Wanted: A Mac app for repeating to-dos

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I’m building an app, because I need it, and no one else has done it. (WWDC 2020 seemed like an apt time for an app announcement.)

After about 15 years of obsessive focus on PainScience.com, I’m finally going to branch out a bit. On one of those branches, I will make an app I wish existed, based on a novel task management method that I’ve used to keep myself on track while writing 10 books and hundreds of articles, building a busy business, and generally doing more than one sane human being should really attempt. But I am a machine.

And now I am going to upgrade the machine.

Life and work are repetitive, redundant, and just keep happening again and again

Coming in 2021, “DueOver” — a working title — will be a specialized to-do app focussed on prioritizing repeating tasks, from chores like flossing or stretch breaks to baby steps towards big goals like writing a novel. Or coding an app!

These kinds of to-dos are sorely neglected by existing to-do apps, even though they represent most of the kinds of tasks we all have to juggle. In particular, conventional task managers lack support for short-period tasks that you want or need to do a few times per day, or even hourly. Also, they make no effort to prioritize recurring tasks, even though it’s the kind of thing computers were born to do. The priority of recurring tasks is vividly a function of how overdue they are, a simple algorithm. The priority of tasks like “feed the dog” escalates rapidly as you neglect it. The dog will let you know about that one, but most tasks won’t.

DueOver will intelligently push the most overdue recurring tasks to the top of your list, telling you “what’s next.” It’s a simple, powerful concept that I developed for myself because the need seemed obvious to me, and traditional task and project management methods just weren’t cutting it. I have no idea how I could work without it anymore, and I can’t wait to share it with the world.

A battle-tested prototype

The utility of this concept is not hypothetical. I am not guessing that working this way might be useful. I know it’s useful, because I have thoroughly field tested it: I’ve been using a prototype in the form of an extremely hardworking spreadsheet. And not just for a few weeks or month, but for many years. I have already developed the methodology. Early versions seem hilariously clunky to me now.

The spreadsheet has been surprisingly functional — some of those formulae are pretty gnarly! — but an app will be able to do so much more. There are a some features I am downright desperate for now.

This is a classic passion project. I’d embark upon it even knowing it’ll never earn a dime. I just like it. It will never be abandonware while I draw breath. After years of using the spreadsheet version every single day, it’s already proven its value to me. Once I have built it, I will be using and refining it for the rest of my life, with or without customers.

So what’s next?

Naturally I will be working on the app one step at a time — steps that will be prioritized by using the spreadsheet version, until the app can take over.

Step one was to pick a name: DueOver was the first pick, but Iterati, Prioritize, and Floss will be remain official candidates for a while.

Step two was to get a website up and running: DueOver.app isn’t much to look at yet, but I’ll be making it bigger and better over the next year as I work on the app.

For future updates on this project, I will refer you to the DueOver blog. Once it exists.

To iteration… and beyond!