Creating a habit: Checklist

What this blog is about?

You might be wondering why should I read this blog on something trivial as a checklist. You might be thinking “I know what checklist is and how to use it.”

Why do we need a checklist?

1. Our brain is not a permanent storage.

Does it happen to you when your mom asks you to buy Dhaniya (Coriander) and you brought Pudina (Mint)?

2. Divide into smaller tasks.

Creating a checklist forces us to divide the big task into smaller executable steps.

  1. Choose a theme
  2. Plugin Required (Plugin checklist)
  3. SSL
  4. Newsletter Subscription
  5. Analytics
  6. Map to custom Domain

How it is related to software development.

Checklists are used in every imaginable field — from building inspections to complex medical surgeries. We can use it in software development too. We can create checklist for stories and sub-stories for a feature (Although stories themselves are a higher level checklist), UI/UX flow, tech debt, test cases, and so on.

1. Management

When planning a feature we can get many questions, follow-ups, and unknowns. All this are a good candidate to be converted into a checklist.

2. Development

In development, I use static and dynamic checklists.

Leverage Management Tools

Most of the software management tools have a checklist feature with their variation. But the concept remains the same. I will share 3 tools that I have used so far.

1. GitHub

GitHub supports markdown as a first-class citizen. So you can create a checklist in markdown while creating issues, PR and comments. If you create a checklist in issues or PR description it will show the checklist progress as below. This is a really good way to show progress on the issue or PR.

2. Trello

I used Trello most of the time for internal apps in the company. The good thing about Trello checklist is that we can create multiple checklists in a single card by clicking add button and setting a title for each checklist.

3. Jira

Jira is way more advance. We can create a simple checklist in issues, but we can have a more advanced checklist. For example, To change the issue status to DONE, we can define a QA checklist to show up on dialog before we change the status.

4. Advanced Checklist (Bonus)

Todoist is one example of an advanced checklist. It’s more than a checklist. It’s a checklist combine with a management tools. We can set reminders, labels, and priorities for an task. We can also set recurring tasks on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

Creating as a habit.

As with most habit creation, we need to be consistent here. Initially, It was hard for me to divide a big task into a checklist or define it in several steps. But with consistency it becomes a habit for me. We have to be patient to see the benefit of checklist. It takes time.

Things to remember.

  1. Avoid a big checklist. If you have a big checklist then people have to read a lot and will soon lose interest in it.
  2. Keep item small. It will make it easy to execute.
  3. Avoid long sentences. Long sentences are sign that you need to break down the checklist more further.
  4. Don’t worry about Grammar until you and your team understand it.
  5. Everything cannot be divided into a checklist.

Conclusion

Checklists will help you to do tasks more effectively. It forces you to think into small executable steps and also gives you a sense of progress. I used it mostly in everything. From things to carry in beg, groceries shopping, new project libraries, PR checks, and so on. You can read more in manifesto of checklists in the book mentioned above.

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