Monday, January 17, 2022

todo triage: hot tasks, the daily routine, the long term

Quote of mine from a decade ago:

My Todo app is blocked with some dumb old tasks I really need to get around to. I call this condition "procrastipation".

I had forgotten that term, but the struggle continues! It's so bad when the todo list is so full that you avoid looking at it. 

So I wrote about the Palm PDA the other day, my first (more or less) digital tool for wrangling this stuff,  because I was curious if it even had Todo items with due dates. (Answer: nope, though it had a great datebook.) And so if it didn't have "due dates", it wouldn't make sense for it to have "recurring items", since it wouldn't know when to put the item back on the list. And frankly, it's that "Pete+Repeat" section that was the problem with my use of the 2Do app: the dozen or so tasks I like to make sure I do every day made up a big block interfering with my view of other tasks. 

By chance my friend Sophie mentioned her New Year's resolution of using a spreadsheet she to keep progress with her daily routines:

and that made me realize I should rethink my own approach to the daily grind. I'm mildly allergic to spreadsheets, but I do love making UIs, so I came up with this:
("Toofs" is more about flossing than anything... I generally don't have a problem remembering to brush my teeth.)

So Sophie's color code got me to make the checkbox item itself go green, and damn is it satisfying! It has the same kind of energy as Apple's Fitness Watch "complete the rings"... and thinking about it, that kind of structured building up (with the items always in the same arrangement, roughly chronological in the course of a day) feels so much better than just clicking a todo item so it goes and hides until the next day.  My new system has a sense of positive progress vs just the absence of nagging of my old system.

I also made an abstract "month" view underneath to build a sense of continued maintenance - you can absolutely tell this was designed in the time of Wordle and its infamous emoji (and, super-clever, and delightfully not-a-URL) shareable game descriptions:

(I used this css-tricks page for notes on the PHP to construct the calendar - but I really do need to get some javascript engines working on my server...)

So I think the next step might be to offload the long-term Todo items into external lists. Luckily 2Do has support for multiple lists (on a single scrollable panel) so they're not really interfering with my more urgent material, but I think it would be nice to have an app just for the stuff demanding more immediate attention, and less of the longer term project stuff. 

But yeah, I think my mistake was looking for one app to rule them all... new/urgent tasks, daily repeating items, and long term projects all have a bit of a different feel. And actually using different apps for them helps engage "muscle memory" in different ways.

FOLLOWUP: After building this and using it for a week, I realized I should have looked in the App Store for something similar. And indeed, there's stuff like Habit that looks pretty good, has nice Widgets even. But playing with it, I think it's more complicated than I want to deal with, and I like that my solution works well on my phone and on a browser on my laptop. 

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