational job aid used to reduce failure by compensating for potential limits of human memory and attention. It helps to ensure consistency and completeness in carrying out a task.”
Basically: “Your memory sucks. So make checklists so you can never forget anything.”
Whenever I work on a game, I make lists of features to add, bugs to fix, stats to set, and other things to do. I then work through these, and cross them off when they’re done. I’ve got checklists for items, foes, maps, stats, skills, treasure chests, menus, mechanics, ad locations, bugs, tweaks, user complaints, users to credit, and everything else. I have a look at each item in the list, and either address it, or decide that it’s no longer relevant and get rid of it. Once the list is empty, I move onto the next one. I even sometimes go further and add stuff like the current progress on each task, its priority, or how much time that task is expected to take.
This all makes it very easy to remember what I have to do, and to keep track of how much progress I’ve made. It keeps me focused and motivated.
At first I did this mostly on paper. I literally have piles of notebooks full of just notes and checklists.
I moved on to using notepad and other plain text editors, once paper started going out of fashion for me.
I’m currently using a webapp called Trello for my checklists. It does the job very well, using a sticky-note style interface. You’ve got different “boards” where you attach your lists, which look a lot like sticky notes. You can also include images, links, dates, colors, or whatever else you need.
There’s some pretty cool advantages of using Trello over traditional paper notes:
- I’ve got the Trello app on my phone as well as on my desktop PC, so I can update my lists from anywhere.
- Trello archives all of your activity, so you can always go back and find out exactly when you did what.
- Trello can be used for collaborating! You can share your lists with others for managing projects, and assign different people to tasks.
Here’s what some of my lists currently look like:
As you can see there, checklists aren’t only useful for work! You can put fun things on them too! My favorite use is making a list of in-real-life achievements to work towards. If people can do pointless and repetitive tasks to earn achievements in videogames, why can’t they do the same in real life, where the achievements actually matter?
If you wake up every morning and open up Trello, you’ll quickly remember what work you’re supposed to do today, what activities you’ve got lined up for your free time, and what your long-term goals are.
So yeah, I just wanted to get that out there. Occasionally I get questions like “How do you stay motivated to finish your games?”, and stuff like that. Well, checklists are a big part of the answer.