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Use subtasks for projects - already-defined tasks -> subtasks

Tim Gordon

Posted: Feb 19, 2010
Score: 0

I've used Folders for projects up until now but I have something like 90 deliverable and ongoing projects now and it's becoming a bit unmanageable.

I'd like to move over to using parent tasks for my projects with subtasks being the actions. I want to see my subtask actions alongside standalone tasks.

I use contexts a lot (Home, Computer, Internet, etc). I've cheated a little and have created a Project context to keep the parent tasks out of the way and to facilitate my weekly review.

My problem is: Let's say I've captured a bunch of actions using the iPhone app while I'm out and about - I then want to process them and assign some as subtasks. How do I do this on the web and on the iPhone? I'd rather not have to re-enter the tasks specifically as subtasks.

A lot of people seem to use parent tasks for projects - where am I going wrong?

Posted: Feb 22, 2010
Score: 0


You can drag a task into another to make it a sub-task. You will first need to create the Parent task and give it a title that makes sense for the Project.

You can then drag any task to the Parent task to add it as a sub-task. The only trick is to make sure you have them both on the same view. I don't know your setup, so this can be different for everyone.

You can only do this on the website at the moment. To drag the task, you need to move the mouse over the little hand icon and then click and hold. Now drag it to the Parent task.

Many have suggested a drop down list that shows all your Projects within the task. You can simply select the Project the task should belong to from the list. The problem with this is that Toodledo does not really support Projects and everything we do with Projects is more of a work around. For now, you have to drag the task over to the Parent.

Hope this helps.
Tim Gordon

Posted: Feb 23, 2010
Score: 0

Thanks Proximo

Dragging a task to make it a subtask on the web app is fine - as long as you can physically see the target parent task in question. If, like many people, I've put all the project parent tasks into a Project context, then the problems are:

1. When I'm on my Inbox or some other context tab I can't see the target parent task I want to reassign to. This could be solved by creating a synthetic Subtask context and using a custom search which captures both Project and Subtask contexts to get them on the same screen.

2. If I've about 90 parent tasks in my Project context, what do I do if I want to assign this subtask to a parent that's off the screen?

If there is no support for making a task a subtask on the iPhone then this is a serious limitation, though it kind of fits with the iPhone app being for reading while mobile and quick-entry of tasks which may be administered/organized in the web app. However, the web app doesn't seem to handle the subtasks very well.

Support for the ability to be able to do the follow is paramount if subtasks are to be used for projects in Toodledo:

- Quickly jot down an idea as a task with default attributes into some kind of inbox; then
- Process that later and turn it into the subtask for a project later, without having to re-key it, even if there are many many parent tasks.

Granted, maybe I should take less on and have fewer projects in life, but I've stuck with Folders for projects for now.

My main gripe now that there's no narrow-down-on-typing feature for the selection of Folders - that's a large list to scroll through.

Please please please put a fast-scroll index down the right-hand side of all lists with many choices like Folder - the same as in the iPhone Contacts application. This would do wonders for usability.


Posted: Feb 23, 2010
Score: 0

Though probably not ideal you might want to consider using tags & searches.

For example, set a parent tag on the parent tasks you want to add to, then a child tag on the ones you want to add. Do a search that will accept items with 'any' criteria and include both tags. After putting the children within their parent you can then use the multi edit to remove the tags so they don't show up in future cycles.

Downside, obviously, is if your already using a variety of tags you would have to wait till after doing this process before keying them in.

Alternatively (which is what I'm doing, albeit with only 20ish projects) is using high level tags (design, photography, etc) and searches to reduce items on the screen to work with those specific categories of items.

Posted: Feb 23, 2010
Score: 0

@Tim Gordon,

If you are using context for your Projects, simply change the task context to the same area as your projects. It will now show up there as a single task among your Projects and then drag it to the correct project.

I use Folders for my GTD List and one of my folders is called Projects. I do the same for a task and move it to the Projects folder in order to easily drag the task to the Project It belongs too.

Hope that makes sense.
Tim Gordon

Posted: Feb 24, 2010
Score: 0


Thanks Proximo - I've seen your vids and can see what you've done with Folders and Contexts, it's very neat. The key thing for me is that if I temporarily change the context of a subtask to Project I can get it in the same tab as the other parent tasks (similar to what you do with your Projects folder). Then I can drag and drop it - provided I can see the target parent tasks (ie there aren't too many). I might solve this by using a @Project tag, since I'm inclined to use Folders for areas of responsibility/interest.


What you're doing with your high-level tags is very similar with what it's been suggested to me that I do with using Folders for areas of responsibility, rather than one for each specific deliverable project. Then I can place either single actions in an area of responsibility (Folder) or place actions to promote to a parent task in the same Folder. The problems come when I've more than 30 (screen size limit for me) single actions and projects in the same Folder - sooner or later there'll be a subtask I'd like to assign to a parent that will be off the screen. A quick sanity check of my current projects says I might get away with this.


Ultimately Toodledo is all about slicing and dicing tasks into different grouped views in a way that makes sense to the user at a higher level.

Unfortunately, as soon as you have more parent projects in a view than fit on the screen you're restricted to creating subtasks directly on the parent task. I guess we just have to live with this and accept the benefits that projects as parent tasks bring in terms of flexibility - it's a gnarly UI problem.

Projects as parent tasks seem a bit too complicated to me (though I'm prepared to give them a go) - the mapping of Folders to GTD projects is very accurate and lightweight which I think is what it's all about, but then that's just my preference. If the following problems were solved I'd say subtasks might be better off just being used to break down a large task that you're working on (like an all-day one than needs some divide and conquer):

- It'd be nice if there was a way to create folders on the fly (I think Omni allows you to do this).

- It'd be nice if there were a way to see the number of tasks in a folder without having to resort to the tab count in the Folder view (unless there's a better way I've missed).

- On the iPhone app it'd be nice if there were a fast-scroll index or or a narrow-down-on-typing on the Folder selection.

I'm anticipating an explosion of in the number and churn of projects I'll have to take on (90 could be small potatoes) and a means of handling them flexibly is becoming pressing.

I'll let you know how I get on.

Posted: Feb 24, 2010
Score: 0

I use the status of "Planning" to denote a project.
Both start with P so it's easy enough to remember.
and usually i have planning success notes in the projects notes, so it still has the original meaning preserved.

then i put subtasks on that planning project, altho i strive only to have 1 or two, where the 1 has "next action" or "waiting"/"delegated" when i either wait for a certain condition, or am waiting for feedback from a person. (and due date to remind me to prod them if it has been too long)

Posted: Feb 25, 2010
Score: 0

Posted by Proximo:
The problem with this is that Toodledo does not really support Projects and everything we do with Projects is more of a work around.

I hope at some point Toodledo implements projects as opposed to tasks/subtasks.
I can understand why tasks were implemented to contain subtasks. Many times the completion of certain tasks depends upon the completion of other tasks.

Projects differ from tasks in significant ways. Projects are more closely aligned with goals than with specific actionable items. Sure both have successful outcomes. But with a project, the outcome may be finite or it mean reaching an ongoing state.. Tasks have contexts. Projects do not have not real context. A project to redecorate a room will have you implementing the decorating at home but you have to purchase supplies at a store, or call a consultant on the phone.

On a more practical level tasks and subtasks don’t play well when importing to other systems. Such as Toodledo’s own iPhone app or my personal favorite, Pocket Informant. The ambiguity of a task and subtask leads other systems to think that a task is a taks and are treated equally.

It looks to me like toodledo could synthesise a project by blending certain properties of a task with the properties of a folder.

A project might have the following fields
- Weekly review journal or notes
- Tying projects to goals (for purpose and principals)
- A successful outcome
- The ability to house tasks
- An optional deadline
- A brainstorming tool such as a mind map

Toodledo is already head and shoulders above the rest. IMHO With projects it will be even better!
John Gardenhire

Posted: Feb 28, 2010
Score: 0

Posted by Proximo:
@Tim Gordon,

If you are using context for your Projects, simply change the task context to the same area as your projects. It will now show up there as a single task among your Projects and then drag it to the correct project.

I use Folders for my GTD List and one of my folders is called Projects. I do the same for a task and move it to the Projects folder in order to easily drag the task to the Project It belongs too.

Hope that makes sense.

So Proximo, are your actions in your action folder linked to your projects in your projects folder in any way? I currently use your method with GTD folders where I have a projects assigned to the projects folder and sub-tasks as multiple steps. As for next actions, I create a new task with the next action and assign it context but in the action folder. So say for instance I have a project of "Buy Tires"

I'd create a task in the projects folder called "Buy Tires" with sub-tasks like:

- Get Price Quotes
- Determine budget
- Make Appointment

I would then create a new task in the action folder for the next physical action I have to do to "get price quote" which would be "call Les Schwab".

Am I being redundant in my system?

The lingo often gets so confusing when people use words for multiple meanings..
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