Fast forward to today. I don't use the Covey system any more because it does not match my work habits well. I've struggled for a while putting together an effective way to handle my increasingly complex ToDo lists. I keep finding some applications that handle parts of what I need well, but fall down on other parts. For example, I've been using TaskPaper for a while, which I like because it's very simple, text based, and lightweight. But the thing that TaskPaper doesn't do well is handle the semi-recurring stuff, like haircut or dentist appointments: recurring appointments that fall into the "I need to do this 6 weeks after the last time I completed it" category. For that, I've been using a special purpose tool called Sciral Consistency (commercial, with a "try before you buy" option). It's not really a ToDo list manager so much as way to handle that specialized relationship between semi-recurring tasks and calendars. The Sciral Consistency site says that it handles the following types of conditions:
- They don't have deadlines or rigid time intervals associated with them.
- In order to gain and retain their benefits, you must perform them on a regular basis over a long period of time.
- The ideal amount of time that elapses between completions of a particular task are unique to that task. To gain the maximum benefit you shouldn't do them too frequently or infrequently.
- They can be carried out by you with minimal or no coordination with other people.
- They are often “routine” tasks for which you have not firmly established a habit of carrying them out as second nature.
- They are (in the words of Stephen Covey) “important, but not urgent.”
Sciral Consistency handles these things using a unique calendar view, which looks like this (also from their site):
You create tasks with threshold values: after I finish this task, I need to do it again between 10 and 14 days from the finish date. You can have a bunch of these calendars. Like the last bullet point says, it is great for handling recurring "important but not urgent" tasks. I've been using Sciral Consistency for a while, and it serves me well.
I'm still on the lookout for a comprehensive solution. Recently, I've become mostly addicted to OmniFocus, a great GTD inspired task manager, which somewhat handles this special case. I haven't succumbed to the GTD religion, but like the Covey stuff before, I've assimilatedwhat I consider the good parts and made them part of my routine. I'll say more about OmniFocus once it has sunk into my work habit.