Why To Do Lists Are Failing Us

If you’re like me, you switch task managers every six months at the point that you have added a bunch of items in your list that you’ll never get around to and can’t bear to be reminded of them again. At which point, you conclude that the app has failed you. It must have because you haven’t completed any of these tasks!

Task management tools fail users because they operate without context. How many times have you been to the grocery store and forgotten the dill pickles you were asked to buy? Or met someone and tens minutes later realized you forgot to ask an important question?

There will be a fundamental change in task management that will actually help me cross items off the list. Task managers will move from an ask-and-ask model to an ask-and-tell model. Today I have to ask the app to create a task and later ask the app to see which tasks to accomplish. It’s a waste of time.

The next wave of task managers will ask for two more fields, who and where, in addition to what. This data might also be extracted from a calendar. With this data, the task manager can tell me what to do at the right time. It will surface the grocery list as I cross the geo-fence into the local Safeway and tell me I need to buy a gift for my sister’s birthday when I visit Amazon and notify me of the key question I need to ask that founder when our meeting starts.

The task manager failure is one example of “We should be living in the future already” but we aren’t technologies. I think this evolution is around the corner and it will change the way we work and live.

Published 2013-01-16 in

Tomasz Tunguz is partner at Redpoint. I write daily, data-driven blog posts about key questions facing startups. I co-authored the book, Winning with Data. Join more than 20,000 others receiving these blog posts by email.

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