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I've tried many different approaches to task management, but I always fail at one specific thing.

Being a programmer, I have loads of information that needs to be somehow stored. To be more specific, I have say 10-20 different types of projects I work on for my clients, each of them requires different approach and different knowledge.

What I have a problem with, is creating some kind of checklist that I could go through every time I start a project of a specific type. For example, if I'm about to do some HTML/CSS coding, I need to do certain things before I even start the project, I need to ask some specific questions and other related stuff.

On the other hand if I do a design work, I might need to look for some inspiration, which means I need to have some kind of a database of good looking stuff (sorry for oversimplifying this).

The problem is, I don't know how to manage and store these kinds of information. Should I just have folders with a little manual for each project type? Or sort my knowledge base based on some arbitrary categories and then browse through all the stuff?

If I keep the whole thing on paper, it becomes harder to manage, update and look at it from different angles. But on the other hand, I can't have everything in my PC, some stuff just works much better on paper.

So the bottom line question would be. How do you manage resources & knowledge base for your projects?

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6 Answers 6

A few random thoughts --

  • workflowy.com is great for list taking across multiple devices

  • i've set up an autohotkey script to automatically deploy a standard set of documents/scripts etc. to a new project directory when I start a project

  • would agree that mindmaps are a great way to quickly establish a framework of ideas and then translate into tangible lineal list

  • i look at things like dribbble.com, patternui.com and cssline.com for design inspiration when i need it

  • there's also tools like the gimmebar.com and imagespark.com which let you store random pieces of creative inspiration to store later.

  • what you should probably strive for are templates you can create and follow for ease of understand, speed of deployment and automation.

Hope these things help a litle.

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I have downloaded mediawiki engine and set up my own wiki using simple portable XAMPP server stack. It's fun and productive to organize knowledge the wiki way. The set up itself may pleasantly but lightly challenge you.

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I think Evernote could be a tool to use in delivering what you want, but you'll have to figure out for yourself how to set up notebooks, tags, and links so it makes sense to you. It has the advantage of being available on all platforms, and able to hold all different kinds of data. But it isn't going to give you an organizational structure, you'll have to figure that out for yourself. http://www.evernote.com

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The problem is, I don't know how to manage and store these kinds of information. Should I just have folders with a little manual for each project type? Or sort my knowledge base based on some arbitrary categories and then browse through all the stuff?

It sounds like you're trying to solve a couple of related problems:

  1. A method for creating a set of templates for projects of a given type
  2. A way to organize a repository of reference information

Based on your question I can see how these problems are complementary, but I see different solutions.


Let's start here:

What I have a problem with, is creating some kind of checklist that I could go through every time I start a project of a specific type.

It sounds like you believe there is a finite list of clearly definable project archetypes. I'd create a simple text file for each type to serve as a template of tasks specific to each flavor of project. Then when you were starting on that kind of project you could open your template and use it as the basis for defining the next and future actions.

To generate you first cut at tasks I'd go about it from two perspectives:

  1. List all the things you think need to be done off the top of your head.
  2. Make a list of the previous projects of this type that you're working on and that you've completed. This will help remind you of things you forgot.

But also re-visit the template periodically as you execute and just after you've finished to hone your process. Now instead of static steps you have a constantly evolving task list that is keeping up with your tools, workflow, and skill set. I'd also append that the list of previous projects to the task a list. It will help remind you of places to look for artifacts and inspiration, and just seeing a list of your past accomplishments is probably boosting for self-esteem as well.


On the other hand if I do a design work, I might need to look for some inspiration, which means I need to have some kind of a database of good looking stuff (sorry for oversimplifying this).

Now for the database problem your answer implies that a hybrid solution is going to work best. You're going to have project repositories for the things you've completed. Some of those are going to be electronic, say source code, or specifications, or whatever, but you also mentioned you have physical references and inspiration as well. Regardless of how you file or store your physical objects, it's the templates that are going to remind you to access these resources.

Perhaps you finished a project with an electronic and physical file. That project name will be in your template file, and you can annotate it to remind you to look at both types of background data. Filing things by theme or category would work just as well--as long as there's a link in your templates reminding you to references them.

So ultimately, easily updated electronic templates for your project types that include references or reminders to a database of knowledge (both electronic and physical) that is flexible to whatever taxonomy you set up and/or evolves.

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There is imo no simple answer to your question, basically you want to bundle all your knowledge and tasks in one software to sort it and gain inspiration from it. No software does this unfortunately without thinking out yourself a concept of a structure/category/tagging system oriented on your very personal needs. Too much categories/tags and it gets hard to find something, to less and it gets a mess where you gain hardly productive inspiration from. So you need a structured system like:

basic knowledge, often used source code, current stuff, ideas, projects, garbage, private stuff

not much more or you loose overview and inspiration


I have seen alot MindMap and GTD software (e.g. GTDTiddlyWiki) to do this and ended with

http://www.aibase-cs.com/download.html (Windows only currently)

enter image description here

Start with a overview concept map: current stuff, projects,....you can link from this map to new concept maps covering your projects and so on. Its like linked websites but using mind maps you can easily draw. Every item in the picture can have a link to new concepts maps. Colored pictures are alot easier to memorize than pure text. I know many of my concept maps so by heart and can see them in my minds eye.

Functions:

  • SVG-Concept-Mapping
  • creation of to-do-lists, tables, diagrams
  • SVG Pics can be imported
  • math formulas can be imported using MathML
  • you can link to html links or file/folder path within a Concept Map
  • every text-item on a SVG Concept Map can show source code in a sidebar like e.g. Firefox

Aibase for project managment

Imo its the top notch software (considering the price) for building a knowledge base, keep overview, handling task and dates and files. Tiddlywiki is also fine, but not really suited for large knowledge bases, you loose pretty fast overview. Graphical concepts maps offer more overview and aibase alot of shortcuts.

Additionally for structuring/searching your Pics/PDFs database you should use something like a Desktop Search Machine (e.g. Copernic Desktop Search) and a File Manager with tagging abiliity (Win 7 Explorer does it)

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Perhaps - have good (simple and complete for sensitive code) documentation close to the code. - use a GED tool : begin small : put as logically (recommended use) as possible the 'paper' as it come, verify indexation, then when pitfall will arrive, refactor/move/re-organize some structures, and complete document if exists (not put a new one). To be efficient all your directories have to migrate to your (little) GED. If you work in Java you can try http://www.jease.org/

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3  
what does GED stand for? –  Martin Oct 12 '11 at 8:56

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