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Explanation on the concept of subtasks
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Because we are currently thinking about the design of GTG, let me
discuss the concept of subtask.
What is a task A?
A task is an action you need to do in order to reach a given goal.
Being an action, a task is either done or either not done.
The concept of "75% done" was dismissed very early as being completely
Burry in this is the very concept of observing the completness of a task.
For example, do you need to "Write the school assignement"? No, what
is really important is: "Handing the assignement to the teacher".
Even if you wrote a 100 pages essay, it is 0% done until the teacher
has it. Proof is that you receive 0% of the mark if you forget to give
it to the teacher.
What is a subtask B of a task A?
In essence, a subtask B of A is a task that you consider as a
prerequisite before working on A.
In our example, you could say that "Writing the assignment" is a
subtask. Sometimes, you might at some point realize that a subtask is
not needed. For example, you discover that your older brother wrote
the same assignment three years ago so you can simply use it.
For that reason, a task might be dismissed as "not useful anymore to
reach my goal".
What is very important is that, in GTG's philosophy, you can not work
on A until B has been either completed or dismissed.
The thin tree
If you want study for an exam and you assume that all chapters of a
book have to been studied in the correct order (often the case), in
theory, your task list should be:
Pass the exam -> Know the content of the book -> know the content of
chapter 3 -> know the content of chapter 2 -> know the content of
Abuse of the system
But, for many reason (one being that GTG's UI is not optimal), this
have been often abused.
People use subtasks like folder of a filesystem. Most of their tasks
are not really task but categories.
- -> Firefox
- --> Download
- --> Install
- --> Configure extensions
- -> LibreOffice
- --> Download
- ---> Install
As you can see, there are multiple errors: Firefox and LibreOffice are
Also, one cannot Install before the download. The correct way of
displaying this would be:
- -> Configure Firefox extensions
- --> Install Firefox
- ---> Download Firefox
- -> Install LibreOffice
- --> Download LibreOffice
Even easier example like the exam before ends in:
Pass the exam
- -> Study chapter 1
- -> Study chapter 2
- -> Study chapter 3
While? Because displaying in in the required order is non-natural in
some situation when you know exactly how to cut a big task in piece.
At that point, the subtasks will come to your mind in the order in
which you have to do them.
But, if you don't know exactly, you will follow GTG's philosophy
Replace the bulb
- -> Wait, I've to buy a new bulb before
- --> Before going to the shop, I should know which model is the current
- ---> Ok, let's remove the old buld.
The fact that GTG is abused is not bad at all. Users are free to
choose their own way of working, of course.
But I think that it is the case because we didn't find a good way to
GTG should reinforce this idea of "prerequisite" instead of
"subtasks". GTG should also try to enforce the fact that a task is an
action that needs to be done. I've realized that most of the tasks I'm
procrastinating on are because they are not describe as an action.
Like "Kitchen sink" instead of "call the plumber".
I would like to have some idea about how to present GTG like a real
way to manage actions, not a way to organize and store notes.
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