TaskWarrior

Håkon Robbestad Gylterud

May 2018

While the name sounds agressive, the program itself is actually quite pleasant and useful. TaskWarrior is a todo-list manager with a command line interface. The command itself is just task, so even pacifists can use it.

Metadata is where TaskWarrior has its strength. If you take the time to type in a bit of meta-data on each task, there is much you can do with it in TaskWarrior. For instance, based on information such as tags and due dates, it computes the urgency of each task to help the user chosing what to do next.

The online documentation of TaskWarrior is very readable, and they have a lot of examples. The man page is a convenient refence, but not really suited for learning how to use it. So you need to go online to get started.

Ontology

TaskWarrior is not minimalistic, but its ontology is not very difficult: There are tasks and they have attributes, such as tags, due dates or priority. The tasks are presented in reports, which show a selection of attributes for a selected set of tasks. For instance, task ready shows tasks which are currently scheduled to be done, sorted by urgency. Another important attribute is depend which allows you to express dendencies

There is also support for user defined attributes (in the documentation often hidden behind the acronym UDA). This means that you can assign more semantics to your tasks, and possibly write your own scripts which interact with TaskWarrior.

Pitfalls

While TaskWarrior is not very difficult to learn, it might be difficult to use effectively. Here are some of the pitfals.

The first pitfall with any todo-list is just forgetting about it. Taskwarrior lives on the command line and will not pop up in your face every time you open the computer. It mighth therefore be easy to forget about it completely.

One way to avoid forgetting about it is to make a cronjob which e-mails you, say every workday, a list of remaining tasks. This makes TaskWarrior into a kind of personal assistant who every morning recites the tasks you have planned for the day.

Aother pitfall is the snowball effect. It is easy to get carried away with planning lots of activities, thinking that just because you can write it all on a list, you will be able to complete it all. Then you notice there are a few things you are not do in time for the deadline you set. Then you postpone it, start the next batch of tasks, again not completing everything. And suddenly there is an avalanche of things on your todo-lists, and you become demotivated by the sight of the list.

TaskWarrior has some features to remidy this. The attributes wait and schedule allows you to keep tasks which you do not have to do right now out of view. Taking schedule as an example: You can schedule a task (e.g. task add Do something. schedule:tuesday) and it will not appear in the task ready report until Tuesday. This helps reduce clutter. Tasks which you think “Oh, I should do that… someday.” you can actually schedule:someday and it will be kept, but not be in your face while you are doing more urgent things.


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