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For the Wynn

I write to think. Here are my thoughts.

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BASB Experiments: Better Project Management in Todoist


Personal Knowledge Management

Because I’ve been stuck on a Chromebook ever since I started the BASB course, mouse-oriented options for any tools have been particularly annoying to me. One place in particular: project management in Todoist.

I think Todoist is the best todo app given that I live in a Windows/Linux/Android/Chromebook world, but the keyboard options by default are a bit hit and miss. Even with the excellent enhanced keyboard extension, there are some particular gaps around project management.

Why? A quick review:

The Project Management Hierarchy in Todoist

To start, I’m ignoring tags for this analysis. It’s possible (and some do recommend) to make a tag based hierarchy for project management, but I find that not a good use case for tags, which are character limited with no spaces.

There are four hierarchical levels of project management in Todoist:

  1. Projects
  2. Sub-projects
  3. Sections
  4. Sub-tasks

Projects are obviously the intended abstraction, given that they show up in the UI in various searches and layouts. Sub-projects also do this, with the only difference being the nesting in the project list (and thus making them not totally re-orderable).

The main drawback with Projects is that there is no keyboard interface for making/editing them. There is the ability to make a new one in the Quick Add bar with #, but then you’re limited to no spaces and have to go into the UI to change the color anyway. The enhanced shortcut extension is no help here, I imagine suffering from a lack of any element to plug into.

Sections are interesting alternatives. They are fairly easy to create with the keyboard, and allow for moving around groups of tasks to different projects. However, they have similar no-keyboard drawbacks, and aside from expanding/collapsing they don’t provide much else in the UI that’s helpful.

Sub-tasks are nested tasks. You can expand/collapse them as well, and are otherwise exactly like normal tasks.

How I’ve Been Making Do So Far

So far, I’ve been using Projects as intended, but the workflow of BASB implies that there should be lots of movement around projects. I noticed that once I built them, I was reluctant to edit them as I probably should have. Using the trackpad and scrolling felt clunky.

I did like my approach to due dates, which was to add a non-checkbox task (end a task with a colon) at the top of every project with the outcome as text and a scheduled due date. That let me set up a separate filter just to see project outcomes and due dates, which was functionally a way to view them all at once.

It wasn’t perfect… outcomes aren’t project names, which is what I really wanted to see, and the priority still matters for ordering, though it’s hidden on non-checkbox tasks, which is annoying… but it was good enough.

What I’m Experimenting with This Week

This week I’m going to toy with making tasks projects, and sub-tasks the main area of focus. This should give a lot of the keyboard flexibility, allow for clear project name viewing in the overview, and more or less keep all the previous functionality.

An interesting think to consider is: what do Projects actually become under this model? There could just be a single Project with all the others in it, allowing for moving around. They could turn into areas. Or they could stay as meta-project containers. I’ll experiment with it and see how it goes.

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