I really wish there were to-do list programs that took themselves as seriously as Photoshop takes image editing, or as seriously as Excel takes spreadsheets. I want software that I could use to organize everything in my life and still only hit on like 30 percent of the features. I want a program that puts things in rather than leaves things out.
I’ve been listening to Hello Internet and Cortex a lot lately, and I’ve seriously been spending time daydreaming about the ideal to-do list. And on Saturday, I dumped out every bit of ideas I’ve had so far into an Evernote file, which I’d like to (slightly neaten up and then) share.
So, here are the things I want in a to-do list:
I want the program to automatically gather data: to save information about things I’ve done, things I haven’t done, how many times I hit snooze, etc. I also want sophisticated tools for rearranging that data into readable charts and graphs. Like a line graph over-set on a calendar indicating stressor levels and average deviation from scheduled pill taking time or number of missed meals.
I also want to be able to interact with a task in a variety of ways — I want to be able to skip tasks and have them recorded as skipped, rather than having to mark them as done if I want them to go away until the next time they’re supposed to show up.
I want undoing to be easy. With my current to-do list app, it’s a pain in the ass to put a task back on my list for the day if I accidentally mark it as done. I have to set it up as a new task to take place in the future relative to right now so it reminds me again; I want to be able to hit “undo” and have the task return to its most recent state in continuity with itself.
Task customization: I want to be able to change a wide variety of settings, not just overall, but with respect to specific tasks. Like, I’d like the reminder interval for my pills to be shorter than my reminder interval for homework. I’d like to be able to set different kinds of snoozes — when I snooze my pills, it stays present on the status bar, then just buzzes again after seven minutes. When I snooze the new episode of Steven Universe, I want that to just go away for an hour or two or a day.
I want there to be an advanced tab, when I set it up — so I can hide questions that almost always have the same answer and can safely be ignored unless it’s an unusual case. Like, there should be a button on my morning pills prompt that tells the system to add caffeine pills to my shopping list if they aren’t already there.
I’d like to add an “Are you sure?” button to task skipping, but only for important things, like pills. Or for less important things, like shaving, after I’ve skipped them a certain number of days in a row. I’d also like a counter to show up letting me know how many days it’s been since my last shave, shower, laundry, etc. I’d also like to be able to add a prompt for explanation if I’m skipping certain things — like pills.
Additional data collection: I’d like some of my tasks to show up like little surveys. Like, my morning pills task will show up all as one task, but the box will prompt me to fill separate yes/no entries for each pill, and questions like “With food?”
Prompts that are just for data collection: Like a daily ask that says “How do you feel right now?” With check boxes for physical and emotional states.
The ability to create tasks in order to mark them as immediately done. Like, if my phone prompts me for food info three times a day, I want to be able to add an event between lunch and dinner for snacks.
Tasks should be able to affect other elements in the system. Like, I should be able to mark “Took afternoon pill with morning pills” on the advanced tab in my morning pills, if I put them off until later in the day, and it’ll fill in both entries and the afternoon pills box won’t pop up.
Other elements should affect tasks, too. Like, an upcoming important calendar event could automatically increase the priority of hygiene and self-care tasks days in advance, so I don’t have to worry about being more than usually prepared on a given day that’s already going to be stressful. Like, “All hygiene and self care tasks get ‘Are you sure’ prompt for X days in advance of calendar events set to X priority or higher, or with ‘Self Care +’ tag”
I’d want certain kinds of events to automatically generate their own list. Like, when I add a shift to my work schedule it should add to-do events throughout the shift for things I know I have to do at work, a reminder to check for a clean button-down the day before, and reminders to make sure my gas tank is full earlier in the week.
I want to be able to set individual tasks or task-sets to private — so, for example, a task could have an obfuscated prompt and a clearer description, unlockable by password — so I could have a reminder in my daily to-do list to brush my teeth and shower and I can gather data on those without having to worry about (a.) forgetting what my coded symbols mean and having a to-do list that’s confusing rather than helpful, and (b.) someone looking over my shoulder and making fun of me for having hygiene stuff on my to-do list. (I have anxiety issues, okay?)
Aesthetic control, like color coding and font — I want total control here. I’d rather it let me make it as ugly as a MySpace page than make it impossible to use how I want to so that it’s impossible to make it aesthetically unappealing.
Excellent cross-platform control: it should have as close as possible to perfect synchronization, and really good desktop programs for managing the data I’d be gathering through my phone. There should be a mode that’s unambiguously for working on managing the list rather than interacting with it. Like, a mode where when you click on a check box it takes you into the settings for what kind of box that can be, instead of checking it.
Ideally, but not vitally, access to all features on all devices, but with varying levels of accessibility so I don’t get myself mired in stuff I shouldn’t be trying to use my phone to do, but could get there in an emergency.
Extremely good organization of abilities, so that a person who wants or needs none of this stuff can use the app and not have to muddle through a whole bunch of overwhelming options — I’d rather have to look up how to do something than have to figure out how to not do it when I’m trying to do something simpler.
Ability to manage lists for other people, or share lists with other people. Ability to have the whole list visible while only giving some people the power to complete different tasks on it. (So, like, I know I need to write the copy for page X of this document, but I can also see that pages H through J aren’t done either so not everyone’s waiting on me — or, it’s visible here that it’s my job to lay out the pages, and I can see who is and who isn’t done with the text for those pages to start putting it in.)
I’d also like the ability to set the list up so that it’s possible — but not mandatory – to submit work directly through this program into another system.
It should have a sophisticated understanding of time — so that, for example, if I mark my evening pills as “Done” at 1:30 a.m., it recognizes that that’s the “done” for the previous day, and doesn’t mark a missing entry on that day and an extremely early entry on the following day.
Also scrolling calendar view — so I can look at the calendar and see, for example, the last two weeks of one month and the first two weeks of the next, or 2 to 3 months at a time when I zoom out, arranged as if they were one continuous page of a physical calendar. I would like similar functionality with daily calendars — like overlapping ends (so 12-2 a.m. shows up at the end of Saturday and the beginning of Sunday), easy, fluid adjustment of the “first day” of the week so I can quickly look at a Wednesday to Tuesday span instead of just Sunday to Saturday or Monday to Sunday, then have it revert to my preferred default automatically.