(A quick note: Remember, GTD isn’t everything. Don’t be busy for the sake of business. If you’re struggling with busyness, you may find this article helpful as well.)
I’ve been a task app whore for a while. Constantly switching and moving from one task app to the next. I’d often find myself in the “productivity” section of the Apple’s app store looking for the next great to-do list, ineffectually thinking that there was a task app that would do things for me. No such luck.
When I sat down and actually thought about it I realized what I really needed in a task app were three things:
- The ability to add a task from as many places as possible (phone, my computer, my wife's computer, Siri). If something pops into my head I need to be able to add it quickly, and I want to have as much access as I can to check the tasks.
- It needs to be simple, yet have the ability to organize well.
- One task app for work, personal, and shared lists. This might be common sense but what I mean is that it needs to be flexible enough to handle the different purposes and tasks.
If I could have these three things and stick to the to-do app, I would be just fine and dandy. The two applications that stuck out right away were Todoist and Wunderlist. Both of these are well-known apps which I’m sure many of you use. I used Wunderlist for a time and it was great! Visual pleasing, and had all three of the above features (Technically it was a little lax on #2 but overall it covered the three). I then began using Todoist for a time and soon realized it was exactly what I was looking for. Not only did it cover all three needed functions but it did #2 especially well. I think you’ll soon understand (if you don’t already). Let's dive in.
In Todoist the first order of organization is projects. I found it difficult to organize by project. Because I have quite a number of projects going on at a time and it was growing increasingly hard to differentiate work projects from home projects or any other projects. So instead I began thinking of them as buckets. Buckets comprise multiple projects and they serve as the first order of organization. So I’ve set up 5 buckets.
You can see here I’ve color-coded each project. I have a reading list which is just a list of books I want to read. Sharpen the Saw is a bucket rather than tasks in “Personal” because I want to make it a priority to keep learning and building. Making it a Bucket helps me to do that. Sip is a side project I’m working on.)
Again, like buckets, it is easier for me to think of labels as tags. It is a more recognized term and I've used Evernote for so long that tags just make sense. But I get it. They are synonymous.
Labels work for me in a very specific way. They allow me to organize my tasks into 3 categories: What/who, Priority, When. These help me know what to do and when to do it. I use symbols at the start of each category so that when I type the symbol it only shows the three options.
Who/what: These are identical to the buckets. I have to use labels though in order to filter them (which we’ll get to next). But If something goes into “Sharpen the Saw” it gets marked with the +personal tag because its… personal. Get it?
Priority: Todoist allows you to set priority on each task and then it color-codes them. I, however, use their priority system to help sort my tasks in the current views and my tags to determine priority. This label helps me to filter tasks (which is coming). The titles are self-explanatory.
When: We all know when we’re most productive. If you don’t, figure it out. It’s absolutely vital to your productivity success. For me, generally speaking, it’s Mornings and evenings. So I schedule my big, most important to-do’s in the morning and easier less “thinking” type tasks for the afternoon.
Because of the way Todoist has set up labels you can create tasks extremely fast with auto-complete.
Filters is where the real power of Buckets and tags comes into play and ultimately what made me love Todoist. So… get ready.
Now you can see right away that I’ve used the same naming system as I did in the labels. This isn’t necessary but helps keep things synced and helps me to identify what I’m looking for right away. Unlike Labels (tags), Todoist also allows you to reorganize filters by dragging them around.
Who/what: This just shows anything that is overdue and for today with the given tags. Example Query: (overdue, today) & @+work
Priority: You’ll notice I placed the “when” before “priority.” This is because in the filter view “when” is more important to me. I also only have the .low and .high because these are the only two I use. If I want to get done some low hanging fruit I bust through a few .low priority tasks. If I need to see the .high priority tasks for today I can look here. The .norm is just something I never check in filter view. Example Query: (overdue, today) & @.high
When: These would be my most used filter views because these determine when I do the tasks and are built around my productivity schedule. I have Todoist set to open to my ^morning view so that when I first open I can dive right in (you can see how I’ve done that below). Example Query: (overdue, 3 days) & @^morning
The Rest: You can see that I’ve set up an At a Glance (Q: (tomorrow)) view which just quickly shows my tasks tomorrow. I’m almost always at the “Filter View” so it’s a nice shortcut. No Due Date (Q: no date) is to help me fix problems with tasks that I’ve forgotten to attach a due date to (They always need due-dates or they’ll never get done.) Since Sip is a group Bucket sometimes my team may assign things to me, but they don’t fit into my organizational structure, so they’ll end up there until I fix them (Q: :to_me:).
The most important thing is that I have a system down that utilizes all three of my “needs” from above and the organizational Functionality of Buckets, Tags, and Filters.
When I open it in the morning it opens to my ^morning filter view. The easiest way to do this for filters is to go to the web version of your Todoist and log in. Then click the filter view you’d like it to open with. Copy that weblink and click settings icon and click “Todoist settings.” Then under “start page” select “custom query” and paste your filter view link you copied.
If I’m at my computer or on the mobile app I’ll throw a new task in the appropriate bucket but if I’m unsure, or I’m using siri, I have it set to go to my Todoist inbox, which I clean out every day.
Do you have any tips and tricks that I didn't mention here? + them here.
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