Thanks for an excellent answer, @James
I can certainly relate to the bucket metaphor. And something in it also sparked an idea for how I could perhaps better explain something that I believe in very strongly and which I have had difficulty expressing in a concise and coherent way.
It is Saturday, nothing critical on my list, so I’ll give it a shot:
I could agree that NOT filtering etc can be seen as a minority nice-to-have - extremely useful for those few who know how to use it and appreciate it, but probably not a “crowd pleaser”. The same goes for many other features that I have suggested in other threads, and even for some of the special features you have already implemented.
So, let us look at the third bucket, the “next level” stuff that makes an app stand out. I believe that these “killer features” are in fact often made up of a well coordinated set of “nice-to-have” features. Isolated, they are just nice-to-have, but combined they can take the app to the next level if they cover and satisfy a whole “problem area” that is deeply felt by many users.
I believe a very hot “problem area” for GTD folks is overwhelm and pre-planning. Pre-planning in general is an overused method. Many people put dates on more or less everything, which you and I and most other GTD fans find utterly counterproductive. On the other hand, GTD just teaches us to separate our next actions by context, and that’s it. Almost all decisions about what to do next are to be made “last minute” based on using the well-known four-criteria model with our gut while reading a long list of actions. This requires an immense amount of reading and interpreting and assessing of everything in that list. And this needs to be done over and over. Many people reject GTD altogether because of this and stick to regular scheduling. Other people favor the GTD approach but struggle immensely with the problem of having these long lists and trying to quickly find what is relevant and not miss anything essential.
I believe there is a middle way between non-GTD date planning and the core GTD principle of leaving the whole decision until the very last minute. The solution, I believe, is to use whatever hard facts are available, no more, no less, to reduce the number of items to look at and choose from and make them easy to see.
A good example of this principle, that you have already implemented a feature for, is sequential actions. Just because we usually cannot date-plan the actions does not mean we cannot at least say something “hard” (objective, factual) about them. In the case of project actions we can usually say quite objectively whether a certain action can only be started after certain other actions have first been completed. That’s still a hard fact, even if it has no hard date. So it is OK by GTD standards, I would say, and so would you, I know, to have a feature for indicating precisely that kind of sequential dependency, and that is what you already have. This little feature alone (a nice-to-have, I would say) helps reduce clutter on the main list, primarily the next actions list, and thereby it also allows you to brainstorm projects a long time in advance, if you like.
But if we now look at the whole “problem area” of seeing and pre-planning what we have ahead of us, perhaps especially for the very near future, and aim to grasp and structure this as firmly as possible while remaining both objective and flexible, I think there could be a whole set of further features that individually are only nice-to-have but which together could address the whole problem of overwhelm, long lists, lots of reading and fear of missing something.
Possible additional features for this portfolio might be:
Batching - being able to flexibly pre-group (and re-group) actions from all over the outline into sets (batches, agendas) that you quite objectively can say will be very sensible to get done at the same time. Examples: a number of selected errands to be done in a certain part of town; a number of issues you will bring up at the next meeting with someone; a number of calls and emails and calculations that all require you to gear up with some particular mental state and get some particular set of facts straight. By being able to manage the whole set of related actions as a one-line item we get a more manageable Focus list, Next actions list etc. And we could even schedule the set as a whole (e.g. a meeting with agenda items). These batches could take down the size of the lists quite substantially.
Attention (“priority”) - when you sit in the morning (or evening before) and look at your calendar you see who you have promised to meet, and where. Similarly, it is very useful to quickly be able to identify any critical items in your long list, things that you might decide to aim to do today. Colored priorities help you see these “high attention” items. Conversely, it is useful in your morning quick review, to be able to ignore all the “low attention” tasks - those that just sit there until an opportunity comes along, for example a non-critical errand that will just have to wait until you have other business in that part of town. You will see that task often enough anyway - in your weekly review and whenever you filter for errands.
Elimination filtering - being able to reduce the next actions list to what is possible and relevant and desirable this morning etc. I think I could probably, at any one time, e.g. in my morning review, rule out at least half of what is on my list and still be perfectly safe with that smaller set of choices for several hours or even the whole day. For example, if I have no critical errands and it is raining or I just don’t feel like going out - eliminate errands. If I don’t want to even consider working on certain projects or areas today, just rule them out. Eliminate tasks that require the presence of people that are sick or away or who you could not stand talking to today. Or rule out all people if you have a sore throat. And so on.
Grouping the lists - as a complement to filtering (which requires constant clicking), it is convenient to have a few grouping/sorting modes available - group by area, group by project, group by context, by deadline … You will typically have a few modes that you use more than others, and can often leave the setting for many hours or even days or weeks.
I have a feeling that those little individual nice-to-haves, when taken as a whole, including the sequential actions feature that is already there, might together constitute a “firm-enough” pre-planning super-feature that mitigates or eliminates most of what causes people to feel overwhelmed and lost.
Oops, that was a tad long. Still not concise enough