20 Ways To Improve a ToDo List

As part of an online course I am taking, I was asked to day to come up with 15 or more ways a todo list can be improved. After twisting and bending my brains I could squeeze out 16 to make a better ToDo list, but for making it a round number I inflated it to 20. If any of you out there with better programming skills and/or time to implement this please do so. All I ask is a little mention of my name in your app’s mast. Of course, I’ll sue you after you app crosses 3 million users at which point, I believe, Andy Sorkin will make a snappy movie about us and the app. Now behold, the ToDo list of the future.

1. Users must be able to add task easily and quickly, assign deadlines with options for pre-deadline alerts.

2. Proximity and time aware alerts can allow users to be more efficient in choosing their tasks. For example, when in a Mall, show all shopping related tasks or, after 5 PM do not show tasks related to DMV or Post office since they will be closed by that time.

3. A ‘Plan the day’ option that can automatically populate the user’s day with applicable tasks based on deadline and importance. This would helpful for the users like the student (from the observations listed above) when he/she finds a free Sunday. Even the procrastinator can use it to fill his day optimally without having to decide which tasks to take up.

4. Whenever the user fails to complete a task by deadline, the system must keep track of the task, category and frequency of failure using which it should be able recognize a pattern and inform the user accordingly.

5. System should auto-categorize the tasks as they are added, while giving the user option to modify if needed. This would make it reduce the complexity and mis-labeling when user handles categories.

6. Publish, under the user’s discretion, completion of tasks certain tasks to user’s social network to allow their friends to congratulate and therefore motivate them to be more productive.

7. A reverse of above feature, is to use the trusted group of contacts from the user’s network to provide support and motivation when the user consistently fails to complete a difficult or crucial task.

8. Using historical data collected on the user behavior, the system can suggest and alert for certain activities at certain periods of the day. For example, if the user often studies or does writing in the morning, then the tasks that are related to writing or research should show up as the first task in the morning.

9. For cognitively engaging tasks like drawing, writing or solving puzzles, whenever the user completes the task, the system can ask additional info like whether the user was satisfied with the work just completed and whether this time period is a good to suggest similar tasks in the future. In addition to system’s auto-collected behavior, this user feedback can help the system make better choices.

10. Instead of showing all the tasks and making the user select, the system should just show the best task for that particular time. When a user completes a task simply show the next task. [In psychology, studies show that people always put more priority for the present than the future, which results in procrastinators always picking simpler/easier stuff for the present and pushing off the hard choices for future. ] By removing the decision making from the user’s hands, only temporarily, we can reduce the amount of procrastination done by them.

11. Group tasks into smart Epics. An Epic can be a series of tasks done over time to accomplish a major thing, like preparing for a certification by taking small quizzes every week or breaking down big projects into smaller tasks that can be completed in shorter period of time. For epics, the system should show percentage of completion.

12. The TODO system can act as a social assistant, by reminding the user to call family and friends at regular intervals. People with busy schedule, like the working mother from the observations, who juggle professional and personal lives might be too busy to keep their social connections healthy. The system can recognize this and alert them to stay in touch with friends and family.

13. Another option to integrate social activities with everyday tasks, is to combine activities based on tasks. For example, if a user has a task for groceries and if the user’s friend also has a task for groceries, they can be notified. This way, people with busy schedule can catch up while completing a todo item thus being productive and socially connected at the same time. I think this will also increase the use of car pooling.

14. The system can automatically give higher priority to tasks that are generally good like exercise and reading and similarly make it hard to select the tasks that are generally unproductive.

15. The TODO system must auto-populate activities that occur at regular intervals like Dental checkup or buying toilet paper.

16. This system should allow user to send todo items to others. This would replace emails used to co-ordinate group activities like parties where there is usually a big email thread listing who needs to do what. With the TODO system, the co-ordinator can quickly create and assign todo items for every one involved.

17. The system can have built-in smart tasks that alert user to do things is often mandated in social setting, like ‘Turn off phones in airplane’ or ‘silence phone in the theater’. By being location aware, the system can recognize where the user is and decide which of this simple but important things need to be brought to user’s attention.

18. System must be capable of showing summarized results that show positive outcomes like – ‘Bench pressed 300 lbs in 2.5 months’ or ‘Completed Book project in 15 weeks’. This can act as a positive motivator.

19. For large task sets (Epics) when one or more tasks go unfinished or extended over deadline, the system must be smart enough to auto-adjust the target deadline for that Epic.

20. The system can gather motivational quotes from renowned authors online and just show it to users once in a while as an inspiration to help them along their quest to being productive.

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