Do you ever have so much going on that you lose track of where you are on a game project? Or you’re waiting on your development partner to respond to a question before you can do your next step and then you forget to follow up? You come back to the project and it takes so long to figure out where you are on the project that then you don’t have time to actually work on the project!
What do you use to keep yourself organized and keep all your game designs moving forward so you don’t lose track of where you are? Do you just focus on one project at a time? What if you have multiple game projects at different stages of the process – one needs playtesting, one has been pitched to publishers and you need to follow up, one is with a publisher being reviewed and you’re waiting to hear back. How do you keep all the balls in the air?
Many board game designers have busy day jobs and families to take care of (we happen to have both) and life gets busy. But, we still want to move forward on our game projects and other projects for Galvanized Studios (like this blog!), so we had to find a way to keep organized. We’ve used Trello before and I’ve seen other game designers use Trello very successfully as a project management tool, but I don’t think Trello is great as a “to do” tool. I seem to lose track of things in Trello, or the boards get too big and overwhelming. I’ve tried out other “to do” apps also, but hadn’t found quite the right fit until I found Toodledo, which despite the silly name is the most robust to do/project organization app I’ve found.
Toodledo is very easy to customize, so you can really make it work exactly the way you need it to. I use it for personal tasks, as well as our games and other Galvanized Studios projects we have in the works. I like that you can include all kinds of different tasks, but keep them sorted in a way that is useful when you need them. It’s also free! There are subscription plans as well, but so far I haven’t needed any of the subscription features, so I’m still using the free version. In addition to the website, there is also an iOS and Android app version available. So, I use it on my computer and phone (and the lists sync automatically between the two).
Here are a few of the features in Toodledo that I really like and think would be useful for game designers trying to keep track of multiple projects.
In Toodledo, you create different Folders for your tasks. These are your projects. So, have one Folder for each major project and make tasks for those projects in there. If you have multiple game projects, I’d make one for each game. Then, if you need to just see tasks for one game project at a time, select the appropriate Folder and you’ll just see those tasks.
I really love Contexts and was excited to find this feature in Toodledo.
Contexts help you organize tasks by where you are and what you are doing. So, I have Contexts like Home, Phone, Computer, Errands. I label each task on my list with a Context and then when I’m out doing errands, I look at all my tasks in the Errands Context and can easily see all the errands I need to do and if I can combine some of them in one trip. Or, if I’m working on my computer, I look at the Computer tasks and figure out which ones I can accomplish in that time I have on my computer. As a game designer, you might add a “Tabletop” context for your tasks like making prototype pieces or playing through your game to figure out how to fix a specific mechanic. Contexts come from David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD®) methodology. The idea is that you don’t need to be reminded about tasks that you can’t do right now because you’re not in the right place to do those things.
I use the Status field to mark my “next action” in a project. Part of the GTD® methodology is to break your tasks down into the smallest possible pieces and then think about what the next immediate action is to take in order to move that project along. So, with the Status field, you can mark your next action, which makes it the highest priority task for your project. When you go to work on that project, then you can remember what the next action is that you need to take, so you don’t lose track of where you are on the project. For a game design project, your next action might be to update your spreadsheet of cards with your most recent changes or to read through the feedback forms you received from your last playtest session. Then, even if you don’t have hours to sit down and work on your game, you might still be able to spend 15 minutes working on your next action and still make progress. After you complete that task, figure out what task is next and mark that as your next action.
You can also mark tasks as “waiting,” if you’re waiting on someone else to do something to complete that task, like if you’re waiting for your design partner to provide feedback on some card edits. Use the notes section of the task to write what you’re waiting for, so you know to follow up if you don’t hear back. Other statuses you may use include “active,” “planning,” “delegated,” and “hold.” They help to show you the current state of a task.
I really like the “Hotlist” view of my tasks in Toodledo as well. These are the most important tasks that you need to do, rather than a giant list of all your tasks. In the settings of the app, you can choose which fields Toodledo uses to set your hotlist items. For me, it’s tasks that are due within the next 7 days and have a status of “Next Action.” But, you can set it however you’d like. This is another great thing about Toodledo. In the settings, you can choose which fields you want to see and use. There are many other fields that I didn’t talk about here – you can use Priority, Tags, Stars – whatever works for you and your organization system. And, you can remove fields that you don’t use. When I first started using Toodledo, I had the Star field (you can “star” important items), Due Date, and Priority. But, I realized that I didn’t need all of these things and they seemed redundant. So, I removed the Star and Priority fields and now just use deadlines and the Status field to tell me what my important tasks are to do.
The other great thing is that you can set up Toodledo to email you your Hotlist on a daily basis. When I used to use Trello, a spreadsheet, or other methods of organizing tasks, sometimes I’d forget to look at my list and then I’d miss things. But, with a daily reminder email, it’s really easy to continue to look at my to do list, move forward with my next actions, and get projects done.
Toodledo is very customizable and these are only a few of the features that it has available. Try it out and let me know what you think. It also has a great help section and forums if you get stuck with something. For what I need, it’s definitely one of the best programs out there. And maybe it’ll help you too!
So, what do you think? What do you use to keep organized and manage your game projects? Is there something else you’re looking for in a project management tool for game design? Let us know in the comments.