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Prioritization

We learned that we, humans, are not great at prioritizing tasks – we tend to avoid difficult tasks or start too many while leaving others unfinished. To help with such issues, the order of tasks in our lists is built around the concept of calculated urgency. With other techniques like work-in-progress limit, it helps to keep you on the right track, so no task is left behind.

What is urgency?

The urgency is a set of rules like these that govern the order of tasks in the list. You can think of urgency as a score given to each task – the higher the score, the more urgent the task is, and the higher it appears in the list.

  • 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)
  • Using the priority, you can nudge the algorithm so it knows what is important to you

If a new task should be done before an older one, it means it has a higher priority. Assign a higher priority to the new task to make it appear higher in the list. This can be done using the priority picker in the task detail, using the right-click context menu, or via Shift+Arrow Up keyboard shortcut.

If two tasks have the same properties like status, motivation, Eisenhower value, priority, or estimate, the older one is always considered more urgent, causing new tasks to appear at the bottom of the list while bubbling up as they get older.

See our dedicated articles for how it works in detail in each workflow.

tip

The task with the highest urgency will be highlighted in bold in the list as the next task to work on. This can be disabled in the settings.

So, you replaced the manual ordering of tasks with 5 priorities?

Yes, that's the simple way to say it. When you start manually dragging tasks around, you usually lose the sense of how old the task is. Using priorities, you have a way of saying that a certain task is more important than another while still allowing for more things to be taken into account (like their age or status).

Is this perfect?

Of course, this gets in a way sometimes. However, people tend to, for example, avoid complex tasks and procrastinate on easy ones while the challenging tasks get stuck for several days (we were indeed 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.

tip

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.

Nuanced priority usage (advanced)

info

If you are just starting out with Lunatask, feel free to skip this section.

Imagine a case when you have only one Started task in the list.

Now, a new more important task is added to Next. 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/Later grouping (used by simple workflow), and it will be highlighted as the next task to work on.

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