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I need a computer program to help me handle my tasks.

I know, there are many task programs, such as Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook. My problem is that they can't handle tasks with no specific due dates. (Perhaps you could call it fuzzy due dates.) In fact, the majority of my tasks are such tasks. For instance, cleaning my attic should be done every other year, but there is no due date for that -- there's no crisis if I don't clean my attic. However, the task priority level should be upped automatically as time progresses. I should't need to waste time reviewing my tasks myself periodically and change priorities.

Do you know of a program that can do this? Any suggestions would be most welcome.

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Why not use Google Calendar and let it sent you an email and/or popup message a few days before the due date? –  THelper Dec 21 '12 at 9:20
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@THelper: Because there is no due date for tasks such as cleaning the attic etc. It's things that should be done, and get more pressing as time passes. Assigning artificial due dates would lead to a chorus of insignificant alarms, dwarfing the tasks which do have important due dates. –  Gruber Dec 21 '12 at 9:39
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this could be a great feature for GTD software –  Steve V Dec 21 '12 at 11:46
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no, I wish I knew one... Perhaps someday I will write it. –  Steve V Dec 21 '12 at 12:45
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You can probably take something like Todoist, set the due date to today, and the software will tell you how many days it's overdue :) But I don't see this as a very useful methodology. You'll have things like "adopt one of Adam's kittens (212 days overdue)" alongside "clean the garage (60 days overdue)" and a hundred other things. You'll spend most of your time determining priorities. Maybe look at the GTD methodology if you haven't, for a more efficient way of handling things. –  Muz Dec 22 '12 at 9:35
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5 Answers 5

up vote 2 down vote accepted

You can try my Portable Kanban. Due dates (deadlines) are optional for all the tasks, but priority levels are "static" (may be changed manually). Instead you can re-sort tasks using different parameters.

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Thanks, I viewed the presentation of your program and it looks great. I especially love having the program as well as my data locally and not in the cloud, as I want to own my own data. I hope the data is portable and possible to export in a human-readable format, so I am not locked into the program. If would be great if you could update the program so that you can specify when priority levels would be upped automatically. For instance, the task "See a doctor to do a health checkup" could be set to priority 6 initially, and ordered to elevate one priority level every six months. –  Gruber Jan 7 '13 at 10:11
    
It uses plain XML for data, you can also export all or partial data to csv file (see Report). I'll add 'Elevating Priority' feature to the backlog. –  Dmitry Jan 7 '13 at 14:28
    
Great, with that feature added your program will have a clear competitive and innovative advantage. –  Gruber Jan 7 '13 at 15:10
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So this is interesting because you are coming at this from a very different perspective than most people who are interested in productivity (and you're a bit closer to my own way of doing things)

So when I was first trying to manage my todo list I had a pen and paper notebook - tasks got crossed out in pen and new ones were added at the bottom. You read from top to bottom so that oldest unread task was the first you saw - once you had done everything on a page you could tear the page out. Now, with this approach the 'gain in priority' is inbuild - tasks you have been avoiding become more and more obvious as time goes on.

This approach is actually continued in my current system (I use my inbox for tasks and send myself a lot of mails). Each day I make it a rule to tackle my oldest task.

But we should contrast this with the normal way of thinking about productivity, which is that it's about doing what's important, not what's urgent. I think Randy Pauses explenation is the best so I'm going to ask you to watch from 20:30 of this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTugjssqOT0

(transcript below)

This is the most important slide in the entire talk. Due Soon Not Due Soon Important Not Important If you want to leave after this slide, I will not be offended, because it's all downhill from here. This is blatantly stolen, this is Steven Covey's great contribution to the world, he talks about it in the Seven Habits book. Imagine your To Do list - most people sort their To Do list either "the order that I've got it", throw it at the bottom, or they sort it in due-date list, which is more sophisticated and more helpful but still very, very wrong. Looking at the four- quadrant To Do list, if you've got a quadrant where things are "Important and Due Soon", "Important and Not Due Soon", "Not Important and Due Soon" and "Not Important and Not Due Soon", which of these four quadrants do you think, upper left, upper right, lower left, lower right, which one do you think you should work on immediately? Upper left! You are such a great crowd. Okay. And which one do you think you should probably do last? Lower right. And that's easy. That's obviously number one, that's obviously number four. But this is where everybody in my experience gets it wrong. What we do now is we say: "I do the number ones, and I move on to the stuff that's "Due Soon and Not Important". When you write it in this quadrant list, it's really stunning, because I've actually seen people do this and they say: "Okay, this is due soon and I know it's not important so I'm going to get right to work on it." The most crucial thing I can teach you about time management is, when you're done picking off the "Important and Due Soon", that's when you go here. Due Soon Not Due Soon Important 1 2 Not Important 3 4 You go to "Not Due Soon and Important", and there will be a moment in your life where you say, "Hey, this thing that's due soon and not important: I won't do it! Because it's not important! It says so right here on the chart!" And magically, you have time to work on the thing that is not due soon but is important so that next week it never got a chance to get here because you killed it in the crib. My wife won't like that metaphor! But you solve the problem of something that's due next week when you're not under time stress because it's not due tomorrow. And suddenly you become one of these Zen-like people who would just always seem like they have all the time in the world because they figured this out.

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I watched the movie. Wise ideas. –  Gruber Jan 2 '13 at 8:00
    
Can we have a summary of the movie for those who are at work and can't watch movies, or (as is recommended on SE when dealing with external resources) in case the resource disappears one day? –  Konerak Jan 4 '13 at 14:07
    
It's a lecture rather than a movie, but I'll add the content... –  Joe Jan 4 '13 at 14:25
    
Added (more from an accessibility point of view than anything else - I'm in a bit of a rush so it would be great if someone tidied up the formatting for me... –  Joe Jan 4 '13 at 14:27
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I use OmniFocus and do not set due dates. Instead I set start dates and no due dates. That way in OmniFocus the task appears in my Forecast view.

This article also has some pointers. http://gridwriter.com/2012/11/14/omnifocus-series-flags-due-dates-daily-review/

Hope this helps. Glenn

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"Soft due dates" moving towards an orange hue as time goes by sounds close to what I need. Thanks for a highly relevant tip! –  Gruber Dec 26 '12 at 18:20
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You can make this very easy by setting your own due dates based around your current/predicted workload.

This then gets them into the system, and has them scheduled for the best timeframe for you.

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The problem is that it is hard to know when in the future I will decide cleaning my attic is the right thing to do given all other priorities. So such settings would likely be inaccurate, forcing me to review my list of tasks regularly, which would be no different from using a regular task program. –  Gruber Dec 26 '12 at 17:55
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the task priority level should be upped automatically as time progresses

If you want to Keep It Simple and not change the software you're familiar to, you could simply add another short task, with a due date (possibly recursive), that would be "up the priority of task FOO". Then you don't need to think about it anymore, and it'll then take you 2 seconds to change the tasks priority. Contrast that to spending hours installing and getting used to a new system.

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A decent workaround, but still a large amount of overhead work compared to using a program that would do this automatically. –  Gruber Jan 2 '13 at 7:59
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