[kwlug-disc] Todo Lists and task management

Chris Irwin chris at chrisirwin.ca
Tue Mar 16 12:31:56 EDT 2010

Is anybody else keeping an electronic todo list? Are you finding it
effective? I'm trying to get a feel for what works for everybody. I
haven't found anything that works great for me yet, and typically have
spent more time managing tasks than just doing them (My tasks span
everything from "Update package dependancies for new version" to
"Build a deck before winter (deferred from 2009)" with the odd "Sell
awesome project for billion dollars before 2012" thrown in for fun).

My requirements are pretty simple:
- Priorities
- Notes for each task
- Simple data store I can parse with scripts (e.g. for display in
conky, count tasks completed last week to guilt me into doing more
this week)

Things I would prefer, but are not critical:
- Due dates
- Completion dates
- Dependancies
- Task recurrence

I had been using a plain text file with vim, but I find that once I
add a few notes under each task it becomes a pain to get a task
overview, I have to drop to a shell and grep. The other downside is
that it is computer/console-only, so i have no ability to add or
review tasks from my phone.

I've just started to switch again, and before failing to adapt to a
new process (or get such process to adapt to me) I figured I would at
least see what others are using. Somebody else *must* be doing
something better. There is so much software out there to tackle todo
lists ("Getting things Done" seems to be all the rage lately), but it
all seems to fall flat in one area or another, whether it is a backend
format that needs a million lines of code and five XML libraries to
parse, or a complex interface that is a pain to use (thus I will
"update it later"), or stuck to a specific device that I won't always
have around.

The current plan I'm considering is using an email inbox with a unique
address. It gives me a create date, subject, and notes (message body).
I get an outline in my email client, and can open specific tasks to
review. I've always got evolution open anyway, and it is an interface
I am already accustomed to. My mail is pulled to maildir on my
workstation, so I effectively have all the simplicity features I had
with the text file. It does give me comparable support on my phone and
any computer I can access my webmail. It doesn't give me due dates,
completion dates or dependancies though, and my priority range would
be limited to important/normal.

So the email option looks rather favourable since it seems to strike a
balance of simple and hit most of the features I want. But Todo lists
should not be that hard, and the general rule I follow is "If you need
to invent something simple, somebody smarter has already done it
better". So, back to the original question: What is everybody else
using, and do you find it effective?

Chris Irwin
<chris at chrisirwin.ca>

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