Importance of Reminders with no date or time

Me too. It’s been a long time since I left task managers apps behind me and the feeling is very liberating. I am on the Agenda-only course now. (Especially with the new features coming like tables and horizontal rule!)

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One thing I’m hoping for in note summarization is for it to first filter on note-level attributes. That is, I’d essentially want a summary that says “look in all notes tagged with #active and find their incomplete tasks.” I would create a saved overview from that, and within it I would search for contexts on the fly if necessary.

Hmm, interesting point. I think our plan is to have a more powerful search working at basically the note level. That would lead to a list of notes with some search term or tag, for example. Then we would have some options for how those notes would be presented. Eg. only show unchecked items, only show lines matching search etc.

Would that be adequate? It’s basically a two phase thing: search for notes, then filter down what paragraphs are shown.

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If searching was able to take account of the ‘state’ of notes (ie OTA, NotDone/Done, Archived) that would avoid the need for tags for the state of a note - and use core Agenda features.

For me OTA means something like: I’m actively work on this today OR I’ve created this today and need to decide what to do with it.

NotDone means: active - in the queue for attention

Being able to save an overview for uncompleted tasks in OTA, and one for uncompleted tasks in NotDone, would be really powerful if the result page just showed the tasks.

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Definitely, and I think that matches what I described. I suppose one thing I’m unclear on is will “options for how those notes would be presented” be part of the smart overview? It would be cool if so, but at least for me, the more important thing is filtering the notes first.

As an example, a smart overview of “show all unchecked items” is probably not that useful for me. I currently tag my project notes with either #active or #hold depending on whether I intend to give it attention this week. I have one smart overview for each of those tags right now.

Here’s how I flag actions to work on today:

  1. Open the #active smart overview
  2. OTA the project notes I want to work on today, and enable OTA filter
  3. \remind the items that I’m going to do on today (and distinguish between Will Do and Might Do as described earlier in the thread). Typically I \remind individual actions that I will work on GTD-context style, and \remind the note itself if it’s a project that requires sustained focus.
  4. Remove the notes from OTA and get to work

With summarization, the main thing that would change is that I probably wouldn’t \remind actions that I Might Do today. So a lovely process for working on Might Do actions would look like this:

  1. Open the #active smart overview
  2. Enable “unchecked items” summarization filter
  3. Potentially enable OTA filter to focus on notes I intend to work on today, if the unchecked items list is too big.
  4. Search for :telephone_receiver: in the search box to identify the calls I could make right now that would advance my active projects, filtering only the unchecked items that have :telephone_receiver: in the line.

Personally that’s where I anticipate getting a ton of value from Agenda. I already have a good process for identifying Will Do actions with \remind. The stumbling block is the Might Do items - my options are to use one of the approaches I described in an earlier post, or to continually scan all of my OTA notes to identify possible actions right now. Continually scanning those doesn’t work for me, so I \remind a bunch of actions and then figure out how to separate Will Do from Might Do. But really, I’d love to let Agenda show me my Might Do actions and leave it at that.

It would certainly make search that much more powerful. I have asked that NotDone/Done be one of the available search filters, and I believe that’s part of the plan. FYI you can already filter OTA notes from any search, it’s the OTA button to the left of the search box:

I would personally continue to use tags in addition to these state filters. Tags represent my intent rather than my interpretation of Agenda’s intent (see below). Agenda also has a pretty unique feature to assign values to tags, which is especially useful when you use dates for those values.

Yeah and I think different people will view / use these things differently. I use them differently on different days sometimes. OTA for me usually means what I want to have my attention RIGHT NOW. It’s pretty common that I’m in a meeting and need to reference notes from multiple projects. During the meeting, I want to see only those notes. I don’t want to scan over other notes that I’m going to look at today, and I want to bring notes in and out of OTA quickly - so the shortcut and filters work perfect for that.

Tags are for organizing notes when I’m not “in the heat of battle.” It only takes a few seconds to add #now or search for it - but it’s definitely slower and a bit clumsier than OTA, which is as close to instant as it can get (I’m still hoping for a keyboard shortcut to toggle the OTA filter in searches though).

Also I have a level of attention that’s not accounted for by OTA / NotDone / Done: #active vs #hold notes. #active are the ones I intend to work on in the near future - the next week or so. #hold are the ones that I won’t be working on. #review(2020-12-18) is great for producing an overview of notes that I want to take another look at on some date in the future.

So yes, filtering on Agenda note states would be very helpful, in addition to tag filtering.

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Great explanations and very helpful, I think we are pretty much aligned in the directions we’d like to see things go.

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One thing I hope will be possible with overviews is to have all of the checklist items consolidated into a single list, and sorted by name, so I can tag them with emoji and thus have items all automatically grouped together. If they’re divided along note lines, that’s less useful.

fwiw though, this all seems to be duplicating a lot of functionality that’s already being provided by Reminders in the form of undated reminders. The main issue I have with dated reminders for everything is that if you don’t do them that day, they become overdue. Which given that many of those reminders might not actually be overdue, creates extra noise and detracts from the items that actually are overdue.

I am also not convinced by the performance argument that’s been made before (especially given that my “set a date far in the future” approach ends up with the same number of reminders as an undated list). @mekentosj do you have hundreds of undated reminders on the same list as your dated reminders? That seems unlikely to me, and could easily be solved by moving those to a list that Agenda doesn’t sync. It also doesn’t seem to fit with how we use Agenda, which is to define our tasks primarily in Agenda, and make them actionable by creating Reminders.

Here’s how I (and apparently many others) want to use Agenda+Reminders:

  1. Create lists of tasks in Agenda notes. Maybe divided by project, by day, or some other meaningful boundary.
  2. Select a subset of those tasks to work on in the near future - but NOT be due - and add them to Reminders
  3. Complete items in Reminders and have the associated Agenda item be checked off.

Agenda provides the project plan and status, and Reminders provides the near-term actionable tasks.

That’s really it, and I think it’s a mistake for Agenda to not support that workflow. But that’s just my opinion, and the last I’ll say about it.

Thanks for explaining that usage. For what it is worth, my usage is a bit different. I tend to just work through project lists entirely in Agenda, with the notes in On-the-Agenda until they are done.

If I have something time critical, I will add a reminder to that. More like a deadline. So for me it is not about tracking projects in Reminders, it is just about getting notifications.

I know @mekentosj was thinking about no-date reminders, so who knows what may come along in future.

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I think there are three different aspects that come into play here:

Missing Features

First, I strongly believe a lot of the need for undated reminders stems from the fact that Agenda doesn’t allow you to make the type of overviews yet that you currently use Reminders for. From our end we have to look ahead and think where we’re taking Agenda, which also means that we don’t want to add functionality that later could lead to a lot confusion about how things are supposed to work when certain workflows now compete with others.

For example, we very consciously don’t allow you to assign reminders to notes (only to text) and vice versa, don’t allow you to assign events to text (only to notes). Yes, there are cases to be made about assigning events to a specific paragraph, but it would add UI, bloat the app, and most of all make the whole events-linked-to-notes concept a lot more confusing for many, especially novice, users.

Here it’s a bit the same. For us, the difference between an undated reminder and a checklist item is very very thin. The current reason for having undated reminders, as far as I can deduce from those requesting it, is mainly because the reminders app would give them an easy overview of all those checklist items that are currently important. However, there are other ways to achieve this, for example by adding a specific tag to the checklist items like “priority” and creating a smart overview for this tag. Now this is not the same because you can’t see yet a list of just that checklist item and the overviews are showing the entire note, I get that. But this will change, so once we introduce the ability to make overviews that show only unchecked items from a checklist for example, especially in combination with tags or other search parameters, we see the need to go to the reminders app diminish even further.

Presentation

As you and Drew already highlight, users have different workflows and would like to show things in different ways. For example, should undated reminders and/or overdue reminders show in the calendar in the inspector? And on all future days or just today? Is it ok for undated reminders to only appear inside notes, without the ability to get to these in the calendar etc. Sorting out these workflows and implementing these is not something that can just be added in an afternoon (especially given the technical limitations under the hood, see below). Just to say that it’s often not so much a difference of opinion but rather a matter of priority. And with that in mind, we prefer for example to prioritise the kind of note filtering and search enhancements mentioned above that have a lot more added value beyond just reminders for everyone.

Performance

You are not convinced there’s a performance argument, but as I explained in your other post life is not that simple alas. I also wouldn’t expect it to be a big issue, but alas Apple provides us with very few options and if you’d like to get the reminders that are undated you basically have to fetch all reminders a user has, and that includes the completed ones. You might not have many reminders that are not checked off yet and have a nice compact list in the Reminders app, but heavy Reminders app users might easily have hundreds of completed reminders that we would all have to fetch. Not saying it’s impossible, but it’s certainly not trivial to make this work smoothly for all.

Hope this gives more insights. As Drew says, don’t get me wrong, we very much appreciate your feedback and the detailed description of your thoughts and workflows. It might sometimes feel that we just dismiss things, but that’s certainly not the case. It really helps to shape the improvements and changes we make and to identify the workflows we might miss or could better address, so thank you for that!

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That makes sense. One reason I’ve been so enthusiastic about Apple Reminders as a database is because I can answer all of those questions (except for the one about notes) with GoodTask today. So there’s the purely pragmatic aspect of, with Reminders / GoodTask I can apply the workflow I want, it doesn’t have to be the same as what you come up with, and I don’t have to wait. There is one major shortcoming though which I’ll address later…

Just to illustrate some of the power of Reminders / GoodTask (in hopes that it helps you design your system), it’s possible to define a view which shows only one task. As someone who is easily distracted, I find that immensely helpful. I can select a set of tasks to work on, and then work through them one at a time. I do something similar within agenda by doing \remind(1m) so I have the persistent notification pop up on my phone. But I have to do that again for each task. It’s different from the approach of having a task list, and only being shown one item, and cranking through it.

That’s just an example of something that even if you decided to implement “show only one task in an overview” in Agenda, how far away is it? Because of course you have to prioritize your work.

I appreciate you sharing this, and it exposes the flawed assumption I’ve had up to this point: that Reminders is a reliable database for tasks. Based on this, and the other post, that appears to not be the case.

You might consider getting in contact with the GoodTask developer, who actively replies to questions on Twitter and frequently updates the app, as they’ve undoubtedly dealt with a lot of the same issues you’re facing. Agenda + GoodTask is already a very powerful combo, and the better that Agenda handles Reminders, the more powerful it will be.

Anyway, that is very helpful info for me to know as a user. I’ve been thinking of Reminders essentially as a database of tasks, with GoodTask and Agenda both being frontends to that database. But it sounds like it’s not particularly robust / reliable, and at the very least that informs how I make use of it going forward.

You have both been remarkably communicative, thoughtful, and considerate in your interactions with me and others here – thank you!!!

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