Reasons I hate TODO list and task tools.
There’s a lot to like about our beloved task management tools. But if we’re honest, there’s a lot they get wrong too. Here are a few ways TODO tools grind my gears:
- Every task and list looks exactly the same.
- Lists are organized with limited hierarchy and pre-requisites.
- Lists are organized with no real spacial control. (Kanban boards are a great example of how spatial organization can vastly improve how we think about certain types of lists.)
- Tasks lists are either a huge a black hole or they’re a cacophony of noisy craziness.
- Task tools can be too atomic. A task is an indivisible line item, in single list. Grouping and splitting tasks is often manual and way too much work.
- Importance is missing from most list tools; everything has the same weight; there are only minor visual differences between lists and items.
- TODO lists require careful weeding, and they accumulate cruft really easily.
- It’s can be difficult to work a list; one task is usually a dozen and not all completed tasks are interesting.
- Task lists don’t care where you’re at personally, they just sit and stare at you. I swear my lists judge me some days.
- They don’t play nicely with your schedule. Not everything on your lists needs to hit your calendar, but the stuff that does really does.
- Completing a task is more than checking it off. Tasks have more exit states than done, anywhere from “Wow, that was a bad idea” to “This doesn’t matter anymore because of such-and-such”.
- Huge lists are super demotivating.
- Huge sets of completed tasks don’t have the positive effect you wish they would.
- Some tasks are time sensitive, which is more than just when it’s due.
- Some tasks are recurring, but not in the it’s-due-every-wednesday sort of way. Meaningful tasks like “You should really filter through the bug list this month” need to happen regularly, but not monthly on Tuesday mornings.
- Some tasks are just plain different than others. I’m looking at you, “Find inspiration today”.
- I finish certain types of tasks better at certain times of day, or when I’m in certain moods.
- And finally, task lists are very rarely inspiring. I’ve never looked at my TODOs and had an epiphany.