Priority / aversive tasks

I’ve been looking through old threads for people’s ways of dealing with one-off tasks that you don’t want to do, and thinking about it myself. Here’s my perhaps too-brief summary of ways of dealing with them:

To be clear, I’m not really talking about tasks with externally imposed deadlines here, nor huge long-running projects, just tasks I don’t want to do!

  • GTBee: basically a list of tasks you commit to do in x days, or pay y dollars
  • pick priority tasks in advance and have a goal for doing x priority tasks per week (or aversive tasks, say)
  • variant: (tip from alys: pick things that are not difficult but you procrastinate about)
  • split up painful tasks into smaller pieces – how can you start on it?
  • track time spent on it (conventional timer not tagtime – assuming this task is really a task rather than some big project)
  • think consciously about whether your aversions make any sense, CBT-style
  • add ‘fake’ deadlines
  • put reminders in your own way until the annoyance of the reminders themselves make you do it
  • (still active / successful experiment?)
  • have a goal for total number of priority / aversive goals in your backlog (I know dreev doesn’t like this, I suspect he’s right)

Sorry for not crediting everybody or linking threads, I didn’t really realize I was going to post this in this form until I’d written it down already.

More ideas / elaboration welcome of course

Irony: I’m posting this in part because I have a goal that made me do it! (whittle-down goal to clear out an old list that has quite a few tasks that weren’t properly in “next action” form)


I have mustdo and top_10_todo (do something from top 10 of my tasks) - not entirely successful, leading sometimes to some pointless planning / busywork and mustdo is my most weasely goal. (I just got illegitimate derail on top_10_todo due to confusion and sometimes I entered datapoints for things in mustdo for things done in letter but not done in spirit).

But sometimes working and leading to doing things that I postponed for months.

Splitting tasks into smaller pieces is very succesfull, I will create a new goal solely for that (created!).

“have a goal for total number of priority / aversive goals in your backlog” - that just encourages you to avoid splitting goals and concentrating them or not putting them in backlog, what is encouraging to avoid the most successful strategies. And requires counting/listing/classifying them and spending them to think how many aversive goals you have. At least for me it would not be useful.

“* add ‘fake’ deadlines” - sounds like musto specified in more generic and less beeminder focused form

" * think consciously about whether your aversions make any sense, CBT-style" - sounds nice, never worked for me but maybe I did CBT-style part incorrectly


I’ve found that a point system “reward” and automated data entry are consistently motivating me to do these tasks.


What helps me is a random system for picking a task to work on. I have a bunch of current tasks in a list (both aversive and non-aversive; fun tasks can be there too) and I use a random number generator to pick one. I have an agreement with myself that I have to work on that task for at least a little time before picking a new random task. When an aversive one gets picked, my reaction is always “UGH. Okay FINE, I’m doing it now.” Works well for me, hopefully this will help someone else too!


I’m intrigued as to how you’ve set this up. It sounds like something that would work for me too. I often put things off because they are too big and scary and I know full well that the way to counteract that feeling is to make smaller tasks that I can do something of, but not sure what scale of beeminding would work?


I am not yet sure whatever it will be helpful in the long run, but it is a simple do more goal where I put datapoint with value 1 whenever I extract separate TODO task from existing TODO task.

Current one:

cleanup room

take plate to kitchen
cleanup room
+1 datapoint

It may be silly but, it often transforms enormous-TODO-blob into smaller parts kickstarting working on it.

For less silly example: TODO “finish contracted data analysis task for Jagiellonian University” just got split off part “report corrupted data causing exception before crashing”. And I recorded 1 datapoint.

Now I am going to clean plate and write better exception handling.


Having built TaskRatchet for exactly this problem, would absolutely love to hear your feedback on it! Feel free to post here or email me at if you find time to take a go with it.


I love the “must do task” way of handling these and the alteration I’ve made to it that makes it work great for me is that all of my must do task goals are disjunctive, in that I have to either complete the item or work on it for 45 minutes.

For tasks that are large and need to be broken down, this gets them moving, with enough momentum to be worth getting started. It also protects me from discovering that there’s more needed to complete than was evident (or perhaps even knowable) when it was planned and then having to decide between half-assing it or derailing.

One danger of that change is if it’s a task I’d be inclined to fiddle with and “work” on rather than actually working on it. This hasn’t been a problem for most of my tasks, though it does come through from time to time with writing tasks so laser-like focus when it comes to how they’re defined is key to making sure I don’t just drift into eternally editing the first sentence of what should become a 3-page section… When I let the description of the writing task drift a little, I’m much more likely to flounder about.


And I in turn learned to phrase mustdo tasks so that I will not be blocked externally.

So it is “arrive at tax office between 9:00 and 14:00” rather than “file additional documents at tax office” (so there is no need to bother support about illegitimate derail if tax office is randomly closed due to COVID or it turns out that filing this documents is not necessary or it turns out that I need to have other set of documents).