How to handle time blocking in ToDoList (extend task recurrence features)

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Djo
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How to handle time blocking in ToDoList (extend task recurrence features)

Post by Djo » Sun Jan 17, 2021 6:03 pm

Simply put, time blocking, or calendar blocking, involves defining specific time blocks for a task or project.

Example: we allocate 2 hours each day, during 4 weeks, on a big task or a project. So we create time blocks in the calendar accordingly. Each day, after 2 hours working on it, we stop and move on to another activity/task/project, whatever the state of achievement of this task or project.

Time blocking approach is efficient because it's the time that has to be managed first, before the tasks. Time is the scarce resource. We manage and do tasks according to the time we have. For many of us the calendar is the main organization center, for managing the time we have for our activities, tasks and projects. And often a task can't be completed all at once, it has to be spread through several time blocks.

As far as I know, TDL is not yet able to handle nicely the time blocking approach, because a task can't be placed multiple times in the calendar freely, in various time blocks (let say I plan to work on a task 2 hours today, 3 hours tomorrow, and 5 hours next Monday...)

Suggestions:

Add the ability for tasks to have multiple recurrences, with editable start and/or due dates for each recurrence. Each recurrence is a "time block" in the vocabulary of the time blocking approach.

So basically the suggestion is to extend the current recurring task capacities, by adding the ability to manage recurrences manually.

For a given task, a "Recurrences" dialog would permit to display and manage (add, edit, delete) all future recurrences to come, manually OR automatically created. (by automatically created, I mean created by a formula, as the current implementation).

Because all the recurrences are created in advance (this is not the case with the current implementation), they would all be displayed in the calendar. Which is necessary for proper time/calendar management. The display of the future recurrences of a recurring task in the calendar lacks currently in TDL.

Of course the recurrences could be manage from the calendar too: ability to create manually a recurrence from a task, to delete or move a recurrence.

IMO this would be an great evolution, highly needed for proper time / calendar management.

Thanks for considering!
Last edited by Djo on Sun Jan 17, 2021 11:17 pm, edited 4 times in total.

Djo
Posts: 138
Joined: Mon Sep 09, 2019 3:02 pm

Re: How to handle time blocking in ToDoList (extend task recurrence features)

Post by Djo » Sun Jan 17, 2021 6:38 pm

Just see this has been added in 8.1:

Added 'Future Task Occurrences' to 'Calendar' view
Added 'Future Task Occurrences' to 'Week Planner'

That goes in the right direction! :-))

Would need the ability to create occurrences manually.

Djo
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Re: How to handle time blocking in ToDoList (extend task recurrence features)

Post by Djo » Mon Jan 18, 2021 8:21 pm

I've just installed ToDoList 8.1.DP3,
Added 'Future Task Occurrences' to 'Calendar' view
How can this be activated?

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abstr
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Re: How to handle time blocking in ToDoList (extend task recurrence features)

Post by abstr » Mon Jan 18, 2021 11:44 pm

>> How can this be activated?

It should just work, but I just tested it and it didn't display the future items until I triggered a redraw by clicking on the grid.
futurecalitems.PNG
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abstr
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Re: How to handle time blocking in ToDoList (extend task recurrence features)

Post by abstr » Tue Jan 19, 2021 10:34 am

Can you refer me to any software that implements 'time blocking' in the manner you have described it?

Also, are you aware that if you switch the 'Week Planner' you can drag a selection range and then right-click and create a task at that position?

This makes it very easy to easily and quickly make multiple tasks having different dates and times...
weekplannewtask.png
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Djo
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Re: How to handle time blocking in ToDoList (extend task recurrence features)

Post by Djo » Tue Jan 19, 2021 11:24 am

Can you refer me to any software that implements 'time blocking' in the manner you have described it?

Not really. I'm not an expert of "time blocking", which is the term I found (and that can be googled) to describe something very simple and that is not handle well currently IMO in TDL:
I plan to work on a particular task next week on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. But not on Wednesday and Thursday. How can I manage that in TDL?

Create 3 copies of the same task for this is not a great and elegant solution, you should agree...
So a suggestion to implement manual occurrences (or recurrences, the terms are interchangeable I guess), which are different than copies. They are more "task blocks", so to speak.

If you search for 'time blocking' on the web you will find many articles. But many are basic stuff. I will try to find if and how some other task manager programs have implemented time blocks.

Djo
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Re: How to handle time blocking in ToDoList (extend task recurrence features)

Post by Djo » Tue Jan 19, 2021 12:45 pm

This article is quite interesting: https://todoist.com/productivity-methods/time-blocking

It makes the differences between four close but distinct concepts:
- Time blocking
- Task batching
- Day theming
- Time boxing

As this task management program doesn't embed a calendar, their suggestion is just to create time blocks in an external calendar, to name each of them with a label (for example Accounting, Project X...), and then, in the program, to assign a same label for each of the related tasks.
So, for example, when it's time to work on the block "Project X", make a search query on the task management program to find all tasks with the label Project X, and work on them.


This gives ideas... Imagine that in the TDL calendar we could create and organize "time blocks", which would be new object types with a search query associated to them (opening the Find Tasks dialog?). By double-clicking on a time block this would execute the associated search query and then we would see the task(s) we have to work on during this time block. So we could create time blocks to work on a specific task, on all the due tasks, on the tasks of a specific project, of a specific category, tag, etc.

Wouldn't it be great... :)

Djo
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Re: How to handle time blocking in ToDoList (extend task recurrence features)

Post by Djo » Fri Feb 26, 2021 12:49 pm

I'll try to sum up here what is currently the main lack in ToDoList that prevents from unlocking the full potential of the Calendar and Week Planner.
PS: I have no great suggestion to offer yet to implement nicely what I call here "time blocks". I'm thinking about it, we can think about it together!

In the Calendar and Week Planner, the start and due dates (with start and due times, when set) are used to place tasks.

This works OK if we consider the Calendar as a time line where tasks are displayed and can be sequenced. But, in that way, Calendar is in fact quite similar to the Gantt chart. It is just a slightly different view, with a few additional benefits (time/intraday view) and some that have been removed (dependency view).

The Week Planner view is more problematic. It has been created (I presume) with TIME management in mind, for managing our work time on tasks. But the main issue is that task start and due dates are not appropriate for time management. These are appropriate for task sequencing in the Gantt chart, but not for personal work time management on tasks.

This is easy to understand: if a task starts today and is due in two weeks in a Gantt chart, that doesn't mean I will have to work all along on that task. Maybe I will have to work practically only 4 days on that task. And maybe the appropriate days for me to work on that task will be next week on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. So there should be a way to do that, in particular in the Week Planner (and without having to do multiple copies of the task, which is not good at all, it's unmanageable and it destroys the project's structure and sequencing)

So, to sum up, the distinction have to be better made between two features here:

1) Task sequencing (in the context of a project) and task management:
- Gantt chart and Calendar
- Start and due dates

2) Personal time management
- Week Planner and Calendar
- "Time blocks" - Inside a task's overall period (start to due date), the periods we plan to work practically on the task.

In short, TDL shines on task sequencing and task management. But using start and due dates for time management / Week Planner just doesn't work well. It lacks a "time blocks" feature for proper time management, and so for unlocking the full potential of the Week Planner in particular.

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abstr
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Re: How to handle time blocking in ToDoList (extend task recurrence features)

Post by abstr » Sat Feb 27, 2021 7:31 am

I'm not sure 'time-blocking' is a good fit for TDL (as shown in that linked article).

You always need to remember that TDL is a task-manager not a time-manager and that cannot/will not change. Time is just one aspect of a task and not necessarily the most important depending on who you are talking to.

And I think saying that the Gantt view and Week Planner and Calendar are 'mostly the same' is simply wrong so I'm not taking those comments too seriously.

If you want to convince me then you really have to conceive of a proper idea - it's really not helpful to simply say "TDL can't do <this>. Why not?" when <this> is only tangentially related to TDL, and then expect me to magic up a solution.

And if there no apps 'out there' which currently support 'time blocking' I think you are expecting way too much of my hobby...

Djo
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Re: How to handle time blocking in ToDoList (extend task recurrence features)

Post by Djo » Sat Feb 27, 2021 9:15 am

abstr wrote:it's really not helpful to simply say "TDL can't do <this>. Why not?" when <this> is only tangentially related to TDL, and then expect me to magic up a solution.
Okay, I was thinking it would be helpful to describe a need / functionality in general that could be interesting to add. My idea was that, before thinking to a solution, the need has to be clearly raised, put into a context. I was hoping too to generate an interest (like: Hmmm... yes, there is maybe something interesting to do here...). My first idea was put this need into the light like we plant a seed. It can take years to sprout and grow and maybe one day it will find a concrete implementation. So I don't expect you to bring a solution, but if I have put this need to the back of your mind for slow maturation... :-)

But I'm sure I've even failed to describe correctly the need. I understand you have better things to do that trying to decipher what people have in mind, particularly when they don't even know themselves what they really want... (which is the case here, I admit!).

I understand you want concrete suggestions / implementations, so I will try to suggest something concrete. I find this intellectually motivating, so...
abstr wrote:saying that the Gantt view and Week Planner and Calendar are 'mostly the same' is simply wrong so I'm not taking those comments too seriously.
You do well, it was not accurate at all, in a sens it was a way to provoke.

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