I have been maintaining and using date based task lists a lot. One important reason is because they are pretty obvious and easy to build. Most of the applications make it really easy to add a line of text with a specified date/time. For many tasks, you already have these two pieces of information available so making a todo-ish list seems like an obvious step forward. But the whole idea goes overboard sometimes.

To be clear, plain lists like the following are alright:

• Shopping
• ☐ Salt
• ☐ Oil
• Cabbage
• Fix
• ☐ #26 on lepisma/pipwin
• ☐ language support in bbq

This is a proper list. You look in here only when you are going for shopping or are going to fix some bugs.

But the easy access to such capabilities creeps into more sacred places. For the last few years, I have been using a lot of lists for shepherding tasks with deadlines. Course projects, presentations, exams etc. Most of the time, as I have been noticing, major portion of my work takes place in the last few time units (days or weeks, depending on the vastness of the task). Realizing the general human limits, its not very wrong to call culprit on this deadline driven approach resulting from date based todo lists.

There might be other reasons involved, but I can't ignore the observation that the general time I spend on things in a no-deadline cruise mode are pretty fragmented. This translates directly to the fact that I end up not giving focused attention on things a healthy amount of time before the deadline. Working with todo lists for important tasks make me lose the important information about time needed. Every task looks the same and this ends up causing the attention fragmentation.

How to fix this? One simple idea is to use a time list (or time table as some say) discretizing the day/week's attention in large chunks. The idea being to explicitly plan and tell myself that this particular task is not equivalent to that one and will take (or should take) this much more/less time.