Goal-Fish: The Neurodivergent To-Do List

One of my special skills is goading people into doing things that I think are great ideas. A few of you have been on the receiving end of this.

When it comes to getting my own stuff done, though, I have a tougher time making things happen. If you have impaired executive function courtesy of autism or ADHD (or some other neurodivergence), you know the feeling. How many times a week do I think “I really should spend some time on my novel” and “I’m way behind on responding to comments” not to mention “The kitchen counters could use a good wiping down” and “When was the last time I vacuumed?”

I’m super organized when it comes to work and bill paying and anything with a deadline. But those things that I should be doing regularly–which includes everything from housework to writing and keeping my blog in order–that stuff slips away from me so easily.

So when Slepa Ulica (who comments here under the username Anonymus) mentioned that they were designing a “smart to-do list” that would serve up tasks to do based on a whole list of customizable parameters, I got just a little excited.

A to-do list that understands crummy executive function! A to-do list that would give me one appropriate task at a time! A website for neurodivergent people created by a neurodivergent person! Much goading encouragement ensued on my part and much work on Slepa Ulica’s part.

And here it is, ready for you to try out:


Some cool things I like about this software:

1. The fish! I know that’s a silly thing to put first on my list, but the illustrations make me happy. More importantly, the interface is sensory friendly. Plenty of white space, no busy layouts, moving images, sounds or loud colors to assault my brain. Just the minimum of information that I need, accented with whimsical illustrations. (The website also has a boatload of accessibility features which you can read about in detail if you like.)

2. Unlike regular to-do lists, Goal-Fish understands that not all tasks are created equal and we don’t always feel up to tackling certain chores. The constraints feature allows you to limit tasks to what you’re capable of doing (based on energy level, time of day, etc.) and how much time you have. Once you’ve input your constraints (which will take less time to do than it took you to read about it here), you press a button and the software gives you an appropriate task.

For example, I set up a 15-minute time window, a pain (you can change this to spoons, energy, etc.) level of 4 and no helpers. The software gave me “change sheets” which I should probably go do now because I have no idea when I last did that. Increasing my pain level to 6, it told me to take out the trash. When I decreased my pain level to 1 and increased the time to 30 minutes, it told me to clean out the fridge (another task I should do more regularly).

3. What you see when you first start using Goal-Fish is Slepa Ulica’s tasks and categories. You can edit tasks to fit your needs, add your own tasks, assign them to categories, change/create detailed instructions for each task and modify the constraints. Depending on how much time you want to spend, you can do quite a bit of customizing.

The fish is doing laundry. The fish wants you to laundry, too. You don’t want to let the fish down, right?

4. It’s free. Wow, right? Of course, if you’re feeling generous and can afford to, you can throw a few bucks Slepa Ulica’s way. If you do, you’ll get an additional 20 tasks and 6 categories added to your account. Plus the good feeling that comes along with supporting a cool project by a member of our community. Just use that bright shiny donate button at the top of the screen.

5. The detailed instructions can include as many or as few steps as you need. Some of us may be fine with “do laundry” as a single instruction. Others  may need a detailed list of steps to complete more complex tasks like doing the laundry. I can see this making a great independent living tool for pre-teens, teens or adults who need support in completing daily self-care tasks.

6. It almost makes doing chores fun. Clicking the button and getting a semi-random chore makes completing tasks feel like part of a game. Also, having a time limit on a chore makes mundane tasks less open-ended and onerous. If I decide I want to spend 15 minutes on a chore and the software tells me to go pick up stuff, then I feel good about spending 15 minutes or less picking stuff up, even if I don’t get every last thing put away. Without that limit, I’ll avoid even starting because I know I can easily end up spending an hour straightening up, getting distracted, drifting off into other tasks, etc. and then feel like I got nothing substantial done.

I’m going to close this out with Slepa Ulica’s description of why the software is called Goal-Fish, because it ties in nicely with #6 and it made me smile:

“I got to thinking that my todo list is kind of like one of those digital pets where you have to order it to do things, feed it, water it, and take care of it, except in reverse. I’m the digital pet, and the computer is the person telling me to clean my room.”

If you have questions or comments, Slepa Ulica (Anonymus) has promised to reply to them here or you can find an email link at the bottom of the software’s help page.


Obligatory disclaimer: I didn’t receive any compensation for reviewing the software/website.

23 thoughts on “Goal-Fish: The Neurodivergent To-Do List”

    1. Hi! I have no idea what your tastes are like or what sort of games you’d enjoy (IF is pretty broad, there are games in all sorts of different genres, and some are more puzzle-y others are more story-like.)

      I’ve enjoyed a lot of games by Emily Short, Counterfeit Monkey is interesting, Galatea is pretty amazing, but they’re all good! http://emshort.wordpress.com/my-work/
      There’s an Interactive Fiction Competition each year, and you can play the games online or download them from here: http://ifcomp.org/
      And there’s a database here which lets you search for games (by name, by genre, by author), and browse and see what’s been rated highly and look at reviews: http://ifdb.tads.org/

  1. Hi everybody thank you for checking out my site! I hope you have as much fun with it as I do! And thank you too MusingsOfAnAspie for writing such a kind and thoughtful review of my site and for encouraging me to get it ready to be used by other people.

  2. this looks wonderful! A lot doesn’t get done around here sometimes because trying to remember all the steps to do it right is just more than I want to deal with, or there’s a barrier to one of the steps or something. I love the breaking things down, and you’re right-very sensory-friendly and not over-loading.

  3. This is great! As an Autistic parent it’s not that helpful as I put in that I am overloaded, want to do something fun, and an inside task. It just tells me to go to bed, unfortunately not possible with a child. So I sit here in partial shutdown unable to think of what to do or move much. Not fun :/ There needs to be a parenting one.

    1. That’s a good point – you can’t just go to sleep if you’re kids are still up. You could always edit the tasks so that instead of “go to bed” you would have something more suitable to your own personal circumstances come up in that situation.

    2. Actually the “just go to bed” one is supposed to only show up if it doesn’t have any tasks it can give you, — that’s why you can’t hide it, because it’s not really a task, it’s a “there’s nothing for you to do” message. But if the only parameters you set are overloaded, fun, and inside, it should still be showing you things like “do puzzles” unless you also said that you’re in a lot of pain (or have really low stamina/energy reserves/spoons), but even then, you should still have choices like “eat”, “drink”, “nap” (which is different from “just go to bed” in that you can hide it), and “bathe”, unless you’ve hidden them or deleted them. If that’s the problem, and if when looking at the list of fun tasks there are some that you think you could do at your current energy level, you could edit them to require less energy. The defaults are based on what I can do at various pain levels, but it won’t be the same for everybody, so it’s just a starting place.

      You also might want to add some fun tasks that you can do when you’re feeling like this. maybe “read blogs” or “watch youtube videos” or “play with the cat” or if there’s anything soothing and relaxing you can do with your kid to help both of you feel calmer and less overloaded.

      1. Hi, as someone who struggles with executive dysfunction, I have been looking for software just like this. The website however doesn’t seem to work for me – when I follow the link it requests a username and password, and when I click cancel the page fails to load. Please let me know if it is still possible for me to download Goal-Fish – I would definitely be willing to pay!

        1. Hi! Goal-Fish was down for a little while because I was moving it to a new server and then i hid it behind a password while i got things set up, but it’s back now! I’m sorry it took me a while to reply, and I hope you see this! Goal-Fish is still free to use (donationware).

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