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Roadmap Management Tools

I currently use two tools to manage my actions: the inbox and the action manager.


The inbox does not refer only to your e-mail inbox. It is a broader concept that includes all the elements you have collected in different ways: actions you have to do, ideas you have thought of, notes, bills, etc…

To achieve a stress-free efficiency, emptying the inbox should be a daily activity. Note that this does not mean doing things, it just means identifying things and deciding what to do with them, when you get it done, your situation is as follows:

  • You have eliminated every thing you do not need.
  • You have completed small actions that require no more than two minutes.
  • You have delegated some actions that you do not have to do.
  • You have sorted in your action manager the actions you will do when appropriate, because they require more than 2 minutes.
  • You have sorted in your action manager or calendar the actions that have a due date.
  • There have been only a few minutes, but you feel pretty good. Everything is where it should be.

I developed pynbox to automate the management of the inbox.

Action manager

If you've never used a action manager, start with the simplest one and see what do you feel its lacking. Choose then a better action manager based on your needs.

In the past I've used taskwarrior, but its limitations led me to start creating pydo although I didn't finish it. Then I moved on to the simplest action manager but it eventually fell short in my needs, so I started using Openproject but interacting with a web interface is not for me, so now I'm using orgmode and I'm loving it.

The simplest action manager

The simplest action manager is a markdown file in your computer with a list of actions to do. Annotate only the actionable actions that you need to do today, otherwise it can quickly grow to be unmanageable.

When you add a new item, choose it's location relative to the existent one based on its priority. Being the top actions are the ones that need to be done first.

- Actions with a high priority
- Actions with low priority

The advantages of using a plaintext file over a physical notebook is that you can use your editor skills to manage the elements more efficiently. For example by reordering them or changing the description.

Add action state sections

As the number of actions starts to grow it will start to become unmanageable. One way of managing it is to use sections. For example:

  • Doing: Track only the things you are actively doing
  • Waiting: Track blocked actions that need your monitoring
  • To do:

You can also start adding action information such as the reasons why it's blocked.

# Doing
- Unblocked action

# Waiting

- Blocked action
  - Waiting for Y to happen

# To do 

- Thing to do next week

Divide a action in small steps

One of the main benefits of a action manager is that you free your mind of what you need to do next, so you can focus on the action at hand. When a action is big split it in smaller doable steps that drive to its completion. If the steps are also big split them further with more indentation levels.

- Complex action
  - Do X
  - Do Y
    - Do Z
    - Do W

Simplest action manager limits

After using it for a while I found that:

  • I lost a lot of time in the reviews.
  • I lost a lot of time when doing the different plannings (year, trimester, month, week, day).
  • I find it hard to organize and refine the backlog.

Command line interface action managers

My love for the command line favours these solutions. I started my action management tool journey with Taskwarrior but some of it's limits made me start the development of pydo which ended in a dead end. Right now I'm using orgmode, and I'm loving it.

Web based action managers

Life happened and when I gave up on the development of pydo, and reached a point where simplest one was no longer suitable for my action flow. I needed a solution to be used on that day that was better than the simplest action manager. I did an analysis of the state of the art of self-hosted applications and of all of them the two that were more promising were Taiga and OpenProject.

I ended using OpenProject for a while but finally switched to orgmode.


An Open source project with a lot of functionality. If you want to try it, you can create an account at Disroot (an awesome collective by the way). They have set up an instance where you can check if you like it.

Some facts made me finally not choose it, for example:

  • Subactions can't have subactions. Something I've found myself having quite often. Specially if you refine your actions in great detail.
  • When browsing the backlog or the boards, you can't edit a action in that window, you need to open it in another tab.
  • I don't understand very well the different components, the difference between actions and issues for example.


Check the OpenProject page to see the analysis of the tool.


Pomodoro is a technique used to ensure that for short periods of time, you invest all your mental resources in doing the steps needed to finish a action. It's a good starting point if you have concentration issues.

When done well, you'll start moving faster on your actions, because uninterrupted focus fosters efficiency. You'll also begin to know if you're drifting from your day's plan, and will have space to adapt it or the action plan to time constrains or unexpected events.

!!! note "" If you don't yet have a action plan or day plan, don't worry! Ignore the steps that involve them until you do.

The next steps define a Pomodoro cycle:

  • Select the cycle time span. Either 20 minutes or until the next interruption, whichever is shortest.
  • Decide what are you going to do.
  • Analyze yourself to see if you're state of mind is ready to only do that for the chosen time span. If it's not, maybe you need to take a "Pomodoro break", take 20 minutes off doing something that replenish your willpower or the personal attribute that is preventing you to be able to focus.
  • Start the timer.
  • Focus uninterruptedly on what you've decided until the timer goes off.
  • Take 20s to look away from the screen (this is good for your ejes).
  • Update your action and day plans:
  • Tick off the done action steps.
  • Refine the action steps that can be addressed in the next cycle.
  • Check if you can still meet the day's plan.
  • Check the interruption channels that need to be checked each 20 minutes.

At the fourth Pomodoro cycle, you'll have finished a Pomodoro iteration. At the end of the iteration:

  • Check if you're going to meet the day plan, if you're not, change change it or the action plan to make the time constrain.
  • Get a small rest, you've earned it! Get off the chair, stretch or give a small walk. What's important is that you take your mind off the action at hand and let your body rest. Remember, this is a marathon, you need to take care of yourself.
  • Start a new Pomodoro iteration.

If you're super focused at the end of a Pomodoro cycle, you can skip the action plan update until the end of the iteration.

To make it easy to follow the pomodoro plan I use a script that:

  • Uses timer to show the countdown.
  • Uses safeeyes to track the eye rests.
  • Asks me to follow the list of steps I've previously defined.


  • GTD time management framework.