Simple Scheduling for Your Week

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Schedule Your Week Developers that work with an issue tracking system are torn between two extremes. They often would like to know everything that is happening on their project yet their main focus is on tasks assigned to them. In practice, neither an overly nosey or a hermit-like approach works well, as developers are either overwhelmed by the number of tasks they track or out of the loop on important updates. Luckily, Tasktop and Mylyn allow developers to find a balance. By watching most project tasks but only Scheduling their own tasks developers are able to keep tabs on the team’s work while still focusing on their own work. This blog will show you how use Scheduling to achieve Task List zen.

Daily Personal Scheduling

Becoming a more balanced issue-watcher is an easy change for most developers. The configuration of many developers using Tasktop or Mylyn is already well-suited for this approach and developers that are not currently using Tasktop or Mylyn can quickly get configured. Once configured, the developer can plan their current week using Scheduling. Once he develops his initial plan, the easy discipline of updating his plan allows him to easily track a large number of tasks while still focusing on his tasks.

Configuring Your Workspace

In order to get started with Scheduling you’ll need to ensure you have created queries to track the appropriate tasks. Create one query that tracks all of the tasks assigned to you for your given project or sub-project and one query for tasks not assigned to you. While creating a single query for these tasks is possible, creating two queries allows you to separate your tasks from others using the Categorized Presentation of the Task List. If you were working on the Wikitext sub-project of the Mylyn project I would recommend setting up the following two queries:

  • All Mine: all tasks assigned to me with the Mylyn product and the Wikitext component
  • All Others: all tasks assigned to others with the Mylyn product and the Wikitext component

Planning Your Week

Once you’ve downloaded all of the relevant tasks the next step is to plan your week. Here are the mechanics of Scheduling within Tasktop:

Schedule for… Schedule for…
Presentation Scheduled Presentation
Drag and Drop Drag and Drop Scheduling
Focus Focus on this Week

Using these affordances you’ll want to process all of the tasks assigned to you and schedule them for sometime this week. Here are a few guidelines for scheduling this week:

  • 5 Tasks/Day – In a typical day developers complete from 3 – 8 tasks, depending on the nature of those tasks. For an average day I’d recommend scheduling 5 tasks to avoid scheduling too much for a given day. Scheduling too much creates a sense of failure and causes the unnecessary overhead of constantly rescheduling incomplete tasks.
  • 2 Days in Advance – Fine-grained scheduling is an excellent tool for keeping your days on track. However, it is difficult to schedule tasks accurately more than two days out, and I’d recommend scheduling just today and tomorrow in order to avoid the extra overhead of rescheduling out-of-date tasks.
  • Maintain Your Backlog – When scheduling only a few tasks per day it is possible to complete all of your tasks for a given day. In that case, and for scheduling in general it is important to maintain your backlog for this week so you can take work from it if necessary.

Once you’ve taken an initial pass over your Task List you can then switch it to the Scheduled Presentation and focus it on this work week. Then only your scheduled tasks will show. This presentation keeps you focused clearly on your deliverables for the week. It should look something like this: (scheduled view of task list)

Updating Your Plan

As you begin working with your Task List focused you will notice that updates are shown as usually, as incoming arrows on the tasks. You’ll also noticed that tasks may suddenly appear in a new category, Unscheduled, at the bottom of your Task List. If a task that is not scheduled but is open and in your Task List has an incoming it will temporarily appear in your Task List until you read it or mark it as read. You can consider this category your incomings. Read the summaries of the tasks with incoming arrows for a quick summary of what is changing in the project. If you hover over the task and see that it is assigned to you schedule it for this week or even a particular day.