This article offers suggestions on how to make best use of the to-dos feature.
We would love to hear feedback on how these are working for you, and any other suggestions for how best to work with the system, either directly by emails to firstname.lastname@example.org, through support tickets from the system, or on the community forum.
- How do we get started?
- When should we use fixed dates instead of relative?
- What makes a good to-do name?
- How many to-dos should we add?
How do we get started?
Start with a work that you will be publishing fairly soon. You probably have a pretty good idea from experience of what needs to be done, and who will need to do it.
Add all of the to-dos you can think of.
Do not worry too much at the moment about when you will be doing them, unless it’s pretty clear without too much thought (there may be some things that you will need to do very close to or on the publication day for example, such as send out some social media messages, or check that the product is showing as “available” on retailer sites).
Work together to review the list. A person will often recall a to-do because they saw another one that someone else added.
For now, don’t worry too much about things you have already done, but add them if it distracts you that they are not present.
Do not skimp on the number of to-dos. If it is worth being reminded of, it is worth adding, and it is easier to delete ones that you know you will not need later on than it is to remember to add them.
When you have a good sized list, think about when things need to be done. Relative dates are a powerful feature that will make your list re-usable for other works, so always try to specify a relative date, based on publication date for production-type to-dos.
Think about exactly which basis date is the most appropriate for each to-do. Maybe you have multiple publication dates, for different formats and markets. Does that mean that some to-dos need to be repeated on different dates, one for each format and /or market? Create new to-dos for these, and if they are specific to formats then mention that in the name: “Social media messaging for:
Now available as an ebook”, or “Hardback confirmed in stock confirmed at US distributor”.
As you add dates to the to-dos, consider whether it might be convenient to have multiple to-dos all on the same day or not. Perhaps you have a set of to-dos to remind you to add or check metadata in Consonance – instead of adding a single to-do, consider adding one for each category of information so you can check off each step. Perhaps you will not have time to check marketing texts,
Maybe you need placeholder to-dos for events, just to remind you that they are happening – publication dates, for example.
Start using the calendar export as early as possible, and get used to looking on your personal or corporate calendar for to-dos. If you use a separate task management or planning system, such as Omnifocus, then it might also be able to read the iCal format and you can see your to-dos in there.
Assign a person to the to-dos. Each person has their own calendar link to see to-dos assigned to them, and if nobody is assigned to a to-do, it might not appear on anyone’s calendar.
When should we use fixed dates instead of relative?
If you need to do something by a particular date, regardless of any changes in contract or publication dates, and you do not need to re-use that to-do on another work, then a fixed date may be the best choice.
- If you change critical metadata, such as a publication date or a cover design, on a product you have already announced, add a fixed date to-do to remind you to check that retailer websites have updated.
- If you are due to give an update to a sales agency by a particular date.
- To make intermediate checks on the results on an ongoing Amazon Marketing Services campaign.
What makes a good to-do name?
Specify an action
Start by specifying an action that will be performed by the assignee.
- Prices to production
- Designer to deliver interior
- Send print files
- Confirm receipt of payment
- Decide whether to publish
- Update library prices
- Cancel marketing spend
- Accept into production phase
Actionable by the assignee
A to-do should represent an action that can be definitively said to have been completed by the assignee.
- Print books
- Send files to printer
- Confirm files acceptable to printer
- Confirm expected delivery date
- Confirm shipment from printer
If a to-do name implies that there are multiple things to be done, which might take place over a number of days, then it is likely that splitting the activity into multiple to-dos will give better results.
Update marketing metadata
- Update keywords
- Update descriptions
- Update final table of contents
If you have multiple to-dos that relate to the same kind of activity it may be helpful to add a common prefix to them, so they appear together on the “To-dos by name” page. The examples might then be:
- Update marketing metadata: finalise keywords
- Update marketing metadata: finalise descriptions
- Update marketing metadata: finalise table of contents
If subdividing of to-do names proves to be a common means of organising a large quantity of to-dos then we may introduce a means of providing a more structured hierarchy for to-dos.
The name of a to-do should be reusable across multiple works.
- Send proofed manuscript to Anika
- Send cover design brief to Mary
- Send proofed manuscript to author
- Send cover design brief to designer
How many to-dos should we add?
We don’t think that there should really be an upper limit. As the number of to-dos increases it probably becomes more important to use consistent naming, to use relative dates, and to assign people to them, as all of these will help you manage a team with a large number of to-dos.
We never want you to be in a position of having forgotten to do something, and if you feel that the number of to-dos is becoming unmanageable for you then be sure to let us know, and we will do whatever we can to help.