How I currently use Todoist Premium

I’ve grown to be very fond of Todoist, especially Todoist Premium, over the last few months. There’s something deeply psychologically comforting about having what is essentially an intelligent bucket that stores my obligations for me, and can gently remind me if I’m forgetting one or two of them.

I’m going to take you through a brisk stroll of how I use Todoist Premium, explaining each part in detail.

There’s nothing particularly revolutionary in here, but peoples’ brains work in different ways, and some people find having an example like this helpful to guide them on how to get started.

Please note that Filters are Premium-only. I think they’re well worth the price.

The first 5 seconds: Urgent, Important

The very first screen I see with Todoist is, of course, the most important Filter in my entire system: The Urgent, Important Filter.

The Filter is constructed like so:

  • We first take inspiration from Eisenhower’s matrix. Todoist lets you set both dates and priority levels, so we make the following:
  • (p1 | p2) & (overdue | today | tomorrow)
  • We then add a tag to filter out those “systemic life improvement” practices, such as exercise and meditation. These are important, and I don’t like to forgo them, but they can fall by the wayside for a day or two if I really have a lot to get done in my work. We’ll use an “@systemics” tag for that, explained later. So in summary, we have
  • (p1 | p2) & (overdue | today | tomorrow) & !(@systemics)
  • I do have other Filters for the other 3 bins of the Eisenhower matrix, of course, all with the !(@systemics) tag attached, but in practice I don’t use them nearly as often.

If you didn’t know, you can set any Filter as your default screen in Todoist by checking the options — I highly recommend doing this, because Inbox is not a great landing zone in my experience.

“Today” is a better option, but you’ll notice that “Today” for me on the side has 11 things marked on it. My rule is that I don’t ever want to see more than 7 things under “Urgent, Important”, unless it’s a state of emergency.

Currently I’m living a very easy going life (as you can see above), since my college quarter just started, but there have been times in the past where this has happened; those are usually days where I become willing to forgo good life practices like eating healthy and exercising in order to get my work done. I think most people can relate to this to some extent.

TL,DR: “Urgent, Important” shows me the most important work/administrative things to get done, and ideally doesn’t show me more than 7 items at a time.

After this, I usually look at Today, but since we’re on a brisk stroll here, let’s look at those things that have been left out of Urgent, Important.

The next 5 seconds: Daily Routine

The Daily Routine is where that @systemics tag from before really starts to come into its own. It’s constructed like so:

  • @systemics is applied to asks which I consider “systemic” — doing them every day, even if it’s boring, will over the long term result in huge gains to everything else in my life.
  • However, by their nature, these kinds of tags are almost always recurring, either on a daily basis (like cardio) or on a weekly basis (like doing laundry).
  • So I need to add to the filter a mechanism so I only see what I have to get done today. Hence we get
  • @systemics & (overdue | today) & recurring

I suppose the “& recurring” part is a bit redundant, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

You’ll notice that in my Daily Routine, there are several tasks which don’t take

a lot of time to do and are themselves about maintaining the system. I find the Inbox Zero philosophy, for all the scorn heaped upon it, to be remarkably helpful, and so a (small) part of my time each day goes towards making sure my email and Todoist inboxes are freed up. (I heavily recommend Google Inbox for its “snooze” feature, which does with emails what Todoist’s “Postpone” feature does to to do tasks.)

TL;DR: Daily Routine is for things that I try to do every day, but which are more tied to my daily existence than to my work life specifically.

Most of the other filters I have are ones that I only look at rarely, or in special circumstances. I think that’s not something to shy away from — you’re not paying per-filter, after all, and the 80/20 rule suggests that a few filters are going to do the heavy lifting no matter what. I would fight the urge for minimalism in filters if you have it — it’s fine to have a lot of them.

With that said, let’s look at the last filter I check on a daily basis -

The last 5 seconds: The Overwatch filter

(This picture has been cropped to remove work-specific details and names, of course.) The Overwatch filter is probably the most GTD-inspired one of the bunch. This one is easily constructed: It’s just my @waiting-on label, as you can see above.

I believe I got the idea from this post, which I definitely recommend chacking out, but essentially this is a bin for things that I’m “waiting on” either moving forward with (because I need to finish something else first) or things that I’m waiting for other people to do.

Honestly, I could split those into their own separate labels, but I’m only a college student so this is good enough for the time being.

TL;DR: Overwatch is good for things which I want to remember, but can’t make action on until something else has been done first.

There you have it! Not the most sophisticated system on the face of the planet, but it’s been working great so far.

One final note: You might have noticed that I try to put everything into the system with a priority, due time (even if it’s an arbitrary one) and project, and the @systemics or @waiting-on labels as needed, so it can be sorted automatically. But if I don’t do that for some reason, my “Review Inbox” task in the Daily Routine filter reminds me to go through and attach that metadata to the objects at the end of the day. If you’re not affixing that kind of information regularly, it might be hard for you to find value in the app, because the filters you make can’t work as well!

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