Ideas for a Task Management App

“Let’s put it on the Internet!”
“No, we have to reach people whose opinions actually matter.”
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I should probably write this in my Ark of Ideas Blog (the last posting was ages ago), but it is closely related to this blog.

I’m currently thinking about programming a task management app. On the one hand, I think this is a very bad idea, not only because this Dilbert comic and this one both have a point, but also because my programming skills are mediocre (I’m a psychologist, not a programmer).

On the other hand, I think that most task management programs are lacking in one respect: The show what you have to do, but not what you have ToDo Today.

Personally, I love OmniFocus, but the (probably) best app for me would look slightly different. The main screen would be a “ToDo Today” screen, tightly integrated with the calendar:

todo_today

Features

The App would have the following features:

  • A very good sync feature with an easily available sync button.
  • You have the usual tables with projects and deadlines, etc.
  • A Gantt Chart like view (timeline view) of all the projects themselves (high level goals, not really the tasks itself). Also has alarms and shows where progress is lacking.
  • Each task is assigned to one project.
  • A daily ritual view (idea from idea from asianefficiency.com) which shows you your goals for the month and the year, the appointments today (calendar), the things you wait for, the inbox, and asks you to select the most important tasks that you can do today. This is shown once each day — not as a recurring task.

ToDo Today View

What makes the App different is a ToDo Today view.

  • Each task on the ToDo Today screen has two buttons not normally found in a task management App:
    • move to tomorrow (idea from the “Do it tomorrow” app) or move to next work day (depending on whether this is a private or work task, manual override possible)
    • return task to project (if you realize cannot do it today, you can put it back where it belongs)
  • Tasks that are done are removed/crossed out in the project and ToDo Today view, but they stay there until you hit clear (moved to the end of the list). Reason being that I find it demotivating never to see the tasks I did do and only see the remaining tasks of a given day.
  • Easy resorting of tasks.
  • Tasks not done after the end of the day (trigger starts at midnight or time manually set, if no input is done for two hours it counts as end of the day, calendar appointments override this setting) are automatically put back into the projects.
  • Switch selecting between private and work tasks (projects are tagged either as private or work, all tasks inherit this tag).

Additional Features

There should also be additional features in the App:

  • Reminders, e.g., to do the worst tasks first, only use tasks that can be done within a day, only use specific tasks, etc.
  • Pseudo-intelligence that recognizes when tasks were not done repeatedly and asks whether they should be removed from ToDo Today or whether they should be deleted.
  • Pseudo-intelligence warns when you have not completed all tasks for the day repeatedly and asks you to select fewer tasks.
  • Tasks can become active at a given time and be moved to the ToDo Today view. Quick selection of the day via a calendar view and time via a slider (the selector normally used is way to tedious).
  • Someday/maybe list with requesting review after x days/months/years.
  • What did I do? Overview — shows either chronologically or on project basis what was done when.

Game on!

Regarding the style, there is this nice idea of the “EpicWin” todo app — why shouldn’t there be some game characteristics involved in a task management App? I wouldn’t make a role-playing game out of it, but nice sounds (think Star Trek), Avatars (think the characters of “Ghost in the Shell”) — could be nice. Some default texts and modules you can add to. Your virtual secretary reacting on how well you do your tasks (getting angry if you do not do most tasks, becoming more professional if you do more work tasks than private tasks, becoming more relaxed if you do more private tasks than work tasks — or vice versa; btw, Apple, I’m still waiting on my Knowledge Navigator), etc. pp. There are many ways to make the app more … pleasurable and less like a bad conscience (most of all to actually do the tasks and enjoy being effective, after all, it does not matter that much how you organize your task, just that you do it and the tasks continuously).

So, what now?

I am not sure what to do next — either find out whether I can maintain this workflow with OmniFocus, or program my own task management App … hmm, or find someone who wants to program it …

4 Comments

  1. You’re totally right, but wouldn’t this new invention of yours have to be the operating system itself in order to be omnipresent and omniscient at the same time? –

  2. Nah, not really. You can import calendar events from iCal, OmniFocus does this, but it does not put them in with tasks todo today … I played around with the idea for a few hours, now I have sketched out an app that would be “perfect” for me (and probably many others as well) — some very cool ideas (some taken from existing apps, like sharing or delegating tasks, feedback based on psychological theories of awareness and reflection). Not sure what to do with it, though — either I set it free or I try to realize it myself. Would be great if OmniFocus or Things would pick up a few of the ideas, but it would deviate from the way they organize tasks now (not that good in my opinion, as they only offer function, not feedback and guidance — and it looks totally boring and “not fun to use”). Hmmm, I’m at an impasse here …

  3. I’m a therapist as well, among other things (musician), and pine for the good ol’ days when my productivity software was a meaning making machine (Covey’s PlanPlus… alas, it’s horribly coded software).

    I’ve fantasized about hiring someone to code a meaning-making task/goal software, but that falls into the same camp as “I should quite my job, and move to an island with…”

    I stumbled upon your site via a Google search (“getting shit done” westerman). I like Westerman’s ideas. Moreover I know that paper/pen has many advantages (mainly, a chance to do something away from the computer/internet), but the allure of tags, searches, etc pull me back in.

    Curious… did you try Westerman’s Getting Shit Done?

  4. Hoi Isadore,

    I didn’t try it out but I stumbled over his blog entry a long time ago — I love his statement:

    Sure, I had tried out the Hipster PDA (verdict: too hipster), read up on the Moleskines (verdict: too much pressure to be the next Hemingway and Picasso), and even thought about Getting Things Done, but I just wasn’t up to the task.

    and used it to illustrate that tools can be hindrance in a previous version of OC. Personally, I love a digital way, because I can access them with my iPhone while walking, doing much of my prioritization on the way to work (it takes 40 minutes). I’m currently reworking it, but it still looks similar to the description here.

    All the best

    Daniel

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