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Desired Feature: Elimination Filters AND/OR/NOT

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  • Desired Feature: Elimination Filters AND/OR/NOT

    Most GTD apps and other task manager apps have some form of "filtering" that allows you do narrow down the selection of items that you see on a list. Usually, these filters are implemented as "pick this" filters, for example show only those tasks that require Low Energy, or show only those tasks that require John, or only those that require you to be "out" (errands) or at home. Etc. And that's good. Very useful. For example, it allows you to see only errands if you are going out and need to see more things that you might also consider doing while you are out. Or it allows you to see what other things you might want to talk to John about now that you happened to bump into him.

    In many apps you can continue filtering by ctrl-clicking yet another tag, which typically results in a Boolean AND condition (i.e pick only those that also have this other tag), or a Boolean OR (i.e. also pick those that have this tag).

    But this is not the only kind of filtering that would be useful.

    In general, in GTD, you finally pick tasks to do now by looking at the four factors Context, Energy, Time and Priority and weighing together these task requirements against the current situation using your gut or common sense. (And obviously you also look at already committed actions such as appointments or agreed time blocks such as working hours.)

    The easiest way I can think of to narrow down the list to a reasonable number of truly relevant tasks is by a process of elimination. In technical terms, this could be implemented as the ubiquitous "pick this" filter, thereafter allowing you to continue filtering using Boolean AND/OR/NOT, for example using ctrl-click, shift-click and alt-click respectively.

    Process of Elimination

    A process of elimination is generally very powerful. In a way, GTD already employs this principle when it comes to creating the Next list. All non-Next things are "eliminated" during processing (done by others goes to Waiting; not sure goes to Someday/Maybe; Not yet goes to either Tickler or to the "subsequent portion" of a Project). This leaves you with a Next list which only contains those things that you are willing and able to consider doing right now.

    But not quite. The Next list still usually contains items that are temporarily inappropriate to consider, for example low priority errands if it is raining and you do not want to get wet, or things to discuss with Alice who however is having client appointments the rest of the afternoon, or things that require much more mental focus than you can muster right now. Etc.

    It would be natural to continue in the same vein and eliminate the inappropriate tasks. It is often easier to eliminate the obviously inappropriate than to immediately pick the most appropriate.

    Unfortunately, with only the "pick this" type of filter you have to use "random fishing" (or have an immense and unmanageable number of overlapping tags). For example, if one task requires you to use the phone and another task requires you to use the internet, and a third one only requires you to be anywhere in the office and another task is something you need to do together with John, you would often be quite willing and capable to do any of these, but perhaps not be prepared to do tasks that require you to be abroad or at the golf course, or things for which you need Alice, who is out. You could use "random fishing" and look first at tasks that require the phone, then at tasks that require the internet etc, but that requires you to have a very good memory since you cannot see them all at once.

    Elimination - the NOT filter is a particularly important here - allows you to keep the things you might want to consider on one single list and hide the rest.

  • #2
    I realize this post was not well written. Too wordy. What I am saying is:

    App developers, for Chrissake implement a Hide filter!

    A Hide filter is just as important as the usual Show filter. The Show filter allows you to filter specifically for John if you happen to have him on the line, etc, and that's very useful, but the Hide filter is what you need to narrow down your overall choices without being able to decide yet whether in the end you will prefer a task that requires you to use a computer or a phone or a hammer, or talk with Alice or with Linda or with Paul - so instead simply rule out all tasks that have requirements (people, tools, locations. moods, ...) that your situation right now cannot meet.

    This is important. And it indirectly allows you to spend less time on tagging and still have more precise filtering - do you see why?

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Folke View Post
      I realize this post was not well written. Too wordy. What I am saying is:

      App developers, for Chrissake implement a Hide filter!

      A Hide filter is just as important as the usual Show filter. The Show filter allows you to filter specifically for John if you happen to have him on the line, etc, and that's very useful, but the Hide filter is what you need to narrow down your overall choices without being able to decide yet whether in the end you will prefer a task that requires you to use a computer or a phone or a hammer, or talk with Alice or with Linda or with Paul - so instead simply rule out all tasks that have requirements (people, tools, locations. moods, ...) that your situation right now cannot meet.

      This is important. And it indirectly allows you to spend less time on tagging and still have more precise filtering - do you see why?
      Toodledo and some others do this, and Toodledo has Boolean search criteria on their web site. I don't think these capabilities provide a clear competitive advantage to developers, so I don't expect to see much improvement. I agree that OmniFocus, for example, implements a clumsy filtering and sorting scheme compared to what the devs could do.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by mcogilvie View Post
        Toodledo and some others do this, and Toodledo has Boolean search criteria on their web site. I don't think these capabilities provide a clear competitive advantage to developers, so I don't expect to see much improvement. I agree that OmniFocus, for example, implements a clumsy filtering and sorting scheme compared to what the devs could do.
        Yes, Toodledo is very strong in many areas. I sometimes almost even think of moving back there, but then I remember that even good old Toodledo had its shortcomings and seems to be doing nothing about those

        Yes, I agree that this kind of feature probably is not what developers would expect to be a big hit, and it is not what the majority of forum posts are about either. It would seem that one of the main overall drivers is "coolness" (gadgets and add-ons of all kinds) - very little to do with getting the stuff well organized.

        But on the other hand, some simple Hide filtering (or some simple AND/OR/NOT quick filtering) seems like a simple enough thing to implement, and with proper instructions about how to define the tags systematically in order to make use of it most effectively, a feature like this might well be something that would help keep customers permanently hooked. Who knows - but that's what I am hoping for.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Folke View Post
          Yes, Toodledo is very strong in many areas. I sometimes almost even think of moving back there, but then I remember that even good old Toodledo had its shortcomings and seems to be doing nothing about those
          And that's what killed Toodledo for me. The developer had no intention of adding some features that I considered to be basic requirements for a list manager (e.g. manual sorting, and an Inbox) yet would spend countless development hours working on new features that nobody ever asked for simply because they were "interesting" and he wanted to learn how to do it.

          While TD obviously generates a good deal of revenue for him, it's basically his hobby and he doesn't approach it with any sense of strategy or do it for the benefit of the user base.

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