I use a piece of software called Toodledo. If I had a list of the most important software in my life, Toodledo would be in the Top Five. As you might guess from the name, it’s a task manager, a “to-do” list. Of course, it’s much more powerful than a simple list of to-do’s you might write on a piece of paper. You can set priorities, group together tasks and set due-by dates. When it became apparent that it was time to phase out my Newton, I discovered Toodledo.com with a simple web search. That was over two years ago near the time that I bought my iPhone. Toodledo is especially elegant because it’s available wherever I go. They have a web client that you can use on any computer and they have special clients for iPhone and iPad. Those clients synch with the web version so your list is always up-to-date no matter which device you might be using. It’s essential to me because I’ll often think of something that needs to be done but I am not logistically able to perform the task at that exact time. If I don’t note it at that moment, I will often forget it for a very long time.
Of course, even if I write it down, it may still take a very long time before I remove it from the list simply because other tasks have a higher priority. Currently, I have a 176 tasks on my list that I think need to get done. Those are spread among my personal life, work life and volunteer life with Troop 820. 15-20 items are repeating items such as “Clean cat boxes” (weekly) or “Take glucose a second time” (daily). The bulk of the remaining tasks have been accumulating for years.
Toodledo let’s you group tasks together by assigning each to a “folder”. When you sign up for Toodledo’s free service, there are already several folders created for you but you can create your own. You can also delete any that you don’t use or change the names of the folders you do use. Over the years, I have accumulated these folders (listed alphabetically with commentary in parentheses):
- Burn (music CDs for friends and family)
- Call (as in telephone)
- Development (the preferred term for “programming”)
- EFI (the name of my employer, this folder usually just contains weekly repeating tasks like “Status report”)
- Graham (tied for most recent addition)
- Health (added last year)
- Newton (yes, still a couple of items remaining from the migration)
- Thomas (second half of the aforementioned tie)
A few days ago I was looking for a way to set up dependencies between tasks. For example, I might want to tell Toodledo, “Don’t show me Task B until Task A has been completed.” Unfortunately, that’s a feature that the Toodledo developers are still developing. Still, while I was poking around at areas that I don’t usually poke at, I read about a feature they call “Goals”.
Goals are sort of a secondary classification system, similar to Folders but independent. You can assign each task to a goal and then ask Toodledo to report your success in achieving each of your goals. Success for each goal is measured by the number of completed tasks that are assigned to that goal. In addition, there are three different kinds of goals: lifelong, long term and short term. Long-term goals can contribute to a lifelong goal and short-term goals can contribute to either a lifelong goal or a long-term goal.
Seeing the usefulness of such a metric, I quickly took it upon myself to go through each of my 176 tasks and assign them a goal. I made up the goals to fit the tasks and it wasn’t long until I saw commonality and relationships. After going through the whole list of tasks, I found that I had 11 lifelong goals, 4 long-term goals and 8 short-term goals. They are as follows (again, listed alphabetically):
- Be a good citizen
- Be a good parent
- Be kind to others
- Be organized
- Be social
- Become debt free
- Develop career
- Keep a neat house and yard
- Maintain a balanced intellectual life
- Maintain a clean and neat appearance
- Optimize life
- Stay healthy
- Be a good EFI employee
- Clean garage
- Contribute to Troop 820
- Build CD shelf to encircle the room
- Make Iowa vacation plans
- Create Troop 820 website
- Develop a plan for bike storage
- Learn PHP
- Transition data from Newton
- Transition to iPhone development
I include the Long-term and Short-term goals here in order to illustrate how one might use the different kinds of goals. However, the point of this article is about what the Lifelong goals reveal about me. After classifying every task in my life that I think is important enough to note, I may have described the credos by which I live.
I suppose there is one missing from the list. One item so integral to my sense of self that I don’t ever need to remind myself to pursue it. What is it?