Urgency Load for To Do Lists

I was thinking about how the urgency load that you can get from Beeminder is useful to me because:

And that got me wondering how I could generalise this to use something similar in other places.

My to do lists are useful to me but also get out of control as I often leave things on them because I’m going to do that later, or have them chocked up with undated items that I want to remember but don’t have a plan for. What would be more useful would be if instead of just leaving items that I know I’m not going to deal with soon I rescheduled them for the time I’m actually going to do them.

E.g. I have a regular “tidy your desk up” reminder and I’m currently ignoring it because I need to process the paperwork on it before I file it away, and I’m not going to be able to do that until the end of the week - rather than just leaving the reminder sitting there in the red all week it’d be better to just move the reminder to Friday.

I realised that for everything I have in Apple Reminders I could make a shortcut that runs through all my reminders and assigns an urgency to them. On my first pass I looked at everything due in the next week, like Beeminder does, but that was clearly the wrong approach. Unlike my Beeminder goals most of my reminders need doing more or less when they pop up. Whilst I could get ahead on tidying my desk up without much problem putting out my bins a week early to get ahead would not be useful. It’s more important that reminders pop up at about the right time and get dealt with promptly - where “dealt with” can quite reasonably mean “deferred until a more sensible time”.

I wrote a shortcut to look at everything in my reminders list that is overdue and assign it to how many days overdue it is, rounding up, so anything due in the previous 24 hours gets a 1, anything due 24-48 hours ago gets a 2 etc.

Then I realised that I have a lot of undated reminders, just things I want to remember, and reminders is the easiest place for me to record those but generally not the best place for them to stay long term. Some of them need turning into dated reminders, others just need filing in the right “other place”. I decided to give all the undated reminders a rating of 3, as if they were all three days overdue. 1 didn’t seem enough, but too high and I felt I was going to discourage myself from putting reminders into the system at all, which wouldn’t be a good result.

And what do you do when you have a number that’s a generalised measure of to do list overwhelm? Beemind it of course: remindersurgency

The first time I ran the script through I had 137, I managed to reduce it to 49 without getting out of bed, just by ticking off things that I had actually done, and rescheduling things that I wasn’t going to get to very quickly. I had it down to 11 but I’m back to 35 now.

I’ve set the goal to very slowly decrease over the next few months, although I was planning to ratchet away my safety buffer once I felt a bit more in control, but that hasn’t happened yet. You can see I was getting things sorted in the first few days I was using this measure but I’ve gone back to ignoring things over the last few days. I know Beeminder will come along and make me sort it out eventually though!

This is the shortcut I made if anyone else fancies trying something similar. I have it automated to run each morning, and if I’m over the red line at that time I’ll need to run it later in the day manually to avoid derailing. I also needed to allow shortcuts to “share large amounts of data” in the system settings to get the shortcut to run automatically.