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Setting Priority for New Tasks

A task has a relatively large number of properties. It might sound overwhelming at first but once you set your Outline in the right way and set the default values, scheduling a task is not rocket science.

As with the other properties, priority should not be something that you have to set for each and every task you want to add to your Outline. Unless you are adding an urgent and important task, you may leave the priority to be the default priority when adding a new task.

Under normal circumstances, you should be using the board to prioritize. As mentioned earlier, the best way to prioritize is to prioritize a timeframe, and this is done best on the board. But, if you have to prioritize a specific task outside the board, here are the methods to do it.

Setting Priority in the Task Title (NLP)

You can set a task priority in the task title by using the “/” key to look up the priority name.

Setting Priority in the Task Detail

You can also set the priority in the line detail as shown here.

Setting Priority Using the Triage Tool

The triage tool introduced in the Suggestions is also used here to set the priority for a task or project. This tool is helpful to analyze if you can schedule a task or project within a certain timeframe. Priority is a relative term. So, if you have an important task or project and you think your task or project deserves a high priority, you might be surprised to learn that you have more important work to do before this task or project. This is what the triage tool does for you.

To use this took:

  1. Open the line detail
  2. If your task is not planned yet, give it a Flexible plan first. If you have already given it a time-bound plan, that’s fine too.
  3. Once the line is planned, you will see the priority chip shown next to the plan. Click the priority chip and you’ll see the option: ‘Prioritize…’
  4. This will open the triage tool. First, click ‘pick a time frame‘. For example, if you’re wondering if you can manage to get this task scheduled this week, set the timeframe to ‘this week’.
  5. Click Analyze. This will initiate a process to analyze whether the current priority of the task helps to schedule this task for this week. If it doesn’t get scheduled, you should get a list of competitors.

The triage allows you to drag your task higher up in the completion list. You may be wondering how far you should be dragging it up before it can be scheduled during your desired timeframe. But, that’s probably the wrong question. The right question is where does this task deserve to be on the list of competing tasks. If it doesn’t get scheduled, then your wish to schedule this task during the specified timeframe is probably unrealistic.

Apart from dragging your task higher up, you may also see some fixed-time events that compete with your task. You can choose to sideline these fixed-time events in order to let your task schedule during the event time.

Sorting the List in Today / Next 7 Days Views

The Today and Next 7 Days views allow you to drag tasks up or down. This will not only affect the plan of a task but also sets new priorities for your tasks. As mentioned earlier, priority is a relative term. So, if you move task A above task B in Today or Next 7 Days views, you are setting a relative priority for task A to be higher than task B.

Sorting the List in the Outline

The Outline is organized with the goal of making it easy for you to locate specific projects or tasks. So, your primary goal in maintaining your Outline is to maintain the semantic relationships between lines in the hierarchy.

Now, if you have a parent line that has a direct priority, all sublines will inherit this priority. In other words, all sublines (or tasks in a project) will have the same inherited priority level. But we will also have relative priority amongst the sublines. The lines higher up on the list in the Outline will have higher priority here.

If you wish to keep the order of sublines (tasks in the project) in the Outline but re-order their relative priorities, you can break down the parent line on the board and sort the sublines.

Priority Cascades Down (Inheritance)

Just like other properties, priorities cascade down. Each line in the Outline has either of the three priority types:

  • Direct priority
  • Inherited priority
  • Default priority

Direct priority is when you explicitly set a priority for a line by

  • dragging & dropping the task on the board, or
  • giving a line priority using NLP, or
  • assigning a priority in the line detail

Inherited priority is when the parent line or any parent higher up in the hierarchy (grandparent!) has a direct priority.

The default priority is when neither the line nor any of its parents higher up have a direct priority. In this case, the default priority is used for the line.

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