I’ve never found a good system for managing tasks and reminders, despite searching about once a year for a better solution. Each time I look for a new approach, I seem to find something that’s just enough of an improvement in some way that I get excited and switch.
For a few weeks, occasionally a few months, I’ll be good about using the tool and I’ll keeping updating it. Inevitably, though, something about the product will bother me enough that I begin to resent it. Rather than seeing it as a utility, I develop an anxiety about interacting with it. Routine reminders are stressful, not helpful. I eventually dislike the tool so much that it becomes little more than a wasteland of good intentions and tasks that’ve lost their meaning. In its place are more Post-It® notes than I’d care to admit1.
Towards the end of 2015, I’d reached this point of annoyance and disdain with the product I was using when a colleague posted about his workflow. Before I talk about why this tip so enamored me to his choice of software, let me review a few of my previous failures.
A few things I’ve tried
These are presented in no particular order, so don’t try to infer from which one I switched. 😉
Perhaps my first attempt at sane task management, I wanted to like Google Tasks because it was part of products I was already using. Unfortunately, I found it too locked into Gmail, and the lack of features like reminders was insurmountable.
I’m an Android user, which posed the first problem. Synching was also quite limited at the time, something I couldn’t deal with.
Producteev had a lot of the features I wanted, in particular strong separation of projects, but was also too focused on use by teams. Besides the unnecessary fields that came with the team features, I found it difficult to track tasks across many projects, causing me to forget things in one “corner” or another.
Evernote isn’t designed for task management, but I use it extensively for gathering notes and other bits of data, so I made an attempt. I spent too much time duplicating items, and there was never a chance of a cross-project view of what needed to be done.
Any.do was the only product I had any meaningful success with, and even it eventually became a hindrance. Reminder options were limited and became quite off-putting, defeating their purpose. The interface wasn’t designed to manage large lists. Lastly, integration options were basically non-existent.
As noted, my colleague Tom J Nowell tipped me off to Todoist via a post on one of our employer’s internal sites. I’m not sure how I’d overlooked it before as it seems to be exactly what I wanted and has existed for as long as I knew I needed a task manager. Highlights for me include:
- A clear and intuitive interface; it’s also quite consistent across devices.
- Apps for every platform I need, in addition to a capable web version.
- I can customize the groups into which I organize my tasks, but also filter to see tasks in all projects and with various attributes (past due, no due date, etc.; the second is particularly hard to find).
- Integrations! I want to automatically create tasks based on both recurring and random events. Todoist’s capabilities in this regard are what my colleague had written about specifically.
As integrations are concerned, their API has allowed me to:
- Create tasks via an Alfred workflow.
- Add to dos based on calendar events.
- Automate a reminder to pay my bills from an email notification the bank sends when my direct deposit is available.
It’s only been about eight weeks since I switched to Todoist, but I’ve a feeling that I finally found a task manager that suits my needs; I felt strongly enough to upgrade to the Premium subscription, almost exclusively for advanced filtering. I’d hesitated posting this out of concern that my initial excitement was my motivation, but after making a few additional customizations over the weekend, I’m pretty confident with my decision. I haven’t felt the annoyance I often would have by now, nor have I encountered anything I couldn’t change to match my expectations. Well done, Todoist.