Todoist

For most of my corporate career (1982-2001)  my work consisted of large tasks that came along one at a time and took a long time to execute. My time-management skills were rudimentary because I mostly didn’t need to manage my time. My current work is just the opposite, a steady stream of small, barely related tasks that need to be prioritized, scheduled, and–most important–remembered.

Managing such work is not complicated, and there are quite a few well-known, effective approaches available. My favorite by far is David Allen’s Getting Things Done, and I dream of the day (not too far off, I hear) when there are good software tools for implementing Allen’s system. Meanwhile, I deal with the problem with a simple to-do list. Well, perhaps not so simple, since a few capabilities make all the difference:

  • add tasks to the list quickly, with an optional deadline
  • tasks marked as completed disappear into the archive
  • tasks can be put in categories
  • tasks can have subtasks
  • tasks can be sorted and searched

For quite awhile I used Tracks, a surprisingly good open source tool with a smooth, attractive interface. I liked it so much that I figured out how to get it running on a spare computer that Chris and I could access over our home network. But Tracks never really caught on with the open source community, and it has a few important shortcomings I expect will never be addressed. One is that it doesn’t travel well. When my schedule recently changed so that I was spending weeks away from home, the pain was enough that I started looking for alternatives.

Luckily, I found Todoist, which had all the capabilities mentioned above, plus one other very important feature: apps for just about every environment. I have Todoist apps in my browser, on my desktop, in Gmail, in Postbox (the desktop program I use to manage my email), and on my Nexus 7 tablet. If I had a phone, I’d use it there as well.

All the apps share a single to do list and stay synchronized, so that wherever I happen to be I can add a task with a click and a few keystrokes. Maybe my favorite feature is that while reading email you can click a button which creates a task with a link to that email. Since many of my chores begin as an email, and the email contains much of the reference info I need to complete the task, this is extremely convenient.

Todoist has lots of intriguing options for searching, sorting, and organizing your tasks. But as with the very best of apps, those options are hidden just beneath the surface, leaving the interface clean and undistracting. Adding tasks, assigning dates, and ticking tasks off are all very intuitive, allowing you to quickly integrate Todoist into your daily routine. Highly recommended.

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4 thoughts on “Todoist

  1. Can you tell me how you log-in to the postbox app of todoist so that it syncs with the gmail and phone app? I can’t figure out how to sync the postbox list with the gmail and my iphone. Does this make sense? I appreciate your help. thanks.

  2. Jill,

    When I first clicked on the Todoist quick access button in my toolbar, it asked me to login, offering to use either my Google Account or my Todoist account (email plus password). Once I did that, everything synced and stays synced.

    To test this, I had to right-click over the Todoist pane in Postbox, then select “logout” from the popup menu. If you see the pane, you might try logging out and then logging back in again.

  3. Dear Rick – thank you! I was able to do that. Now I have another question :) When I click on a “todo” on my todoist mobile phone app – it makes me sign into google/gmail each time! Does that happen to you? What happens on your tablet when you click a todo that originates with an email and you need to see that email? The main reason I’m testing this out is bc (like you) I want to make my emails into todo’s. Thanks again for your help!

  4. Julia,

    I tried this on my Nexus 7 tablet and my son tried it on his Nexus 5 phone. It didn’t make us sign in to GMail again — but it didn’t take us to the email either, just to our GMail inbox.

    For what it’s worth, the mail link doesn’t seem to work interchangeably with GMail and Postbox, either. I spend most of my time in Postbox, and make emails into tasks there, but when I look at the tasks using Todoist in GMail it doesn’t understand the email link.

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