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.