Short lists vs long lists

Mark Forster observing here that having one long “catch-all” to-do list usually results in a lack of focus.

(I personally agree that working with shorter and more focused lists seems to work much better).

( It would be interesting to design a controlled experiment – my first guess is that the all-in-one-bucket approach may simply mean lugging a heavier bucket around, and encouraging others to add more weight to it :slight_smile: )

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I think a lot of what he’s trying to get at is more relevant for some kinds of work than others. I’m a freelance writer, so my todo list is a lot of trying to not forget the hundred details of where I am on multiple projects simultaneously. The approach he recommends would be at best dangerous for my deadlines :slight_smile:

That said, I definitely think he has a point about cognitive load, and my lists definitely do get overwhelming to the point where I abandon them. I’m currently experimenting with having a main tp file that shows a sort of overview of where I am on every project, as well as the next 1 or 2 items I need to do, with a link to a per-project separate file (kept in per-project subdirectories). I’m not convinced yet, I’m finding this varies depending on the scope of the project (on the novel it’s indispensable, on a quick article it feels redundant), but it’s an experiment worth trying for me.

Perhaps the trick is always to find ways of producing manageable short-list views from complex sets of detailed projects ?

Outline collapse/expand, item path filtering, and live links to materials elsewhere are already a huge help, I find.

(The next thing that I am personally experimenting with is generating short list views and reports by filtering across several (e.g. a folder-full) of TaskPaper 3 text files).

Yeah. I’ve been playing with the best way to surface things across multiple files. I really like Brett Terpstra’s approach with na, but I need something more granular, and I don’t live in the shell. I currently have NerdTool greping across directories for @today and @active (the latter being the “now” of the kanban-in-tags I’m working with) and displaying it on my desktop. But I so rarely look at my dektop this is basically useless.

Surfacing items in a timely and appropriate manner is one of the biggest challenges I’ve found for any task management system. One of the reasons I like taskpaper is because in theory I should be able to roll my own. Should I ever find one that works.

(taking this opportunity to grumble again about having no way to get alerts on my android phone which would help a lot here grumble grumble)

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