Repeating an action every day is a common way to forge it into a lasting habit. This approach works for some habits, such as a simple exercise routine (say, the Fitness Ladder described in The Hacker's Diet). But other actions can't be repeated daily, and don't need to be as rigid: For example, you can't water your houseplants every day, and nothing bad would happen if you watered them in slightly irregular intervals as long as you didn't forget to do it for two weeks straight. That's when habit-forming gets tricky, and where the $10 utility Sciral Consistency shines with an interface like no other.
Managing recurring tasks is not a new concept: Google Calendar supports recurring events, as does the game-inspired QuestTracker (not to mention almost any other serious to-do list manager). But in most software of this kind, the intervals are rigid: A task can repeat every three days or every five days, for instance, but not every three to five days. Although some recurring tasks are truly time-sensitive, most tasks aren't, and this artificial strictness can get in the way of forming a new habit and make you feel as if you're failing when you really aren't.
Sciral Consistency is built around flexible recurrence. It looks like a grid, with each row representing a recurring task, and each column representing a day. When you're setting up a new task, you specify its minimum and maximum intervals, which then display on the grid as color-coded squares: Lavender means it's not time to do the task yet, light yellow means you're somewhere in range so you can do the task today, red means the task is overdue, and green (with a circle or a star) means you've done the task on time.
This simple interface makes it easy to dump all of your recurring tasks into Sciral Consistency, freeing up your "main" to-do list for one-off tasks and time-sensitive repetitive tasks. Consistency gladly accepts all of the chores and tasks you're prone to forget--and if your mother complains that you never call, you can even use Consistency for that (I won't tell). The flexible repetition means that your calls would still feel spontaneous, not as if you were calling on a schedule. You can even use Consistency for events that repeat every several months.
Sciral Consistency is laser-focused. You'll find no hierarchy of tasks, no priorities, no lengthy task descriptions, no tags--nothing extra, really, just solid recurrence processing with an interface that remains unique years after its initial release. I have yet to see anything that looks like it; the closest competitor I've encountered is the online habit tracker Joe's Goals, which also uses a daily grid but lacks color coding for flexible repetition.
The only feature missing from Consistency is a minimize-to-tray and auto-restore function. Because the program is so low-key, it is easy to forget to run Consistency on a regular basis to check what needs to be done each day. I solved this by manually setting Consistency to run every morning as a Windows scheduled task, so that it pops up regularly and I can review the tasks I need to perform. Still, having Consistency do so on its own would be welcome.
You can use a feature-limited free version of Sciral Consistency to discover whether the concept works for you. Used continually, it can build powerful habits and replace nagging reminders from coworkers, family, and friends with expressions of gratitude and appreciation.
Note: The Download button takes you to the vendors site, where you can download the latest version of the software.
This story, "Sciral Consistency keeps you on top of tasks without bossing you around" was originally published by PCWorld.
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