A few Dynalist project management ideas

I have recently been playing around with the spreadsheet-based project management software Airtable, and it gave me a few ideas that I’ve brought back to Dynalist and thought I would share (I often find this happens when playing around with other programs - new ideas that I never would have thought of in dynalist alone, anyway …).

Firstly, I’ve seen the benefit of adding a progress tag to my projects (a continuous percentage like you can have in Airtable doesn’t work as you can’t do searches in dynalist like <25% so I’ve lumped this into four categories e.g. #c-0-25, #c-25-50; #c-50-75; #c-75-100)

I’ve also started using project ‘size tags’ (the amount of work involved, not the due date) … just simply, #t-day #t-week #t-month #t-year … these are somewhat vague of course but give an idea of whether the project size is broadly in the region of a day or a couple of days to complete (of solid work on that project only), a week or a couple of weeks, and so on … perhaps you could add a 1, 2 on the end e.g. #t-day-1 #t-day-3 which would add precision but still allow all projects in the ‘day’ region to be searched under a single search ‘#t-day’ …

EDIT: In thrashing this out I have also added a #t-hour scale for smaller projects e.g. #t-hour-4, #t-hour-2 etc

If a project has a specific due date I will put the whole project directly on my Dynalist calendar for that day.

Finally I use the Red, orange, yellow labels to indicate priority (I base this on the question ‘how often do I want to check up on this?’ - Red is checked every moring, orange is checked twice a week on monday and thursday, yellow is once a week - I also have a someday list for much longer things)

So a project ends up looking a bit like the below (the @>>p just shows it’s the main project bullet (as I use the project tag for anything to do with the project like e.g. tagging a person who is involved) and allows me to search for all my projects easily and the @pp- part of the project tag indicates its a personal project)

So my partner and I need to buy a new car, I think it’ll take roughly a week of work (hard to estimate with buying a new car though - lots of uncertainty - so I put in the higher estimate) but it’s not that urgent and I’ve done very little towards achieving it yet …

Here’s another one, a lecture I’m delivering next Tuesday (so has a due date) which requires preparation:

Slapping a dynalist date tag on there can also be nice as sometimes the ‘in 3 days’ label acts as a really salient reinforcer of how long I have to complete the project better than the calendar itself.

The progress tag should ideally be updated after working on the project but is also checked / updated weekly along with priority.

I subscribe quite strongly to the view that we all tend to ignore large but non-urgent projects until they are upon us so these tags (as well as allowing me to see what is most urgent and needs most work etc) allow me to keep an eye quite effectively on those big projects that are on the horizon that I’ve done nothing towards (I’m trying a new system of dedicating a 1 hour slot each day to pushing one of these ‘Horizon’ projects forward to avoid the horrible last-minute rushes that plague most of us.)

Of course one could have many more tags to indicate this and that, but I find that if you add too many it becomes cumbersome and you end up falling of the wagon with maintaining it … the best project management system is one you actually enjoy using.

One additional special tag I do like is a #resistance or #procrastination tag for those projects that you just keep putting off but you’re not sure why … these perhaps need to be broken into sub tasks and you need to figure out why you are having such a hard time with them (e.g. do you need to define a next action, or is it because the next step is e.g. a phone call with someone you don’t like, etc?)

The one thing that would make this all a lot more powerful would be full logical searches in dynalist like in todoist e.g.

(#t-week OR #t-month) AND (color:yellow) AND (#c-0-25 OR #c-25-50) … which would show all the big non urgent projects that I have done very little towards

So. I hope some of these tips are helpful and I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts about them or how they could be improved -


have you read my API suggestion implementation for managing projects?

Essentially I would use phrase-express to create a “!” parameter date like “3d#” for “3 days later remind me”. From there I would just tap into dynalist’s API to modify my tags / “!” dates at will using a dashboard panel

it would massively simplify “forced reminders” to myself like a lot of other todo-managers do, but I would have full control of it in dynalist.

its sort of similar to what you outlined here

Also, check out database models for project management:

found here: http://www.databaseanswers.org/data_models/tracking_progress_on_projects/index.htm

Mmm that sounds like a very useful feature.

Generally I like to have the ability to set a specific due date where needed but also to have a more general urgency system (like red, orange, yellow) … When I used todoist to manage things a while back I managed urgency like I (think) you’re suggesting by pushing things that don’t need to be done right now back a few days and then reviewing but I found I ended up just putting them off and putting them off and becoming numb to them and never actually doing it.

This is when you need another API feature using Popup box for “Completed tasks” that shows up once a week

Checkout Frank’s / Rawbytez workflowy blog on this post


Essentially, if you could use a tag counter using dynalist’s API, you could physically quantify how many pomodoros / tasks you’ve done, effectively making

less prevalent. Since your going to see how lazy / how you prolonged that task for several weeks and ignored it etc

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Yes, you’ve identified one of the key needs - keeping in mind those projects that are important but not urgent. One simple method is to give them a common tag and to include this tag in a weekly review - I use #p1. But there are also less urgent projects that are not that important, but should still be done one day.

What I imagine is a way of calculating how long it has been since a project has been entered, and gradually increasing its importance with time, like a queue.

This is where a dashboard would be useful. My workaround is to use Todoist for this, but they don’t have manual sorting in filtered views, so I’m still looking for an answer.


Hehe yes it is that queue-like feature which intrigued me about Airtable. There’s often a choice I find when there’s a problem with your system between finding a way to automate it (e.g. integrating with another program etc) or altering your behaviour - I am often (very often) seduced by the automation route but all programs have their flaws and you can spend hours and hours trying and failing to link things up and have made no progress on your … actual work … little by little I am starting to believe just changing my behaviour (e.g. adding a new behaviour to my weekly review or morning routine etc) is a much more reliable / robust (and mentally peaceful!) approach.

I agree. I think Todoist went down the wrong route with its new autoscheduling feature. Google and others have encouraged us to put faith in the algorithm. But it’s really about mindfulness. The manual qualilty of Dynalist is enhance that kind of mindfuless, as long as we have the right routines, as you suggest.

Yes I think that mindfulness is what I love about Dynalist (and Workflowy before it) - it’s the closest thing to manual freedom (i.e. to a paper diary) to express myself I have found (but with tags and zooming! :slight_smile: )- all the amazing highly automated programs out there simultaneously make me feel like I’m stuck in someone else’s system - I vividly remember the first time I outlined a new project in workflowy, it was like a deep sigh of relief.

PS. Yea I still use todoist on my phone because it has the quickest reminder input but the autoscheduling feature has never made any sense to me … they should really work instead on the problem their program has when a project gets large with sub-sub-tasks etc … it really falls apart at that point … and you just want to go running back to an outliner :slight_smile:

Here’s the broader context that I’ve developed for mindfulness using Dynalist: https://medium.com/@kmaustral/the-journey-home-from-the-working-week-1ee44b5e109d

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That was a really interesting read, thanks Kevin! I find your approach to your working week very interesting and I can really see how it would make the week less repetitive and bland. As I said I am trying to put in 1 hour a day on distant things, but as I get more on top of my work it would be nice like you to spend more and more time on such projects and build up a kind of buffer where I am only rarely rushing to get something done … We can dream! :slight_smile: