TODO lists are a battle-hardened solution for productivity. There are countless applications available which span mobile apps, cloud-based solutions, etc. However, these tend to be far too heavy for my preference as I trend towards minimalist solutions, favoring simplicity over extensive functionality. The short list of requirements for a TODO list include functionality to:
- Prioritize certain tasks over others
- Manage separate lists for home and work
- Attach free-form text to tasks
My solution has evolved from a simple text file to using kanban boards to better track my workflow. Kanban is a simple paradigm popularized in tech for tracking software development projects. Basically, a large physical board is partitioned into multiple lists (e.x., Backlog, TODO, In Progress, Under Review, and Done). Each issue / feature is added as a card, with a brief description, and placed within a single list. Cards are then moved between lists as work progresses. This is a great solution for tracking / prioritizing work within an engineering team.
I have incorporated the kanban philosophy into a script, namely due, within my scripts repository. It uses a collection of text-oriented lists and cards to track various tasks and enables use of multiple boards to segregate domains (e.x., home, work, etc). Internally, each element is stored as JSON enabling arbitrary features to facilitate extensibility. Below is the
help menu for the due script:
hamersaw@ragnarok:~$ due help USAGE: due COMMAND COMMAND: add <ID> [FEATURE...] <DESC> add an element at the desired location board list all initialized boards cat <ID> display note attached to the specified element help display this help menu list list all elements modify <ID> [FEATURE...] update options on element move <SRCID> <DSTID> move an element within the same level note <ID> edit the element note remove <ID> remove the specified element switch <BOARD> change the currently active board FEATURE: <KEY>:<VALUE> generic key value pair ID: (1-9)(.1-9)* dynamic element identifier
To print the entire kanban board we use the
list command. Although the current board is empty, every element (i.e., list / card) is assign a dot seperated numerical ID. These are incremental, so they change as the board is modified, and hierarchical so IDs of cards begin with the resident list ID. The script uses these IDs for every functional operation.
hamersaw@ragnarok:~$ due list LIST CARD NOTE DESCRIPTION
Creating, Moving, and Removing Elements
Operations over lists and cards use the same commands with different IDs.
We can add lists to a new board using the
add commands below. Note that the ‘in-progress’ and ’todo’ lists are both added as ID 1, when ’todo’ is added there are 2 elements so it is inserted between them. Also descriptions can contain spaces as noted in the ‘under review’ example.
hamersaw@ragnarok:~$ due add 1 in-progress hamersaw@ragnarok:~$ due add 1 todo hamersaw@ragnarok:~$ due add 2 'under review' hamersaw@ragnarok:~$ due list LIST CARD NOTE DESCRIPTION 1 todo 2 in-progress 3 under review
Now we can start creating cards to reflect our tasks with the
add command. This command is used to add both lists and cards, the length of the ID determines which.
hamersaw@ragnarok:~$ due add 2.1 'implement a new feature' hamersaw@ragnarok:~$ due add 1.1 'take over the world' hamersaw@ragnarok:~$ due list LIST CARD NOTE DESCRIPTION 1 todo 1.1 take over the world 2 in-progress 2.1 implement a new feature 3 under review
As work progresses on a card we transition it through the kanban lists using the
move command. Note that this command can be used to rearrange lists as well.
hamersaw@ragnarok:~$ due move 2.1 3.1 hamersaw@ragnarok:~$ due list LIST CARD NOTE DESCRIPTION 1 todo 1.1 take over the world 2 in-progress 3 under review 3.1 implement a new feature
And upon completion we use
remove to remove the card from the board, which can also remove lists from the board.
hamersaw@ragnarok:~$ due remove 3.1 hamersaw@ragnarok:~$ due list LIST CARD NOTE DESCRIPTION 1 todo 1.1 take over the world 2 in-progress 3 under review
Modifying Element Features
Internally, each element is stored using a JSON object to track metadata. We provide the
modify command to arbitrarily change any field in the metadata. Below we change the description value on the remaining card. This functionality can be used to store arbitrary data as well, though I haven’t found that particularly useful.
hamersaw@ragnarok:~$ due modify 1.1 description:'try and take over the world' hamersaw@ragnarok:~$ due list LIST CARD NOTE DESCRIPTION 1 todo 1.1 try and take over the world 2 in-progress 3 under review
Attaching Notes to Each Card
The script allows each card to be associated with a single, text document of free-form notes in markdown format. I commonly use this to do things like track github issues and PR URLs, describe implementation details, or just brain dump. To create and modify a note we use the
note command which spawns an editor (vim by default) and automatically saves the note when closed. An indicator that a note exists for this item is then present.
hamersaw@ragnarok:~$ due note 1.1 hamersaw@ragnarok:~$ due list LIST CARD NOTE DESCRIPTION 1 todo 1.1 x try and take over the world 2 in-progress 3 under review
To quickly view the note we can use
cat on the card ID.
hamersaw@ragnarok:~$ due cat 1.1 hello world!
Using Multiple Boards
Due allows using multiple boards to segregate tracking tasks in different domains. I find this is very useful for a work / life balance to help partition my focus. The
boards command lists all created boards and
switch transitions to a different board, creating it if necessary.
hamersaw@ragnarok:~$ due boards test
hamersaw@ragnarok:~$ due switch test2
This post is part 3 / 5 of the Script Series:
- A Script for Managing Dotfiles
- Due: A Kanban TODO List Script
- Scripting Your UI Color-Palette
- Password Management with Stash
5 day(s) offloaded in the 100DaysToOffload challenge.