How I Use TaskPaper: Objectives, not To-Dos

Hi everyone,

I’ve been using TaskPaper in a specific way for a good while now, and I decided to write an article about it. I use it to write lists of objectives:

I find writing lists of objectives like this helps me find the priority to work toward, that it tricks my brain into picturing what I should aim for… if you have big plans and need new tricks to get those plans moving, I hope these ideas will help. If you have TaskPaper and love using it, you already have the best tool for writing objectives lists, in my opinion.



Hi. I really enjoyed the explanation of your process and other articles on your site. I have been thinking a lot about goals, identity, and purpose. Would love yo chat with you another time.

I just wanted to know if you used a script to organize your task paper or tags. I tried doing something like this before using a script. Have your tried? Do you use tags? How do you stick to writing everything? I can be so focused on making lists that lists become what I end up doing for a chunk of my time. How do you solve that problem?

Set priorities and sort accordingly

I appreciate the article.

In Christ,
Victor Gutierrez

Hi Victor,

Thanks for reaching out.

I don’t use scripts to automate what I do.

I do use tags, but not for creating any permanent structure to my lists. I don’t use the @today tag, for example, since I have my day’s objectives in a “Before the end of the day, I’ll have” list, in which I write objectives based on broader term lists (e.g the list I have for the current two-week sprint called “Before Feb 3, I’ll have:”).

I use tags only for helping me scan the lists visually. For example, I use @days(0.5-1) for when I’m estimating an item. I’ll use a tag like @quick, so that I can filter on those objectives if I’m in the mood to get a lot of small quick things done in one shot, things like that. My use of tags is pretty lightweight, an in-the-moment trick I pull out and use when needed.

I realize that what I do is less about structure, but more about habits, less about rules, more about intuition. I surprise myself feeling really happy using a wording in writing my objectives that I haven’t used in a while but somehow fits perfectly to solve the problem I’m facing. These intuitions have become instincts, and it’s fun to have them ingrained so deeply that I feel I can achieve problems of different shapes and sizes.

Because these are instincts, not rules, I realize that someone wanting to learn these will need a variety of examples and some practice, which is why the course I’m offering is structured with a series of weekly emails with a variety of problems to tackle different ways:

  • Should I use this approach or that approach?
  • Should I scope this out to a broader timeframe or go super concrete with my next step for today?
  • What if I get to the core of what I’m trying to accomplish? Oh, that’ll create many nested objectives… that’s okay, it’s a hard problem and I want to get to the bottom of what success will looks like.
  • Should I branch this out in its own file to iterate on my list of objectives over a couple days, to isolate the core thing I want to do, before injecting my purified objective in my monthly timeline…

It’s true that list writing does take up time at first, but there’s value in reflection: with practice, it gets quicker, and you get to stay adept at skirting around problems and not get stuck in them. That’s been my experience anyway.

Hope this helps.

P.S. To see an objective list taking shape, here’s another article: “Install” those Resolutions


For those interested in the way I’ve been writing my TaskPaper files, you might be interested to know that I’m launching a course on those ideas on Feb 26 (deadline for signing up for the first launch is on Feb 19, and their might be future groups too).

1 Like