Managing my TODOs in 2010

Last May I wrote an article on my ideal todo list. I implemented it in offline-enabled format, but never got around to writing the server-side code and it didn’t get used. I’ve been using a paper-based day book effectively all year, but the book is filled up.

Today, starting a new year, I needed something quick to manage my todos. I’m on a bad internet connection, and don’t want a web-based app; even offline enabled apps are quirky. I decided to write something quick and dirty using the command line. Half an hour later, this is what I have:

  • All my todos are stored in text files in one directory.
  • Each textfile contains the things I want to accomplish in one day, named after that day in 2010-01-31 format so they show up in sorted order.
  • I edit the files in my favourite text editor and put a “*” beside ones I’ve completed.
  • I wrote some scripts to easily open “relative” names such as TODAY, YESTERDAY, TOMORROW, and TWODAYS side by side.
  • I named each script starting with a 1 so that they show up at the beginning of the listing. This is useful in gui file managers as I can double click those scripts to open them.
  • I don’t actually use gui file managers much, but I put a link to this one on my desktop with a fancy icon so I don’t forget my tasks.
  • When I opened the directory in nautilus, I discovered that I can zoom in on the files, and actually read their contents without opening them. I switched it to compact view so I can fit more TODOs in one screen.
  • I’ll probably have one extra text file for “things that need to be done eventually.”
  • I haven’t really tested it, but I intend to use it for the next week and revise it as necessary. I may have to whip up a server to give a simple interface to it from my phone, or maybe ConnectBot will suffice. It’s not important at the moment, I don’t take the phone anywhere due to a complete lack of coverage.

    If it seems to be working as well as the daybook did last year, I’ll keep it up. If I tend to forget to use it, like other electronic solutions I’ve tried, I’ll get a new daybook.

    What little code there is, I’ve posted to github.


  1. Dan McGee says:

    I started using zim ( at work to organize my TODO list. It has worked out really well so far, and I’ve actually stuck with it which is more than I can say about any past attempt. It has a nice built-in wiki page per day calendar thing that I use the most often, and then I can dump random notes on another page and link to it. The best part is it is all plain text, so firing up a non-gui editor isn’t hard to do.

  2. Nothing like pen and paper. It’s 100% portable to all platforms, supports all text encodings, embedded images, RTL text, paging, tabs, etc

  3. Panke says:

    > Each textfile contains the things I want to accomplish in one day, named after that day in 2010-01-31 format so they
    > show up in sorted order.

    Stoped reading here.
    If you have things sorted by date, its a calendar and not a todo list.

    • dusty says:

      You’re certainly welcome not to read it, though I fail to understand why you’d bother commenting if you didn’t.

      If you’d read the posted I referenced earlier, you’d understand the day-based philosophy I am looking to engender in my TODO lists; whether you choose to follow the same philosophy depends on *your* needs. Neither a traditional task list, nor a calendar-based approach has the flexibility I require. As I discussed in [ ], I want to merge the two concepts into a simple system. I had intended to write (and actually half-completed) a fairly complex web-based system.

      I personally define a todo list as a list of things I need to do, and a calendar as a list of appointments that have to happen at specific times. I don’t like things happening at specific times, so excepting air travel and haircuts, I have very little use for a calendar.

      I have designed my system to split the list of things I need to do into things I need to do each day; often my todo list for today includes the thins I didn’t finish yesterday, yet yesterday, I still got the positive reinforcement of crossing them off the list (after I’d done as much of the task as I intended to do for one day). A todo list with deadlines way in the future just tells you what you need to do; my system helps me decide when to do it.

      For anyone who actually *is* interested, this low tech (not as low as Aaron’s pen and paper, of course) solution seems to be satisfying *my* needs very well.

  4. domanov says:

    zim is great, though I used it more for wiki than for calendar/todo.

    If you can use a bit of emacs, org-mode is the definitive solution for note-taking, outlining documents, todo, calendar, Getting Things Done and much more. I mantain the PKGBUILD on aur.