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Importance Level



AuthorMessage
Mark

Posted: May 20, 2008
Score: 1



I get the feeling that I must be missing something obvious, but...

How are Importance Levels set? This seems to be something that Toodledo decides to create based upon rules unknown to me. I have looked for how or where to set this, like I would set priority levels. Currently I have a handful of tasks added and Importance Level 5 and 2 show up.
Jake

Toodledo Admin
Posted: May 20, 2008
Score: 1



Importance is defined by a relatively simple equation. We had been keeping it as a trade-secret, but since it can be reversed engineered pretty easily, we might as well disclose it here:

Importance = 2+P+S+D

P=priority
S=is it starred (0 or 1)
D=0 if due-date is non-existent or further than 14 days out, 1 if due-date is between 7 and 14 days out, 2 if due-date is between 2 and 7 days out, 3 if due-date is tomorrow, 5 if due-date is today, and 6 if overdue
Qrystal

Posted: May 21, 2008
Score: 1



Ahhhh, that explains why I hadn't seen Importance = 12 until after the star feature was implemented. Verrrry cool! I'm impressed at how powerful it is for so deceptively simple an equation!

Thank you, I'm so thrilled that you shared it! (I'm one of those "numbers-people" :P) (OH: and a chronic procrastinator.)
-Qrystal


This message was edited May 21, 2008.
vegheadjones

Posted: May 21, 2008
Score: 0



Have you thought about adding status? Next Action should have a higher importance than merely active.
Jake

Toodledo Admin
Posted: May 21, 2008
Score: 1



We had not thought about including status, but that is a good idea.
MikeKDidIt

Posted: Jun 03, 2008
Score: 0



Posted by Toodledo:
We had not thought about including status, but that is a good idea.

I agree that adding status to the mix is a good idea.
quicknik

Posted: Jul 28, 2008
Score: 0



Okay, listen. This "importance level" feature is a nuisance. By second guessing the user, and concealing the logic behind its calculation, the concept is a bit infantilizing. Let ME decide what the importance level of something is. It's also an example of project-management thinking forcefully applied to something that might very well be as simple as buying eggs and milk. It's over-thinking the otherwise straightforward, and the overwrought sophistication makes me want to run away from your product. At least let the user disengage that feature. For me, the stars and priority are plenty.
Jake

Toodledo Admin
Posted: Jul 28, 2008
Score: 2



You are welcome to ignore the importance feature and rely on priority and stars. All you need to do is not pick "importance" as a sort option.

If you are interested in knowing how the logic works, the calculation for importance is listed above.

Hope that helps.
yt8019

Posted: Jul 28, 2008
Score: 1



OK this thing has been bugging me too but just worked out how to turn it off -- you need to click on Sort then pick something other than Importance. The sort option will stay that way.

It's an innovative idea maybe I'll come back to it some day.


This message was edited Jul 28, 2008.
Qrystal

Posted: Jul 29, 2008
Score: -1



Maybe the "infantilizing" aspect of this would be reduced if the Priority setting was given more weight in the formula. Perhaps just replacing "2+P" in the formula by "2^(1+P)" would help. In other words:

Importance = 2^(1+Priority) + (1 if Starred) + (Due Date modifier)

With this change:
Priority -1 results in a +1 to Importance (since 2^0 = 1)
Priority 0 results in a +2 to Importance (since 2^1 = 2)
Priority 1 results in a +4 to Importance (since 2^2 = 4)
Priority 2 results in a +8 to Importance (since 2^3 = 8)
Priority 3 results in a +16 to Importance (since 2^4 = 16)

Thus, something of Top Priority (3) is immediately escalated to the top of the Importance list, no matter what. Something of High Priority (2) can't compete with something of Top Priority, because the highest Importance score a High-Priority task can get is 8+6+1 = 15, and that's only if it is seriously Overdue and Starred.

Because it is so easy to tweak Priority settings, they really should be able to have much more power than they currently do, because they can be so helpful in determining what should be done next! I, personally, like the Importance scale and find it really useful even as it is, but I have occasionally wished I could have a bit more control over it. A scheme like I've described above might be just the thing that's needed!

Another thought is to leave Starred out of the formula. If the Star's main purpose is to give us a way to look at a list containing only the Starred items, there's no real need to change the Importance rating because all items in that list will be changed by the same amount.


This message was edited Jul 29, 2008.
Jake

Toodledo Admin
Posted: Jul 29, 2008
Score: 1



A task that is due today is more important (because it must be done today) than a higher priority task that does not have a due-date (because you can do it whenever). This is why we have make the importance calculation give slightly higher weight to due-date.

That said, there might be an opportunity to have different formulas for importance that people could choose in their account settings. We'll think about this.
gsimonizer

Posted: Jul 30, 2008
Score: -1



I haven't found many flaws in this product, but this is one of them. The Importance level is arbitrarily defined, no matter how much "logic" the developers insist is behind the algorithm. No matter how much deep thought and rationale lies behind the algorithm, it won't fit everyone's idea of what is "most important" because we all use priorities, stars, and due dates a little bit differently. Bottom line: importance is subjective. It can never be distilled down to a single equation. I wish life were that easy.

Since this is easy to ignore, it doesn't affect how I use the product or my positive experiences with it. I put this feature in the category of "nice try".


This message was edited Jul 30, 2008.
gsimonizer

Posted: Jul 30, 2008
Score: 0



Let me give an example where the algorithm for Importance breaks down. Many of my due dates are more like target dates, with some flexibility built in. I like to mow the lawn once a week, but if for some reason I'm out of town or can't do it for some reason, it's okay if it waits a few more days. Paying taxes, on the other hand, absolutely must happen by April 15. Yet, if I was behind on my lawn mowing around tax time, there would be many scenarios where "Mow Lawn" would appear higher in Importance than "Pay Taxes".

Little silly isn't it?
Jake

Toodledo Admin
Posted: Jul 30, 2008
Score: 0



You are correct. Toodledo cannot read your mind (yet), nor can it understand natural language and make judgements based upon the name of the task (yet).

So, it has to make do with a rough calculation. We know that this will not work for everyone, and that it will not always be 100% accurate, which is why people will need to use some common sense when deciding what to work on the next.
vegheadjones

Posted: Jul 30, 2008
Score: 1



Great response! I agree that common sense will always trump algorithms. In fact, as many of you must know, David Allen (The GTD guy) recommends not using priorities at all and instead you should rely on your judgment at the moment on which actionable task you should do next.

That being said, I do use priorities and I also use the Importance algorithm, as it is a nice way to get an "objective" view on what I should be working on first.

However, I also use the status to create "Next Actions" which, when I sort by status first and then importance causes next actions to be separate, allowing me to apply common sense to the importance list and force some items to "appear" more important than the algorithm suggests.

So Toodledo, where upthread I recommended incorporating Next Action into the Importance algorithm--I humbly withdraw that suggestion :)
Qrystal

Posted: Jul 31, 2008
Score: 0



Posted by Toodledo:
A task that is due today is more important (because it must be done today) than a higher priority task that does not have a due-date (because you can do it whenever). This is why we have make the importance calculation give slightly higher weight to due-date.


So, let's say I have a task due today such as mowing the lawn, but I also have a task that can technically be done whenever, such as submitting my application for a Business License, but that I consider very important and thus High Priority. The current Importance calculation essentially requires me to give it an artificial due date in order to keep the Importance ranking sane.

That's not so bad, of course, because the artificial deadlines do keep me on my toes. However, it is disheartening to so often see things Overdue, and to have to keep tweaking those artificial deadlines. I've considered using the ?-modifier, but the tasks aren't exactly optional, it's just that the due date is flexible.

Perhaps, then, the problem is as I was describing elsewhere in these forums: just that there isn't a way to distinguish between actual "hard" due dates, and artificial or "soft" due dates.

I'm not sure what to suggest for that though, or else I would be suggesting it! :)
jimherald

Posted: Jul 31, 2008
Score: 0



Different formulas are an option. Another way to implement would be a sort of adhoc formula. Give users access to their relevant variables (priority, starred, due, or whatever) and they can add, subtract, multiply in whatever fashion they want.

But it's probably a little overly complex for a To Do list. The items on the list are what we are supposed to be working on in GTD. Not the list itself. :)
Alan

Posted: Feb 22, 2009
Score: 0



I don't know. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think any developer can come up with a perfect system for determining the importance of a task. I suspect that "Life Balance" from Llamagraphics is about the closest, but in the end, users have to scan up and down a list and make the odd decision from time to time.
matthewdperry

Posted: Mar 09, 2009
Score: 0



I am loving your software so far and this was the first question I came to. I was actually annoyed that it popped up when I hadn't done anything with this value and was wondering how Importance Level was set. It would seem to me that it would be useful to more people if you could override the Importance Level (even the title is subjective) for a task. Thus, it would work for the people who are using it as currently prescribed and others could use it as a tweak (taxes and mow lawn example)...maybe this was already mentioned.

I also love the synchronization with outlook...very impressive. Keep up the good work.
saskia.x

Posted: Mar 12, 2009
Score: 1



I actually really like the Importance feature, although it did take me a while to work out how to deal with repeating but non-critical tasks, as in the lawn-mowing example. Initially I tried the GTD-style "don't use due dates unless it's a real due date" rule, but when repeating tasks are used it's impossible to avoid having artificial due dates.

The solution I settled on, and have been using successfully for quite some time now, is to think about the "priority" and "due date" fields together; so for tasks with a due date I use the priority field to mean "how essential is it that this task is done by the due date". For those without a due date, priority simply means "how essential is it that this task is done at all?". Generally the only tasks that don't have a due date in my system now are those which could be done at any time (they might be very important, but it doesn't really matter if I don't get round to doing them for ages. Obviously because of the way that importance sorts, undated priority 3 items will still display above low priority dated tasks, so they won't get lost in the swamps of the bottom of the todo list & forgetten about altogether!). Every task that should be done sooner rather than later gets a due date, and the priority tells me how seriously to take that due date.

So most of my "real deadline" tasks end up as priority 3, whilst many of my important repeating tasks are priority 2, since the due date is an ideal rather than an absolute. Less important repeating tasks are priority 1, and the ones that really don't matter that much are priority 0. At first it seems a bit counterintuitive when very important tasks are coming up as priority 2, but I soon got used to it as they were appearing where I thought they should in the list.

This system works perfectly with Importance to reflect my real priorities very nicely, especially if you use "priority" & "due date" as the secondary sorts. I used to think that the more overdue a task is, the higher the importance should be, but then I realised that 1. I should probably re-evaluate my commitments if I'm getting that many seriously overdue tasks, 2. Overdue non-essential tasks would end up taking over the top of my list, and 3. as long as due date is a secondary sort the most overdue tasks will get pushed up the list.

And, of course, it's important not to worry too much about the exact sort order; ultimately it's just a guide. You can micromanage too much! As amswitzer said:
in the end, users have to scan up and down a list and make the odd decision from time to time.
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