Prioritization Framework

How does the task list in Lunatask work?

What you open Lunatask for the first time, you might be surprised by the missing ability to drag tasks manually around to move them up or down. This is because task lists in Lunatask automatically sort your tasks so the list is always prioritized using our prioritization framework.

In this article, we'll explain most of the rules that govern the task list and how to use them the best way to your advantage. The goal is to explain the concept of urgency used throughout the task list.

What grouping/sorting options are available?

You can think of grouping as different sections tasks go into in the list. Lunatask currently gives you multiple grouping options including:

  • No grouping
  • Now/Later
  • By status
  • By motivation
  • Eisenhower matrix

And a few sorting options including:

  • By urgency
  • By priority
  • By estimate
  • By age

Sorting options like By priority or By estimate are self-explanatory and work as you'd expect. Regardless of whatever sorting you pick, if two tasks have the same properties like status, motivation, Eisenhower value, priority, or estimate the older one is always considered more urgent. By age is the secondary sort in any case, causing new tasks to appear at the bottom of the list while bubbling up as they get older.

The combination of grouping and sorting is called a Workflow. We added a couple of preconfigured workflows for you, including:

  • Simple Workflow (Now/Later grouping with By urgency sorting)
  • Kanban (By status grouping with By priority sorting)
  • Must/Should/Want (By motivation grouping with By priority sorting)
  • Eisenhower Method (Eisenhower matrix grouping with By urgency sorting)
  • Review old tasks (No grouping and By age sorting)

How to change the workflow, grouping, or sort?

Hovering the mouse near the bottom of the window will reveal the toolbar where you can change the workflow, grouping, or sort. When not in use, the toolbar automatically hides so you do not get distracted and can focus on your tasks. Autohiding is opt-in, once you learn to use the toolbar, we recommend to turn autohiding on in the settings.

What is urgency?

The urgency is a set rules like these that govern the order of tasks in the task list. You can think of urgency as a score given to each task. The higher the score, the more urgent the task is, and higher it appears in the task list. The urgency usually uses the status of the task, its priority, age, and due date to determine the sort order.

In simple terms, tasks marked as Started have a higher urgency than tasks in Next to nudge you to finish what you already started before taking on new work. Waiting tasks are not actionable, hence they have a low urgency (lower than tasks in Next, but usually higher than tasks in Later). Higher priority usually means higher urgency as well (but not always, see nuanced usage section below).

The priority plays an important role as well. Using the priority, you can nudge the algoritm so it knows what is important to you.

Nuanced priority usage

Imagine a case when you have only one Started task in the list. Now, there's a new task added to Next that is more important. Assigning the Highest priority will now make the task in Next more urgent than the task in Started, hence it appears on top of the list in Now/Next grouping and it will be highlighted as the next task to work on.

Here is how it will look like in By status grouping:

Assigning the priority of High to the task in Next won't have the same effect. You can use the priority of High to sort your next tasks to work on after you finish the work you already started.

Similarly, this can be applied to Low and Lowest priorities. Assigning a lower priority to a task in Started means putting it on hold for a while.

See the table below for the exact order of rules in groupings based on task status (higher in the list means more urgent).

StatusPriority
DueHighest
StartedHighest
NextHighest
DueHigh
DueNormal
StartedHigh
StartedNormal
NextHigh
NextNormal
DueLow
StartedLow
NextLow
DueLowest
StartedLowest
NextLowest
WaitingHighest
WaitingHigh
WaitingNormal
LaterHighest
LaterHigh
LaterNormal
WaitingLow
WaitingLowest
LaterLow
LaterLowest

And here for By motivation grouping:

MotivationPriority
DueHighest
MustHighest
ShouldHighest
WantHighest
DueHigh
DueNormal
MustHigh
MustNormal
ShouldHigh
ShouldNormal
WantHigh
WantNormal
DueLow
MustLow
ShouldLow
WantLow
DueLowest
MustLowest
ShouldLowest
WantLowest
UnknownHighest
UnknownHigh
UnknownNormal
UnknownLow
UnknownLowest

Using urgency as a prioritization method is optional. If you want to opt-out, change list sorting to By priority and disable highlighting of the next most urgent task in the settings.

Why Lunatask works like this?

Of course, this gets in a way sometimes. However, people tend to, for example, avoid hard tasks and procrastinate on easy ones while the hard tasks get stuck for several days (we were certainly guilty of that in the past). So while the algorithm might not be perfect at prioritizing tasks, humans (and especially those with ADHD) are sometimes not much better.

Fortunately, the urgency calculation is just a recommendation. You can always get the tasks done in any order you like. Lunatask will just make sure to push tasks to a more prominent place higher in the list as they get older or are left unfinished to remind you of them so no task is left behind.