If you have installed Taskwarrior and gone through the intro and some of the tutorials, you may be wondering how to start using some features to help you organize your work. This is a simple tutorial, not intended to be complete, or methodology-specific, but just a start, to get you thinking about your task list, and how you might better rely on it.
The default report (the report that runs when you just enter
task) is the
next report. This is a
report where the tasks are sorted by urgency, with the most urgent
at the top. The report cuts off after one page, so it is really
just a list of the most urgent tasks. With a few tips to follow,
next report can be your most valuable resource.
Here are the tips for making the
next report work in
You'll notice that these tips are all about providing more context and metadata for tasks. If all you need is a simple shopping list, then switch back to pencil and paper, you'll be happier. But if you want some sophistication and the ability to manipulate and view the data...
task ID modify project:Home
task ID modify due:31stDon't overdo this though, as a delay might force you to spend too much time reorganizing everything.
task ID startThis is a great reminder after a weekend, of what you were doing on Friday that should be continued.
task ID modify priority:MBut don't fall into the trap of shifting the priorities too often, as you'll waste a lot of time.
task ID modify +problem +houseThis is very useful for filtering.
task ID modify +next
task ID modify depends:OTHER_ID
next report is sorted by urgency. Urgency is just
a number, but a number calculated using a polynomial that
considers many aspects of your tasks. What this means is that the
more information you provide with your tasks, the more accurate
next report becomes, and the more closely it
approximates your own notion of urgency.
If you follow the above tips, your
next report output
should be starting to get useful. Furthermore, by modifying the
urgency coefficients, you can make the
adopt your own notion of whether, for example, a priority setting
is more important than a specific project. Here are some changes
you could make:
task config urgency.user.tag.problem.coefficient 4.5This means that any task having the
+problemtag gets an urgency boost. Conversely, you can reduce the urgency for unimportant things, using negative coefficients:
task config urgency.user.tag.later.coefficient -6.0If you have a project that is more important, you can boost the whole project:
task config urgency.user.project.Home.coefficient 2.9Suppose you do not agree that a blocked task should have a reduced urgency. Override it:
task config urgency.blocked.coefficient 0.0A zero coefficient means that blocked tasks now have no effect on the urgency.
Providing good descriptions for your tasks is enormously helpful. Here is a very bad example of a task:
task add Renovate the kitchenWhile that may well be a perfect description of what you will be doing at the highest level, it is potentially an open-ended task, for which progress will be very hard to assess. This will be a task that sits on your task list for some time, and is not very helpful - you learn nothing from it, and its presence on the list will become demotivating.
A much better approach would be this:
task add project:Kitchen Select floor tiles task add project:Kitchen Measure counter-top task add project:Kitchen Design placement of electrical outlets task add project:Kitchen Locate ideal placement for extractor duct task add project:Kitchen Select and order counter-top material task add project:Kitchen Talk to the Electrician about when the work can start ...Here
Kitchenis now a project name, and the tasks represent smaller units of work. While this means more time will be spent breaking down the larger tasks, but planning is important.
With smaller tasks, you have the opportunity to establish links between your tasks. For example, it would be wise to plan the placement of electrical outlets before asking the Electrician to start work. Measuring the counter-top is also needed before ordering the material. These are examples where you could use task dependencies to formalize the sequence.
If you are wanting to estimate the completion of the project, having more tasks and more details will improve your ability to estimate. With enough detail in the tasks, you are more likely to be able to estimate the work.
Break down tasks into smaller tasks - the extra effort required to be more precise can pay off in terms of efficiently performing the work in the right sequence, at the right time.
Go over your list periodically and correct any erroneous data, like an incorrect due date, or a priority that no longer applies because of external factors, or even delete tasks that are no longer relevant. This keeps your list current and up to date, more accurately reflecting the work you need to accomplish. Accurate metadata and good urgency coefficients mean that Taskwarrior's idea of urgency more closely matches yours. That will be a big help.
Consider installing and using the Taskwarrior Shell
program, which among a few other things provides a
review command that helps you cycle through your
task list and keep it current.
Some would argue that spending as little time on your task list as possible means more time for doing work. While this is true, it does assume that you are doing the right work. Good advice would be to spend as little time as you can on the task list, but enough to make sure that it is up to date, correct and complete. Then rely on the tools, and go get some work done.
Use a task list, look at it often, correct any mistakes and remove items that no longer apply. Choose a methodology that works for you (GTD, Pomodoro ...) or devise your own - it's not complicated. Be consistent. Backup your data.
We are always looking into better ways to represent your task list, better ways to display it, and better ways to support methodologies that work. We will be adding features that help in some way, for some people, and we will be correcting what is not working. Taskwarrior is a toolkit, and a comprehensive one, intended to support the different ways people do work. You will not need every feature, but everyone uses a different set of features, according to their own approach. But every feature that you do use will help you work with your list better.