Learning to Decompose and Organize Complex Tasks

People rely on digital task management tools, such as email or to-do apps, to manage their tasks. Some of these tasks are large and complex, leading to action paralysis and feelings of being overwhelmed on the part of the user. The micro-productivity literature has shown that such tasks could benefit from being decomposed and organized, in order to reduce user cognitive load. Thus in this paper, we propose a novel end-to-end pipeline that consumes a complex task and induces a dependency graph from unstructured text to represent sub-tasks and their relationships. Our solution first finds nodes for sub-tasks from multiple {`}how-to{'} articles on the web by injecting a neural text generator with three key desiderata {--} relevance, abstraction, and consensus. Then we resolve and infer edges between these subtask nodes by learning task dependency relations. We collect a new dataset of complex tasks with their sub-task graph to develop and evaluate our solutions. Both components of our graph induction solution are evaluated in experiments, demonstrating that our models outperform a state-of-the-art text generator significantly. Our generalizable and scalable end-to-end solution has important implications for boosting user productivity and assisting with digital task management.

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