A repeating todo list?

Hi all!

I am in search for a tool I badly need. I am determined enough to start coding my own, but maybe I’m reinventing the wheel here? So, I decided to ask here, where so many productivity geeks spend their time :wink: .

I need a todo list for repeating things (call them habits or rituals if you want). Things I need to do every day (or almost every day), or maybe once every two days, or once a week. Ideally, this could work for “teams” (aka a “family” in my case). Even more ideally, minor deviations should be supported (like in “today I don’t need to go shopping, but tomorrow I’ll need to remember to leave the office earlier”).

Of course, I’d prefer this to be free/open source (so that I could set it up on my server).

Any hints?

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Hi! What platform are you on?

I use Due (iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch), as well as OmniFocus (iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch). Each have different purposes for me, but I’m happy with both when it comes to their specific uses.

I use Due for making sure I keep in touch with people regularly. I keep it in the same area of the screen as my communication tools, and swipe to complete an item when I’ve called or emailed that person. It then repeats at the frequency that I’ve set it to, which is unique for each person. Most of the time I have some overdue, but that’s why I keep it separate from my main to-do items, which I try to avoid having overdue items in. (And it keeps them listed according to how overdue they are, which helps me give priority where I should.)

I use OmniFocus for my repeating personal to-do items and for my repeating daily routine lists. One-off tasks are listed elsewhere and get moved into OmniFocus when I plan the week and the day, and only for that week or that day, rather than everything living in the same place and being all messy and there being too much to wade through. I think of it as my “act” space, and my project manager as my “capture and plan” space) This way, if something’s listed as due here, it really should be done. I aim to make it so that there aren’t a bunch of “meh, I would have liked to have gotten that done by then, but it’s fine that it’s overdue”. I haven’t quite achieved that yet, since I’ve recently rebooted my life, in a sense, but this gets me closer and closer. (And contexts in OmniFocus allow me to set it up so that my daily routine shows up on one of my watch faces, so whenever I look at the time (on that watch face) I am reminded of what’s next in my routine.)

Anyway, I suspect that’s more than you wanted to know, but them’s the breaks! :slight_smile:


Thanks, @mary, for so many details!

I actively avoid iAnythings. (Used a borrowed iPad for half a day. Terrible experience. Also, walled garden, privacy concerns etc. And the pricing - the purchasing power of my currency is roughly four times smaller than that of the USD.)

So, GNU/Linux and (hesitantly) Android (I’d prefer web, which is terrible UX-wise, but does not lock me into Android).

Edit: just checked the OmniFocus. iOS/Mac only, and no web-only version. Are they kidding me?

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Sounds like you might like TaskWarrior. It’s open source and works with Linux. Task management in the command line. Supports repeating tasks. Also quite hackable via hook scripts. I’ve definitely enjoyed using it at different times.

On the off chance you want something less geeky, Habitica is quite focused on routine type tasks, and brings a lot of gamification to the table.

Of course, I can’t not mention that Beeminder is great for keeping you accountable to stay on top of recurring chores and ongoing responsibilities. You can also build up buffer and schedule breaks at least a week in advance. It’s API is also great if you want to hack together advanced workflows.

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Thanks, @narthur!

I’m aware of TaskWarrior (and I guess my first prototype will probably be based on it) - but thanks!

I didn’t like Habitica too much. If only it had an SF-themed version… (And support for Polish - my daughter doesn’t speak English yet.)

And yes, Beeminder is nice (surprise!), but I wouldn’t like to end up with 100+ tiny goals…

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Sounds a bit like Sciral Consistency. Sadly, it seems to be more or less abandoned (just look at those old screenshots!). I thought it had a great interface for handling flexible repeats. http://sciral.com/consistency/

You might also look at the myriad “Habit tracker” type apps. I’ve seen at least a handful that let you define custom repeat schedules, skip days, etc. I won’t recommend specifics since I’m in the macOS/iOS ecosystem.


I use Todoist for this kind of thing, and actually for most of my to-do tasks. You can of course schedule future tasks (do this in.3 weeks, or on 5th Sept), and have simple repeating tasks (every Tuesday, every 3rd day), but you can also have it so that particular tasks repeat a certain number of days after you actually did them.

So although I’m supposed to call my mother every 3 days, if I miss it for some reason and leave it 5 days, it’ll stay in my list as an “overdue task” until I tick it off. Then the next reminder will appear 3 days after that.

There is a free version, as well as premium with extra features (notes, etc). Syncs across your devices, as well (i.e. cloud-based).

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I use org-mode’s “agenda”, beloved of many emacs users and certainly “very GNU” (org is often touted as an emacs killer app). If you’re geek enough to not be scared by dealing with emacs and some lisp snippets as configuration, you might like it. I know there are various “orgish” mobile apps that interoperate with org proper – I don’t use them, but only because I don’t use a smart phone.

In my opinion org’s code is not great, but the features are.

Re repeating tasks, one thing org doesn’t really “get” are weekends. People use various workarounds of course.

org also comes with org-habit, which is a “don’t break the chain” thing that shows up in the agenda. And (plug), I’m working on a beeminder-alike thing whose input (and output) is mostly org-based: task repeats and timetracker stints as input, org file with charts etc. as output.

Edit: if you want your family to use it directly… well, that’d be a very geek-led family. But I’m sure somebody out there does that :slight_smile:

Another edit: org does let you say things like “remind me about this on Wednesdays, even if last week I didn’t get to it until Friday”.

You don’t say.

I’ve been using Emacs for, like, about two decades now, coding in Elisp for almost 8 years (and I have a textbook on Elisp in the works, though it has stalled due to other commitments - but I’m quite determined to get back to it!), using Org-mode for a similar time. Ah, and I also wrote an Emacs Beeminder client (with Org-mode integration, no less!)

That is very well said. I wholeheartedly agree. (See e.g. this.)

I used org-habit for a while, made a switch to Beeminder and never looked back.

Now there are a few reasons I explicitly do not want to use Org-mode for this.

  1. I can see no way I could make my wife use that. As for my daughter, that’s probably another story - she’s turning 10 next year, is (unoficially) a young geek (she’ll have her “geek graduation”, i.e. watching The Princess Bride with her Dad ;-), in a few weeks - alas, she has only started learning English, so I’m in the process of translating the script into Polish). But still, she’s not enough computer-savvy yet.
    Even more important is that
  2. Org-mode is not extremely mobile-friendly, and I really want to be able to access that tool from my smartphone.

BTW, although I didn’t mention that in the OP, but I’d like to be able to have “stacks” (or groups) of tasks (like “things I want to do right before leaving the office in the afternoon”). Incidentally, Org-mode could support that with ease (and in more than one way), but reasons 1 and 2 above apply.

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Oh, then I’m sure you’re grateful for my good advice :wink:

Some links that may or may not be of interest:


wekan is apparently a trello-like thing (caveat: I barely know what trello is) that seems to support todo lists. Sandstorm is a self-hosting platform for which wekan has been packaged – IMO sandstorm is very interesting for its use of capability security (capability as in http://habitatchronicles.com/2017/05/what-are-capabilities/ or https://github.com/dckc/awesome-ocap, not as in “linux capabilities”, which are not a kind of capability security, confusingly). Sadly sandstorm-the-company wasn’t a success, but it lives on as the open source project.

Finally, I know absolutely nothing about this app, but re the non-free world, having heard “todoist” recommended in the past, I searched and see this: https://get.todoist.help/hc/en-us/articles/360000636289-Set-a-recurring-due-date

I really am, since you got me thinking that maybe I should mold Org-mode to work for my use-case. But some (preferably web-based) front-end would be a must then.

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Thanks, I’ll check that out! I actually do use Trello, though I’m not a fanboy.

@mbork, you’ve probably seen it, but I just ran into this apparently recently-improved web UI:

via this article (in turn, via one of Sacha Chua’s emacs news blog posts):

Thanks @halfplane!
I skimmed through the links you provided. That looks quite neat, though Dropbox/GDrive dependency is a blocker for me. I’ll keep an eye on this, though, thanks!

I decided to check a few Android apps for habit/routine tracking. With no high hopes, but let’s see. I made a list of about a dozen apps; I thought that I’ll try to use each one for a week and see whether it works, but I crossed off two or three within half an hour…