I’m notoriously hard to keep organized. I have so much going on, and am always thinking up new projects, and am easily distracted from getting things done. I’ve tried lots of online and offline systems (Springnote, Ubernote, etc.), all of which are awesome and may be ideal for your brain. Just not mine.
Todoist has won out for me. It’s got the right combination of limitations and features. Why would I want limitations? Because I get overwhelmed and easily distracted by too many bells and whistles! I start exploring features I don’t need, thinking there must be something totally cool about them that I’m missing.
Here’s what Todoist allows me to do:
- Set up a sidebar of of “Projects” – I prefer to think of these as “categories” for my to do items. I have a category for work, another for errands I need to run, one for random life stuff, another for ideas since I’m big on having ideas and not remembering them later (and I can easily move them to one of the categories if I decide to implement them later), and a category for URLs I’m tracking, like a comment thread at a blog or forum that I don’t want to miss new replies on (I just paste the URL in there and it instantly becomes a link). I can rearrange the projects/categories anyway, any time, by clicking a link at the bottom of the sidebar and dragging things where I want.
- I can assign a (very easy on the eyes) color to each category, helping me quickly recognize which to do items go with which category when I sort my lists in various ways.
- I can look at just the to do items in a particular category, or just the items due today, or due the next 7 days, or “all projects” which shows every to do item in the order of my projects/categories.
- Your to do items can recur in just about any pattern you can imagine.
- I can use tags just by typing my to do items like this: “Buy almond milk and apples @shopping”. That applies a “shopping” tag to the item “Buy almond milk and apples”. That tag appears next to its items as a link – click it to see every item with that particular tag.
- I can make “nested” to do items by using the arrow button to the side of the to do input form – this indents an item to go under another item. The nested item can be a to do item of its own with its own “done” box to click, or you can turn it into a simple text note by typing your to do item with an asterisk at the beginning. For example, under my above shopping to do, I could add a note: “* Remember to check prices on green beans – they were $X at the farmer’s market – and buy them if they’re cheaper.” That note will go away when the original to do item gets clicked off.
- It’s got a really slick Ajaxy format – that means you can rearrange things on the page without refreshing, and it works really well. I’ve never had it hang up for even a few seconds.
- You can set up a category of contact info and put it at the bottom of your sidebar. This may not be a great option if you have tons of people to keep track of, but it’ll work to keep some key info handy.
- Todoist will keep a “history” of your completed to do items. As far as I know, it keeps them forever (I have items dating back to early 2007). If you don’t want them around, you can delete them all with one click.
Todoist does not email you reminders unless you pay $3/month. This is great for me because I don’t want reminders – I get dozens, even hundreds, of emails a day and get blind to them. Also, I don’t use deadlines – I just want a list of stuff I need to do, and I’ll do it when I can. If you like reminders, you may want to go pro, or you may decide Todoist isn’t your best choice.
Todoist also has a LOT of features I don’t use. You access most of them by typing special characters or abbreviations into boxes (check the help files for more info). This is ideal for the easily distracted because it means those features are invisible to you unless you need them.
One last note: I print my to to list from Todoist periodically so I have a copy I can carry with me at all times. For years I struggled with whether to use a paper to do list or an electronic one, and I’ve found having it both electronic and on paper is the best solution for my productivity. Plus, I have a lot of scrap paper that’s got one clean side I can use for the printing.