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    This is very similar to a tool I’ve wanted to develop for a while now I’ve called yakstack in my head. It’s centered on the concept of yak shaving, not necessarily a TODO list. It’s meant to track distractions and unexpected dependencies. It might work something like this:

    $ yak push Change a lightbulb
    * Change a lightbulb (1)
    $ yak push Get lightbulb from garage
    * Get lightbulb from garage (1)
    └── * Change a lightbulb (2)
    $ yak push Fix door squeak
    * Fix door squeak (1)
    └── * Get lightbulb from garage (2)
       └── * Change a lightbulb (3)
    $ yak push Get oil from garage
    * Get oil from garage (1)
    └── * Fix door squeak (2)
        └── * Get lightbulb from garage (3)
            └── * Change a lightbulb (4)
    $ yak pop 1 3    # (because I got the oil and the bulb from the garage)
    * Fix door squeak (1)
    └── * Change a lightbulb (2)
    

    I want a tool like this to help me manage distractions, rabbit holes, and yak shaving for me and others who are attracted to shiny tasks that don’t really work toward progress or run blindly through a hurdles race of unknown unknowns along the way to completing what should have been a simple task.

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        One of my favorite scenes of television ever.

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          This is the biggest difference between my sister and me, she loves to arrange her work in a FIFO queue while I occasionally do some stuff LIFO in a tree of stacks and substacks.

          Let’s say I’m working on something and something else comes up, similar to how in that video when the guy is fixing a lightbulb but finds out that the shelf is broken.

          If the new thing is something I know for sure I want done, and it’s something I estimate will be done faster than some specific threshold of time, doing it right away can save me the overhead of writing it down. I.e. I can deal with a reminder or list entry, or, I can just go and get the thing and do the thing and it’s done.

          Now, my sister is much more successful and smarter than me so there’s probably some merit to her FIFO way of working. I tried it, though, and it stressed me out.

          First, I kept thinking “aw man, I am gonna forget to fix that shelf once I’ve fixed this bulb!” It keeps gnawing on me. (Writing it down does help.)
          Second, sometimes the new problem is an actual obstacle in the way of fixing the first problem, in which case I have to fix it first.

          Leveraging this LIFO workflow is something I started doing in my late 20s. I kinda regret not discovering it earlier because it can really make a difference enabling me to break down complex problems from vague goals.

          I wanna do thing X but Y, Z, and W are in the way. Well, now I have three new, hopefully even clearer goals: Y, Z and W. Just as long as I don’t forget to also investigate scrapping X entirely and approaching the meta-problem in another way.

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        Way less fancy, but I use this simple recursive task tracking syntax a lot: https://github.com/leahneukirchen/notyet (the tooling not so much!)

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          I love the concept, but from my history with such tools I’ll play with it and come up with a nice workflow, and then forget about it and never pick it up again.

          It also lacks a vital feature for my use case of paper lists: being able to look at the last two things on a list and say “eh I guess those aren’t important”, throw the list away, and start a new one.

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            For the last year I’ve used a system I’ve created (not ready for prime time i.e. release, because it sux) that stores tasks and info in a graph / tree. Pretty much acyclic because you can have cyclic “references” but not cyclic dependencies.

            What has ended up happening is that 99% of the time all my todo lists are just scribbled haphazardly as siblings in a “stuff” node (or, the Swedish name I have for that node literally translates to something like “pocket lint”). Turns out for me that a flat “do this stuff” list is usually the sweetspot between “enough info to get the task done” and “not too much overhead”. YMMV, and sometimes I get some use out of the available complexity. It’s just pretty rare.

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              Note: I used the show tag, but want to clarify that I’m not the author, who originally posted this to HN.

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                I believe that the show tag should only be used when you’re the author (correct me if I’m wrong).

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                  If so, it would be good to clarify that here: https://lobste.rs/tags

                  show: Show Lobsters / Projects