Github issues as my todo list

Introduction / motivation

Some friends and me have a regular weekly meeting. Besides friendly chatter, the reason for this particular meeting is to discuss what everyone has done respectively failed to do. We listen, give feedback where necessary, and the task to actually talk about your tasks is a great productivity boost. At the end of each session the planned tasks for next week will be presented. Additionally everybody has to sent an eMail presenting a small summary of tasks (not) done / tasks todo.

Until now I didn’t really track these tasks, besides some notes in the eMails themselves and some paper scraps. But this changes this year with Github issues.

Github issues

There are quite a lot todo list apps out there. Personally I did try Wunderlist and Todoist in the past. Why would I choose Github (GH for short) Issues over these more “traditional” tools?

Besides a personal preference about the way GH is used, there are two big reasons:

  • templates
  • API

Templates

Github lets you save templates from which you can choose for different issues. Not only can you set the issue text, but also the labels, assignments, and milestones / projects they belong to. For example a template for normal todos with sections for SMART goals, and a template for buying things with a budget section.

API

Automation is sometimes pretty handy and even useful. GH offers a very comprehensive GraphQL Api, which can be used to handle issues.

Further down I describe two cases where the API is used to great satisfaction.

more reasons

The following reasons contribute also:

  • As a software developer I am already comfortable with GH and its UI / possibilities.
  • Githubs UI is in my opinion better for usage on the desktop. (Regarding smartphone useability I have no idea — I generally use my smartphone only for podcasts and chatting.)
  • Progress can be easily tracked with comments and appended files (like pictures).

Automation

There are some Saas platforms like zapier or IFTTT that have integrated GitHubs API. And there are tools you can use respectively self-host that have integrated or at least can be used with the API. Tools like huginn, n8n or Node-RED.

The following two tasks have been automated (for now with Zapier ¯\_(ツ)_/¯):

Book summary issue

After finishing a book, a reminder to summarize the book is created. Not all books need a summary, or have some lasting value, but some do. The reminder is an issue with the book title, read from a Goodreads RSS feed containing my read books.

Weekly check-in

One of the things that can’t be represented in issues are daily or otherwise very often repeated tasks. These I track offline. But a weekly check-in issue to track the overall accomplishment of dailies is a good compromise in my eyes. Just let the automation service create a checklist issue with the current week as title.

Open tasks / questions

Like already mentioned, there are things that cannot really be represented in the GH issue flow. For example things like dailies or otherwise often repeated tasks and deadlines / schedules.

For now I just use the weekly check-in as reminder respectively a calendar.

Thanks for reading!

Motivation (and Purpose)

Motivation gets generally a bad rep. I thought so too. But after a short discussion with a friend about discipline, something caught my attention: For somebody having a low opinion about motivation, I sure have lots of motivational quotes, poster, pictures and music in my everyday life.

Terminology

Let us clarify the terminology first:

Definition of motivation

  • 1a : the act or process of motivating
    b : the condition of being motivated
  • 2 : a motivating force, stimulus, or influence : INCENTIVE, DRIVE

Source

Definition of purpose

  • 1a : something set up as an object or end to be attained : INTENTION
    b : RESOLUTION, DETERMINATION
  • 2 : a subject under discussion or an action in course of execution

Source

From my understanding of these definitions, motivation and purpose seem like they need each other. Or at least work well together.

Let me think

The bad reputation stems from the common misapplication of motivation. Everybody knows the meme about full gyms after silvester. Without the desire to fulfill the long-term goal (aka purpose) of being fit, looking good, getting healthy, … there will be nothing that keeps these folks returning to the gym.

If there is no purpose, motivation can be detrimental.

On the other side, what is purpose without motivation? The purpose is motivation enough! Haha, we are not kidding ourselves here. Without small wins, without some form of positive reinforcement or encouragement, the greatest purpose loses its appeal.

If there is no motivation, purpose can be not enough.

Have a purpose. Know why you are doing something.

Enjoy the way. Celebrate some goals, struggle after failures, and if a fist-bumping song helps rising the spirits, then turn the volume up.

Motivation and purpose are on a spectrum. They are neither good nor bad themselves, but what you make of them.

Thanks for reading!