Tasklist manager

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Introducing Tasklist manager

Tasklist manager available from Toolkit : Tasklist (e.g. by pressing F4) can be used to edit, prioritize and sort tasklists and all sorts of to-do lists. For example, your prioritized shopping list can be kept in SuperMemo as a tasklist. To be sure that you go on with your major investments starting with those of highest benefit, you might list your planned purchases using price of the purchase in the Time field and, for example, daily time savings in minutes in Value. You could also use other measures of value. For example: degree of satisfaction from the purchase, the maximum price you would be ready to pay, or annual return on investment, etc. This approach would make sure that you never waste your time or money on petty impulse purchases. With tasklists, you can always be sure that you proceed methodically starting from the most valuable investments. Last but not least, tasklists are invaluable for those studying at school or university, where most learning material is not presented in electronic form (e.g. in paper textbooks). In such cases, subject topics (e.g. "Pythagoras' theorem", "Kennedy assasination", etc.) must be prioritized before importing to SuperMemo (in contrast to the incremental reading process, which allows prioritization after importing). For example, if you have 20 minutes to study, you can spend 3 minutes importing tasks, and 17 minutes importing the learning material, as prioritized by your tasklist. During the importing stage you may either choose to manually type in the most important material, or else simply see if you can find an electronic version of it.

SuperMemo: Tasklist manager displaying the SuperMemo 18 implementation list where individual to-do tasks are sorted by their priority as determined by the ratio of the value of a given task divided by the time necessary to complete it

Figure: Tasklist manager displaying the SuperMemo 18 implementation list where individual to-do tasks are sorted by their Priority=Time/Value as determined by the ratio of the value of a given task divided by the time necessary to complete it. In the picture, you can see a portion of 3554 tasks from the SuperMemo 18 tasklist.

Basic operations:

  • To edit a selected field, click it, type in a new value and press Enter.
  • To sort the tasklist choose Ctrl+S.
  • To edit the parameters of a task, choose Ctrl+Shift+P in the same way as you do it in the element window (or Ctrl+E as in Plan). Note that you need to press OK to save the parameters (Esc will cancel the changes).

Tasklist manager toolbar

Here are the most important controls on the tasklist manager toolbar:

  • Tasklist combo box (Tab) - list of available tasklists. If you select another tasklist, it will be displayed in the tasklist manager and ready for editing
  • Set - set the current tasklist as the default one
  • Menu - tasklist manager menu (see below)
  • View (Ctrl+Enter) - view the selected task in the element window
  • Go to (Shift+Ctrl+Enter) - close the tasklist manager and view the selected task in the element window
  • Add task (Alt+F1) - add a new task to the current tasklist
  • Delete task - delete the currently selected task
  • Find task (Ctrl+F) - find a task containing a given string
  • Sort tasks (Ctrl+S) - sort the tasklist by priority
  • Export - export tasklist into an HTML file

Tasklist manager menu

The tasklist manager menu provides the following options:

  • View (Ctrl+Enter) - view the selected task in the element window
  • Go to (Shift+Ctrl+Enter) - close the tasklist manager and view the selected task in the element window
  • Dismiss task (Ctrl+D) - dismiss the selected task
  • Memorize task (Ctrl+M) - introduce the selected task into the learning process
  • Edit parameters (Shift+Ctrl+P or Ctrl+E) - edit task parameters (value, time, priority, deadline, etc.)
  • Add task (Alt+F1) - add a new task to the current tasklist
  • Transfer task (Ctrl+T) - transfer the currently selected task to another tasklist
  • Sort (Ctrl+S) - sort the tasklist by priority
  • Find task (Ctrl+F) - find a task containing a given string
  • Find next (F3) - repeat the last search initiated with Find task
  • Find all (Shift+Ctrl+F) - find all tasks with a given text in their description
  • Set tasklist - set the current tasklist as the default one
  • Jump - select another task in the tasklist
    • Random jump (F11) - jump to a randomly selected task (e.g. for fast tasklist review)
    • Random preferred (Shift+F11) - jump to a random task with preference for high priority tasks
    • Selected row (Ctrl+G) - jump to a selected row in the tasklist manager
  • Tools
    • Open in browser (Shift+Ctrl+B) - put all tasks from the currently opened tasklist in the browser
    • Export as HTML - export the tasklist as an HTML file
    • Export as text - export the tasklist as a text file
    • Import text - import a text file tasklist exported with Export as text
    • Transfer task (Ctrl+T) - transfer the selected task to another tasklist. First time you transfer a task, SuperMemo will ask you to select a new tasklist from the Tasklist combo box. Next time, SuperMemo will ask if the task should be transferred to the tasklist that was the last target of a task transfer
    • Transfer tasklist - transfer the entire tasklist to another tasklist (for the purpose of tasklist merging)
    • Verify tasklist - verify the integrity of the tasklist
  • Close (Esc) - close the tasklist manager

Example: Creating a shopping list

If you plan to use more than one tasklist in one collection, you should also learn about using concepts. Here are the steps to keep your shopping list in SuperMemo (as a separate concept group):

  1. Choose File : New collection to create a new collection. Name it Shopping
  2. Choose Edit : Create a tasklist
  3. Name your tasklist (e.g. Shopping) and press OK. The new concept, which is going to store your tasklist, will be appended as a child of the collection root
  4. Note that at this point your current concept group is Shopping and your current tasklist is Shopping.
  5. Press F4 to open the tasklist manager
  6. Choose Add task (Alt+F1) to add your first item on the shopping list
  7. Type New computer in the Description field
  8. Type 30 in the Value field. Let us assume that your new computer will save you 30 minutes per day on average
  9. Type 1.5 in the Time field. We will assume that your computer will cost you $1500
  10. Press Enter and note that the Priority field is now set to 20. As priority=value/time, you will know that every thousand dollars spent on your new computer will earn you 20 minutes per day. Note also that strangely we assigned time to value and value (price) to time. This is to express the fact that the interpretation of the Value field is as profit while the interpretation of the Time field is as cost
  11. Add more items that you want to purchase with Add task and sort the list with Sort tasks

If this is your first experience with the approach based on priority=value/time, the order of your shopping list may be a surprise!

For exemplary tasklists and their use, see: Break free from work overload!


Deadlines in tasklists are not impassable

{{#if: MM | From: MM | }} {{#if: Netherlands |
Country: Netherlands | }} {{#if: Monday, February 09, 2004 11:39 PM |
Sent: Monday, February 09, 2004 11:39 PM | }} {{#if: |
Subject: | }}


I would like to see a possibility of giving an alarm message when the deadline of a certain task in the tasklist has been reached


Your proposition would quarrel with the concept of a tasklist. The underlying principle is that you never do things if there are things with a higher efficiency tab (i.e. value/time). Tasklists should ideally be deadline-less. What deadlines do in the present implementation is to reduce the value of tasks before a certain moment in time. For example, if a task makes little sense before a certain date (e.g. assembling software modules before all individual components arrive), the deadline will degrade the position of the task on the tasklist. If the deadline is reached and the task still does not come top on the list, by definition, the tasks of higher priority should be executed. Naturally, some projects may be strongly time-dependent and as such not suitable for being managed via tasklists. Tasklists are primarily suitable for handling massive numbers of deadline-less and independent tasks. See also: Scheduling tasks with incremental reading

Estimating task value is up to the user

{{#if: Reinhard | From: Reinhard | }} {{#if: Germany |
Country: Germany | }} {{#if: Thursday, July 26, 2001 12:06 PM |
Sent: Thursday, July 26, 2001 12:06 PM | }} {{#if: |
Subject: | }}


You mention the value of tasks. How do I know how much a task is worth?


Estimating value of tasks is entirely up to you. The simplest approach is to ask yourself a question: How much would I be ready to pay for having this task done? For example, how much would I be ready to pay to have this article read and processed? Value estimation is a skill that is worth developing independent of SuperMemo. Is your time valuable enough not to pick up a nickel? Or perhaps not? Is the value of comfort high enough to justify a bus fare or should you just walk two bus stops? Or perhaps the walk has an added health value? We must make similar estimations on a daily basis to function efficiently. This is why a little training with SuperMemo will probably not be wasted time

Do not use the numbering column in the task manager to double-click tasks

{{#if: Zoran Maksimovic | From: Zoran Maksimovic | }} {{#if: Serbia and Montenegro |
Country: Serbia and Montenegro | }} {{#if: Fri, Aug 31, 2001 19:47 |
Sent: Fri, Aug 31, 2001 19:47 | }} {{#if: |
Subject: | }}


Double-clicking on the number of an individual task results in opening the selected task instead of the one I have clicked on


Yes. As the number column does not change the selection, you should rather double-click anywhere else on the task to ensure the clicked task gets opened

Determining tasklist valuation becomes instinctive in time

{{#if: Prof. Chris Houser | From: Prof. Chris Houser | }} {{#if: Japan |
Country: Japan | }} {{#if: March 16, 2000 |
Sent: March 16, 2000 | }} {{#if: |
Subject: | }}


In reference to How to break free from work overload: It seems to me that the greatest difficulty in the presented approach is in assigning values. For example, in case of SuperMemo features, you could value each feature as the number of email messages requesting the feature. This is comfortingly exact. But it's wildly inaccurate! I believe that Time Management authors have recognized this difficulty of pinning down exact numbers, and so recommend the A B C prioritization scheme


The process of assigning values becomes quick and intuitive with a dose of training. If it is not accurate, it is still more accurate than the A B C scheme. For example, in choosing the value of a given feature in SuperMemo, many criteria will be taken into account with the overall intent to maximize the benefit to the user. Very often, new features are introduced without customer requests (e.g. tasklists!). Others, despite significant customer pressure, will not be included (e.g. many repetition rescheduling options have been proposed and rejected due to their potentially harmful effects on the results in learning). An average man in the street often takes similar multicriterial decisions without much effort. For example, if you would like to take a week vacation on Hawaii, you will quickly make an overall valuation of benefits and reject offers that seem too pricey. Valuating tasks, with some training, is equally automatic and straightforward

Tasks can be scheduled on a specific date

{{#if: hudson | From: hudson | }} {{#if: Poland |
Country: Poland | }} {{#if: Monday, October 16, 2000 10:14 PM |
Sent: Monday, October 16, 2000 10:14 PM | }} {{#if: |
Subject: | }}


Some tasks need to be executed on certain dates. Giving the tasks higher priority or using the deadline option may be a substitute, but this makes it impossible to see the tasks in a weekly table, etc. I would like SuperMemo to take care of this


You can combine tasklists with incremental reading. Tasks can be scheduled in the learning process. If you keep tasks in a separate collection, you can also view the number of tasks scheduled on a given day or month. You can prioritize individual tasks via incremental reading, via tasklist or using both mechanisms. For example, you can use incremental reading to back up the tasklist mechanism. This way you can execute tasks down the list of priority, but still take time to review some lower priority tasks. Those selectively reviewed tasks may then have their priority upgraded, be deleted, be built upon (e.g. if tasks take part in a creative process) or simply be executed

Reading list

{{#if: Luis Gustavo Neves da Silva | From: Luis Gustavo Neves da Silva | }} {{#if: Brazil |
Country: Brazil | }} {{#if: Sep 17, 1999 |
Sent: Sep 17, 1999 | }} {{#if: |
Subject: | }}


What is the difference between a reading list and a tasklist?


Reading list is a special case of a tasklist. All tasklists are sorted sets of tasks. Each task is composed of: title/description, priority and task body. In reading list, the body of the task has a form of a single article (e.g. imported from the Internet). You can use tasklist in the management of to-do lists. A reading list is your prioritized to-do sequence of most important articles you want to read. However, with the advent of incremental reading, the role of reading lists is declining. Incremental reading eliminates the greatest weakness of reading lists: difficulty in estimating the value of articles before actually reading them. Incremental reading makes it possible to continually update article valuations as reading progresses

Virtual knowledge market can help you with tasklists

{{#if: Reinhard K. Koehler (neusob) | From: Reinhard K. Koehler (neusob) | }} {{#if: Germany |
Country: Germany | }} {{#if: Saturday, August 11, 2001 1:06 PM |
Sent: Saturday, August 11, 2001 1:06 PM | }} {{#if: |
Subject: | }}


You suggest that tasklist valuations can be used to prioritize material for learning. But for categorizing the material in a exam there is no market! So how do I evaluate the prices?


You can create a virtual market in your mind. Imagine that you use your spending power for shopping for knowledge. You go to individual shops offering "Biology at $X" or "Mathematics at $Y". You must answer the question: "How much money would I be ready to pay for instantly memorizing this piece of learning material?" Would you pay $100,000 for a 5-page article on cancer? Or would it rather only be $0.1? In most cases the answer will fall in-between. With time you will hone your valuation skills and assign values effortlessly. Clearly, one buyer is enough to make a market. Virtual knowledge sellers will adapt prices to your demand. The demand is up to you. It is determined by your spending power and your need for new knowledge

Deadlines in tasklists are measured in real time

{{#if: P.W. | From: P.W. | }} {{#if: Poland |
Country: Poland | }} {{#if: Apr 24, 2002 |
Sent: Apr 24, 2002 | }} {{#if: |
Subject: | }}


Why don't I get the priority halved in tasklists if I set the deadline half-time to today?


Unlike the learning process, deadlines in tasklists are measured by your system time. If you open the same task again to inspect its priority a few seconds after setting the deadline, the priority will already have changed. In other words, the deadlined task priority is changing all the time as your system clock ticks

Tasklist should hold all your ideas and inspirations

{{#if: ZM | From: ZM | }} {{#if: |
Country: | }} {{#if: Sat, Jan 19, 2002 10:00 |
Sent: Sat, Jan 19, 2002 10:00 | }} {{#if: |
Subject: | }}


Does it make sense to put on tasklists things that are not feasible in a near future?


Yes. You never know how your priorities change, how feasibilities change, etc. You never know if and when the task becomes feasible or inspirational. The only cost of a task on a tasklist is that you may occasionally see it when randomly reviewing valuations. Otherwise, the idea of tasklists is to put all your ideas and inventions there and just estimate the value and time as accurately as possible. The main value of tasklists is that you do not have to come back with your mind to lower priority tasks unless you choose so. At the same time, you never lose a record of your creative effort. The length of the tasklist does not matter. It may be a hundred times longer than your execution capacity. The longer it is, the better it testifies to your creativity