For Reader Request week, several people asked why I’d switched from todotxt to Todoist for my to-do list manager. I wrote a post listing the reasons I use Todoist, but the post didn’t really describe how I use Todoist. I thought I’d do that here.
I have been using Todoist now for just about half a year. I use it to manage my to-do lists, but also to keep track of my time, and as a kind of ledger of activity for a given day.
1. Tracking my to-do lists.
I use Todoist to keep my personal to-do list. I have a “Personal” project in which all my non-work-related tasks go. I have a few recurring tasks (taking out trash or recycling), and tidying up the house in the evenings, but most of what goes on the personal list are things that I need to do in the near future.
I like Todoist’s ability to quickly and correctly interpret a date. If I type in, “Bring home baseball bag tom” that “tom” is automatically converted to “tomorrow” and the item will appear on my list tomorrow. This is great for quickly grabbing things in context without the need of a calendar. For example, earlier this evening, Kelly told me that I needed to take the kids to school on Monday. Monday isn’t my usual day for taking the kids to school. So I opened Todoist and typed “Take kids to school mon #personal”. That item now shows up on my personal list for Monday.
This makes it incredibly fast to capture to-do items. And speed is important because if I could write in a Field Notes notebook faster than I could get it into Todoist, I’d likely do that instead. But in this case, Todoist is faster.
What’s more, I can subscribe to calendar feeds for my Todoist projects and that means my to-do items will show up on my calendar1
2. Sharing tasks with Kelly.
Occasionally, I’ll create a task and assign it to Kelly so that she doesn’t forget. Usually, it is when she asks me to remind her about something. Todoist allows you to share projects. I can assign tasks in shared projects and check on their progress. We tend to use this more in busy times leading up to an extended road trip than everyday, but it works well.
3. Tracking how I spend my time.
At the day job, I charge my time to various projects that I work on. I use Todoist not only to track to-do items, but to quickly record everything that I spend my time on and assign it to a project. I might have a normal to-do item like, “Call Pam re: regression testing.” But I also add in any work that I do. So I might have things like:
- Write draft project plan for RRD
- Review project schedule for EMS
Moreover, I make sure all my meetings and phone calls get assigned to a project, so I’ll enter things like:
- [Meeting] Daily 15
- [Meeting] Occupancy management
- [Call] w/Ken on OM cats
I can enter these quickly, and assign them to projects. When I complete them, I will tack on how much time I spent before closing out the task. So:
- [Meeting] Daily 15 //20
Tells me that I spent 20 minutes in the Daily 15 meeting.
All of this is useful because I’ve written a python script that uses the Todoist API to produce a summary of my day, and how it breaks down by project. I use this to complete my timesheet, and it makes it lightning fast (to say nothing of accurate).
4. Capturing ideas for blog posts
I have a “Blog” project and all it contains are ideas for posts. Any time I get an idea, I get it into Todoist as quickly as possible in order to avoid losing the idea. Fortunately, Todoist makes it easy to capture the idea quickly. As I post something here every day, I try to keep a lot of ideas in the queue so that there is always something to write about. Right now, my Blog project in Todoist has 32 ideas pending.
5. An activity ledger.
Todoist has improved its ability to show completed tasks. You can filter by project and person, but also by various activity, and then search within that. The results are displayed in reverse chronological order, making it a kind of convenient ledger of my daily activity.
Todoist has improved its ability to show completed tasks. You can filter by project and person, but also by various activity, and then search within that. The results are displayed in reverse chronological order, making it a kind of convenient ledger of my daily activity. So for instance, if I want to see when I completed blog posts in recent weeks, all I have to do is filter my completed tasks for the Blog project, and I can see the history instantly.
In the same way, the Activity log is useful at work when I want to know when something happened.
That’s how I use Todoist. I’ve had quite a few people ask me why I chose Todoist over other apps (Asana, Any.do, Evernote, and many more). I gave my reasons elsewhere. I can say this, though. Todoist has really impressed me with its utility, speed, and the clever and useful features they continually add, to say nothing of its flexible API. Once I find a tool that fits me well, I generally stick with it.
- This is a Todoist Pro feature, and I pay the annual subscription for Pro because I think it is worth it. ↩