Tag Archive for to-do lists

Keeping Productivity Honest with Todoist

I’ve tinkered with several productivity apps and task managers, but none of them have been as simple and convenient as Todoist. As an added bonus, Todoist has a tracker they call Karma which tells me at a glance when I’ve been slacking or when I’ve been productive.

Looks like I'm trending in the right direction

Looks like I’m trending in the right direction

My initial needs were simple: speed and convenience. As much as I love Evernote, its to-do list functionality is a little clunky. A note can include checkboxes and reminders, but there are few layout options, different projects have to be maintained on different notes, and opening and searching those notes takes some time.

Remember the Milk, Producteev, Google Keep, and a few other apps for manipulating Google Tasks didn’t quite cut it, either. They were simple but still a little clunky, especially for managing future tasks, deadlines, or tasks in different projects (or some combination of those).

Todoist, meanwhile, hooked me quick. First and foremost, it has a clean, simple design accessible with a single click of an app or as soon as I fire up the website. I can see all of the day’s tasks at a glance, as well as those for the next seven days and anything already overdue. There’s a daily digest email available for planning, and every day at 9am I get a summary of the day’s tasks pushed to my phone.

Adding a task is streamlined over other apps, too. While some of the task managers require filling out a form and saving it, in Todoist it’s just click, type, hit enter. Done. Changing the deadline (which can be as simple as “tomorrow” or “Friday”) or assigning the task to a project is still right there if you don’t want the defaults, of course, but just this simple tweak saves a lot of time, especially while adding tasks on the fly on my smartphone. It’s the first to-do app that really felt mobile for me, rather than just presenting a mobile portal to my data.

Todoist also gives me ubiquitous access. I have the Todoist website open in a browser tab at all times, and it’s always in sync with the Todoist apps on my Android phone and my iPad. There are checkboxes in both locations for completed apps, but a simple swipe completes a task in a mobile app.

Todoist has a more intuitive and flexible way of organizing tasks. Creating Project categories is a snap, labels can be applied with a click, and there are color codes for both. Adding a subtask is as simple as indenting it, almost like an outline or just tabbing over in a document. On the website, tasks can be reorganized by drag and drop.

Need to postpone something? Done with a click. Need to delete a task? Yup, just a click. I can also add notes or upload files for tasks. I’ve not uploaded anything, but notes have been helpful from time to time, such as when I need a task that follows up on a conversation or involves a website. I’ve even punched in a line or two of dialog into writing-related tasks.

The only feature I don’t take advantage of is sharing tasks or collaborating with others. It didn’t take me long to throw some money at Todoist for Premium, as it has been especially helpful at the day job.

Which brings me back to Karma. When I complete a task, I get karma points. When I miss a deadline, I start losing karma. Other actions, such as postponing a task, seem to influence karma as well, but the deadlines are the most obvious influence.

Karma and deadlines keep me honest. When I blow a deadline, I know where I’ve been slacking. When my karma graph flatlines—or worse, it drops—I know I’ve been really slacking. And when a task says 83 days overdue (which one of my two overdue tasks says), I know I’ve just completely dropped the ball.

This has been a huge benefit at the day job. I have all of my own day-to-day tasks, but I’m also helpdesk so I juggle a lot of other tasks for a lot of other people. Add to that my tendency to see something shiny and go off-task, or to procrastinate and forget about things, and a good to-do manager is a must.

I also use it for daily reminders at home or for family, for things I have to do for karate (whether for myself or for the class I run now), for a side job I have teaching technology to elementary students, and, yes, for writing projects.

On the writing side, it’s been a huge help in prioritizing and planning. It motivates me when I see those looming deadlines. The karma hit is a nice kick in the ass if I blow a deadline, but it also helps me reassess things when I know I’m getting too ambitious in scheduling things. I can leave deadlines open-ended for non-critical tasks, and bump things up after conversations with editors.

Overall it’s been a very helpful tool, and among the first apps I loaded when I changed phones. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a to-do manager.

And now I can tick writing this blog post off my task list.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Time is When You Make It

I’ve been hearing a lot of “I don’t have time” lately. Hell, I’ve been sweating a lot of that lack of time myself.

I thought about going for a run this morning. It’s an unseasonably warm day, and there’s a storm and a cold front bearing down on us that will plunge temps back down into the thirties. I may not have another nice running day this season.

Then I took a look at all of the things I’ve got on my plate for today:

  1. Clean up the dishes
  2. Get lunch started
  3. Lower the storm windows all around the house
  4. Seal up the attic fan
  5. Finish rewriting this graphic novel script
  6. Put together invoices for a publisher
  7. Go through photos from Friday’s karate graduation
  8. Head out to the dojo to work out with my attack team

It would be nice if I had some time to hang out with the Wife and the Rugrats. This list also fails to address bigger projects like the short stories I need to write and tackling the last round of revisions on Lie with the Dead. Nor does it address my desire to revamp my weightlifting workouts because I haven’t been happy with the routine I put together a few weeks ago.

If today were a normal workday at the day gig, I’d be hosed.

I felt bad about not going out of the run, and griped about not having time. But it occurred to me I’m still going to get a good workout at the dojo. I want to get better at running, but what’s the ultimate goal? Getting in shape. Does it matter how I sweat the extra weight off? If I don’t have time to sit down and look at my weightlifting routine today, will it kill me to stick to the current routine this week? Either way it amounts to moving heavy stuff around and working muscles.

We can’t find time because we’re not looking for it. I don’t think it’s because we’re not working hard, though. I think it’s because we’re not working smart. We’re not addressing and attacking our tasks in a diligent manner, and we let our failures to address some items weigh us down far too much.

Our failures should not outweigh our successes. We should concentrate on what we’ve achieved, then address a plan to address the things we had to put aside. Not the things we’ve failed to do, the things we simply need to reprioritize.

It’s 11:30am as I start this, and for the most part I’ve already taken out items 1-3. 7, honestly, can wait. If I don’t do 4 today I’ll get a chewing from the Wife, but I’ve been chewed out before. 5, 6 and 8 are must-do.

Following lunch in a moment, I’ve got another ten hours or so in the day.

Boom, time made.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.