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Using TODO Comments to Keep You Programming in the Zone

Most programmers put TODO comments in their code to track problems they see and ideas they have, like a carpenter building a house who writes a measurement on the framing. Programmers use TODO comments because they’re convenient and allow you to stay in the code, reducing distractions.

Comments are lines of text in code that start with a specific set of characters like “//” in Javascript or java. TODO comments are just code comments that start with a single string of capital letters like // TODO or // FIXME. Most of the TODO comments in your code are probably sitting unattended and forgotten in your team or organization’s source code.

To make TODO comments useful you have to find a tool that allows you to measure and manage them.

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

— Peter Drucker

There are tons of add-ons and plugins for code editors like VScode and Atom that will work for you and that’s great! But I’m a visual person who likes kanban, so I built a tool called imdone that displays all your TODO comments in a kanban board with drag and drop cards and lists.

Here are a few more features of imdone that make it easy to manage your TODO comments.

Tags

Tags can be used to filter your imdone kanban board and look like this…

// TODO: Keeping this single threaded won't scale +bug

Markdown

One of the reasons you might be overlooking and neglecting your TODO comments is because most code editors and IDEs display them in subdued colors like gray. In imdone your TODO comments will stand out if you want them to because markdown syntax is built in, so your cards will display with the markdown formatting you apply to your TODO comments.

Imdone also picks up TODO comments in your markdown files if you start them with a # . Here’s what a markdown TODO comment looks like…

#TODO: ## Finish up the **support** section of this doc

You can also keep markdown TODOs from displaying in your published markdown doc by using html comments like this…

<!--
#TODO: Finish up the **support** section of this doc
-->

Checklists

Checklists have always been one of my favorite features of github’s markdown support, so I built them into imdone. Here’s what they look like in a TODO comment (with some added markdown formatting)…

#TODO: ### **Finish up the support section of this doc**
- [ ] SLA
- [ ] Contact Info

So manage your TODO comments with a tool you like and stick with it. You’ll stay focussed in the code while keeping deadlines and fixing all the things.

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Helping creative individuals reduce the friction between process and work.

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Jesse Piascik

Jesse Piascik

Programming in the wild since 1982. Founder of @imdoneio, dad, husband, sax man from Hard Hittin’

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