A Better To-Do List, According to a Scrum Master
The personal task board helps you see how your actions move you toward your goals
I love to-do lists. I love the instant gratification they offer: complete a task, cross it off, and move on. Throughout my career, I’ve structured my work by making to-do-lists, constantly experimenting with formats — paper journals, spreadsheets, mobile apps — in a quest to find the best, most helpful version.
But there’s one problem that no to-do list, in any of those forms, can solve: They don’t show you the bigger picture. Day after day, you’re simply pushing around individual actions without seeing the “why” behind them. There came a point when I began wondering whether my to-do items were really moving me toward my larger goals.
Until it dawned on me: This is the exact challenge I address in my role as a scrum master. I guide software development teams to work with the scrum framework, as we plan tasks in detail for the short term to support high-level goals. The framework allows us to quickly adapt our plan of action when circumstances change (and they will). Wouldn’t it be great if we could do this for our personal goals, too?
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In Scrum, one of our most important tools is our task board, a visual snapshot that allows everyone to see and analyze the workflow. I’ve created my own personal task board using a similar format. This board lets me see not only what I need to do today, this week, and this month, but it also keeps me aware of how all of my actions push me toward my larger goals. Here’s how to make your own.
1. Gather your supplies. You’ll need a display board. A whiteboard works here, but you can just use a big piece of paper if that’s what you have handy. And you’ll need sticky notes in several different colors.
2. Make your columns. On your board, create six columns: goals, to-do, this month, this week, today, done. It should look something like this: