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My memory isn't the best and some years ago I started to use a todo-list to keep track of things I wanted or needed to get done. I started out by keeping this list in a physical notebook but found it cumbersome to lug it around everyday so I switched to a digital solution, namely Taskwarrior which is nice but syncing tasks between devices was a mess. I finally ended up with a CalDAV based solution consisting of Nextcloud, vdirsyncer, and todoman. On my phone I use DAVx⁵ combined with OpenTasks. I've happily used this setup for a number of years now and it works pretty well.

I've been doing some introspection regarding my todo-list and how I (don't) use it. The truth is that I sometimes avoid looking at it and
often feel a reluctance to add new items to it. Currently it's just an overwhelmingly long lists of things I feel I never will get around to actually doing. Not at all inspiring and rather yet another self-imposed guilt-driven "must do" in life. It has become a stress factor and a source of anxiety in my life

This is clearly not a technological issue. I've considered getting rid of my todo-list altogether but it's something I want in my life that, if used correctly, can add that can add value, structure and maybe increase "productivity".

What can be done to make it work better?

A partial solution

I have to admit I have a streak of the infamous techbro syndrome in the sense that when I encounter a problem I want to tech myself out of it. Even though this particular problem is mostly likely due to my anxiety. I'm not proud of this and I try to get out of this mindset but it can be useful sometimes.

I took a long hard look at my todo-list and did some thinking and came up with a number of points that could be addressed either via behavioral shifts or with TECH:

  • Do the boring important things first and get them over with.
  • Don't overpopulate it with "small stuff". No need to add things like "do dishes".
  • Only add things I really want/have to do. No random reminders or movie suggestions.
  • Set default due date to 50 days. If I haven't done the task within 50 days it probably wasn't all that important or urgent to begin with.
  • I've added a todo graveyard page to my vimwiki. This is an archive of todo-list items I never got around to doing, for future reference. No pressure to do things in this list.
  • Some things take a lot of time to get done and are better suited as a project page in vimwiki. I don't have any "do big project"-items in my todo-list anymore. Instead I try to break down projects into smaller pieces that might be added as a todo-list item.
  • I've set up a bash script that sends me an email every morning. In this email I get a list of all tasks older than 50 days and thus probably should be moved to the above mentioned todo graveyard. I also get a suggestion of a random task to do today. Maybe I'll write a blog post on this script some day.
  • Compartmentalization. Use different lists for different classes of tasks. E.g. "studies", "life", "hacks".

It's not a foolproof fix and it depends a lot on me following my own guidelines and doing a little manual labor but so far this has made dealing with my todo-list(s) much more fun and inspiring and less guilt-driven.

The techy parts

Set default due date in todoman config to 50 days

In ~/config/todoman/todoman.conf:

    default_due = 1200

50 days = 1200 hours.

Find old tasks

I wrote an ugly Python script oldcaldavtasks to find tasks older than 50 days. In my morning script I call this script to notify me of old tasks that should go and die in graveyard.

Suggest a random task from todo todoman

/usr/local/bin/todo -h --color never | shuf | head -1 | sed 's/^/    /'