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I work as an electrical engineer, and sometimes when work gets busy (read: most of the time) there are so many various tasks and things to remember to take care of later that it can get difficult to track.

In the past I've tried using a notebook, email, or outlook to keep track of tasks, but eventually it gets too unweildly and difficult to manage.

Lately I've been thinking about trying to use a bug tracker such as Mantis or Bugzilla to keep track of my tasks and work (instead of programming bugs). The reason I feel hesitant to do this is that all of these bug trackers are, well, designed with programming in mind.

Some examples I would track:

  • Oscillator takes too long to stabilize after power-up
  • Write documentation for user updates to software
  • Measure the impedance on the input lines
  • Simulate the power circuit
  • etc.

Can a bug tracker be used as a task manager for things other than programming? Can a "remember to check this later" notepad be used for things other than programming? Would this be a viable long term strategy?

6

When you think about it a bug tracker is nothing but simple task management application with (a simple) workflow attached to every item. From this perspective it doesn't really matter whether a work item is a software bug, a task to perform or anything else.

It means that you should be able to use bug trackers to achieve the goal you define. I was personally using a bug tracker in such scenario to track down and record work on ideas for new products and it worked.

However, if you asked would I choose a bug tracker now to such thing the answer would be different. Now I would follow Getting Things Done technique (as described in a book by David Allen) and choose tools that are suitable to the the situation.

My personal favorite is Personal Kanban, which actually is something more than just GTD technique, but for the sake of this argument it could work this way. You can read more about Personal Kanban in Jim Benson's book.

In either case using bug tracker to track such tasks, especially in the context of a single person seems an overkill to me. I would rather look for simpler methods.

Note: GTD or Personal Kanban doesn't have to be all about sticky notes - there are software applications that provide such functionality too. In terms of Personal Kanban, any Kanban application would do.

3

The Key is Prioritization

This is a bit of an X/Y problem, in that the issue isn't really whether you can track tasks in a bug tracker (you certainly can), but what value tracking really provides to a given project. The underlying process issue you're facing is one of prioritization.

Any tool that lets you prioritize tasks by importance or due date, and that allows you to reorder those tasks as the metrics change over time, will likely be suitable for task tracking at the individual level.

If you have a project-level task tracking infrastructure, it may be better to leverage that--or at least, make sure your personal tool integrates with the project-level tracker--rather than re-inventing the wheel. However, if it impacts nobody but you, then you're certainly free to find the solution that works best for your individual workflow.

1

Bug trackers can definitely be used to track tasks other than programming bugs. As an example, our organization has successfully configured JIRA to handle our customer service department. JIRA is hugely configurable, and the manager at the time spent several weeks creating components, and custom fields to handle everything from new client signups, client setups, billing issues, client complaints and work requests, all the way to cancellations.

We've been doing this now for several years, and the sales, client services, and the account management and accounts receivable departments are extremely comfortable with the process.

A task is created for the client, and subtasks are created for each of the above issues that come up, whether it be the actual setup, work request, etc.

Of course, whether or not something like this will work for you depends on your exact needs. With the examples you gave, I know JIRA would work for you. However, in your case, if you're just needing something like this for you and you only, there are many free or cheap lightweight online task management systems out there that would most likely work better. See the pm-software tag wiki info page or check some of the open or closed questions under the tag or the tag.

  • I guess my examples were things for me, but as part of a team it would be nice if anyone could decide look through the task and assign something for themselves if they have time. I will take a look at JIRA. – Adam Jul 15 '12 at 4:25
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"Can a bug tracker be used as a task manager for things other than programming?"

Yes. I have worked for companies where tools like Bugzilla were used to track, prioritise, and nag people on tasks such as:

  • development
  • user experience design
  • documentation
  • quality assurance testing and documentation
  • requirements gathering
  • system analysis
  • architecture analysis and design

Like any tool, success and failure is largely dependent on context, buy-in, and the quality of the team members using it. I've probably been lucky in that I've worked in multiple settings and seen Bugzilla (and Jira and others) used successfully. And yes, these were sometimes large, complex projects.

1

Probably although it strikes me as an an excessive tool for a simpler task.

I would use MicroSoft's OneNote as an option. I do, however, actually use a spiralbound notebook more frequently as a worklog and tasklist.

0

Bug trackers can be used for other tasks, but you're better off using something designed for something more general purpose.

Do these tasks involve other people? If so, you're best using a tool with collaboration built in. Trello (made by the same folks as this site) is a nice basic, free option.

If these tasks are just for you, then you should use a system that feels natural and makes it easy for you to Collect, Organize, and Do (the bare essentials of the Getting Things Done methodology).

0

Of course you can use usual bug tracking software to track some other tasks that you are not able to track. The only trouble is to choose the right tool which should be a kind of universal. I advise you to try Comindware tracker which I use not only for programming bugs, but for all other tasks.

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