I'm a huge fan of Linear. I'm sure a lot of people — primarily software developers like myself — who have used Linear, love it. Yes, it has a kanban board but there's a lot of other stuff going on underneath.
You can do almost any day-to-day stuff using keyboard shortcuts. As someone who has designed their workflow to minimize my mouse usage as much as possible, this is my favorite feature of Linear. Linear has some opinions on how to manage projects called The Linear Method. But it doesn't force you to use it. You can be as immersed in the Linear Method as you want. Just want the Kanban board? Sure go ahead and use it that way. Are you a power user and want all the stuff that Linear has to offer? You can do that too! They have a great emphasis on UI/UX which results in the interface not being overwhelming you no matter how much things you have on your plate.
At the beginning of this year, I was looking to try something new for productivity. What I use for productivity is split into three tools. Free-form/creative stuff and notes go into Obsidian. I have my bullet journal for the specifics of the day-to-day stuff. But there's a huge gap in between. I needed something to keep track of the direction I'm heading and the execution part of the major projects in my life.
I could certainly use my bullet journal for this and I've seen people use it for this purpose. But as a beginner to bullet journaling, I want to keep it simple while I get used to it. And I could certainly use Obsidian for doing this. Obsidian has a huge plugin ecosystem that, if I put in the effort, will cover everything I want to do. But that's time and effort I don't want to put into it.
So I want something with structure but not rigid that I feel like I'm constrained in how I want to execute on my goals. Originally. I didn't think of Linear for this purpose but I saw someone else mention that they use Linear for personal productivity and it kinda made sense.
Here's how I've set it up. Note that this might change as I continue using it.
I use roadmaps for different aspects or categories of effort towards my goals. And I do it one quarter (of the year) at a time. For example, here are 3 roadmaps that I currently have:
- Q1 2024 - Learning
- Q1 2024 - Content Creation
- Q1 2024 - Indie Hacking
One problem with setting up goals like this is that I (and I'm sure it applies to everyone) tend to forget why I'm doing them. For example, "Read 25 books in 2024" could be a great goal but unless you define why you want to do this, we'll often lose motivation to work on them.
So as an extra, I add the "why" in the description of the roadmap (you might have to toggle the roadmap details button though). Linear will show the description on the roadmap page so when you're uncertain why you're doing this, focus your attention to the right pane and you'll see your "why".
Projects get a bit more specific about what I want to do in each of the efforts (roadmaps). For example, for "Q1 2024 - Learning", I have these projects. These are some of the things I want to learn in Q1 2024:
- Elixir & Phoenix
- Data Structures & Algorithms
You can also add a "why" in your project description. This will help when even the project is not concrete enough on the desired outcome and you want a reminder when you're looking at it.
Since these projects are part of a quarter, I set the start and end date for the project to coincide with the start and end of the quarter. It's fine if some of them bleed into subsequent quarters. Some of my projects are quite ambitious. Even if I don't finish them on time, I'll be happy with making some progress. Which brings me to milestones.
I add relevant milestones to each project. This step is optional but I want to set some sort of success metric for each project. So even if I don't end up finishing all of the things I set out to do in each project, I know I've made progress if I reached some of the milestones.
Issues, like in project management, are the specific tasks that I have to do to complete a project. In the "Q1 2024 - Learning" roadmap, for each language or technology I want to learn (project), I combine different ways to learn it (issues). For example, let's take the "Elixir & Phoenix" project. The issues under this project are:
- Elixir and Phoenix Complete Bootcamp (a course on Udemy)
- Side Project - Link Shortener
- Side Project - Aurelius (backend)
Wherever relevant, I add sub-issues. For the Udemy course, sub-issues would be the sections of the course. This is completely optional, but I like seeing the percentage completed statistic on Linear issues.
Wherever relevant, I also add deadlines to issues. But they're not hard deadlines. They're more like suggestions. As long as I know I'm making incremental progress on the issues, I know I'm on track, even if I'm a few days late.
Labels help in organizing your issues. I use labels for creating different views into my issues. I don't always want to look at my roadmaps or even projects. I just want to look at a category of issues at a glance to see what's in progress and what's coming up next. Go into your workspace settings and define the labels relevant for your projects.
Here are the labels that I have:
Build. As my requirements change, I'll add more labels but keep them to a minimum at first.
I create a few views using the labels I defined and "star" them. Starred views show up on the left sidebar for quick access. I also keep this to a minimum. Here are the view I have right now:
- Content Planner: Filtered using the
- Reading List: Filtered using the
- Side Projects: Filtered using the
Notice how each level adds more structure to my goals? I can take away any of the steps and it'll still work. Well except for issues. But at that point, I'm just working with a to-do app.
If all this seems daunting and overkill, well, I sorta agree with you. But remember that if you have goals you want to reach this year, you have to do this somewhere. So why not Linear. Also, you only have to do this once. It took me less than an hour to set all of this up. The time taken to plan the next quarter will be even shorter.
This is very much an experiment but I've seen tons of people use Trello for organizing and managing their goals. Why should Linear be any different? In a future post, I'll write an update about how this experiment is going.